A patio, or terrace, is usually made of a solid surface, like stone, concrete or interlocking brick. But many good designs can be made from other materials. These designs create harmony, unity and act as a natural extension of the home. Patios and terraces also work as a transition area from outside to inside, allowing a zone for pets and people to shake off grass or mud.
Selecting Patio and Terrace Designs
When choosing from patio designs, it is important to select one that suits the style of the home and yard. A house with a formal appearance, such as Georgian or Federal, would look best with a symmetrical layout made from materials that are regular in appearance. A casual or cottage-style house could employ designs in rustic, natural stone or gravel.
Materials for Outdoor Patios and Terraces
Tumbled stones have softer edges and appear aged and weathered, which adds an old-world aura to most patio or terrace designs. Poured concrete has a hard edge and works best with modern exteriors, though its appearance can be softened with stamping or curved borders and flower beds. Pea gravel, popular in French designs, needs a strong border and occasional top ups.
The colour of the patio material should harmonize with the exterior of the house. While concrete grays and charcoals seem to suit most homes, a brown or red patio can clash with bricks and detract, rather than add value to the property. Buy or borrow just enough material to create a small testing area before committing. Smaller stones or interlocking bricks create a busier looking terrace, especially against homes made of siding or brick.
Smaller stones will also be more time-consuming to install and require more cut edges. As with all patio designs, unless the surface is properly prepared, there is potential for the stones to later shift. Smaller stones set over a poorly primed surface increase the likelihood of future weed growth.
Designing Around Large Trees
Patio and terrace designs can be flexible enough to accommodate large existing trees and those with potential for future expansion. Small stones, like pea gravel, are simple to use and allow water to easily permeate to the roots of trees and shrubs. Stones also permit water penetration and many designs have accent pieces made specifically to place around trees. One easy option is to build a large opening around the trunk and fill the area with decorative gravel.
Low-maintenance Outdoor Patios
A patio or terrace can reduce the amount of yardwork simply by eliminating the amount of grass that needs to be cut, or reducing the size of existing flower beds. However, hard patio surfaces can also reflect more heat back onto a house and cause drainage problems during heavy rains. Proper design and installation are necessary to ensure an outdoor living space that adds both value and enjoyment.
Historic Sunken Garden Designs
To see photographs of stylish designs for a sunken garden terrace and pea gravel pathways, visit London’s Fenton House.