A Guide to Good Patio Landscape Design
Consider a Small Patio
If you don't have time or don't enjoy doing yard work or landscaping, or if you don't have a large area in which to landscape, a small patio might work for you.
Small can be beautiful. A well-planned and designed outdoors living area, no matter how small, can be like another room to live in, at least in the warmer months.
There are many materials to choose from. Patio paving stones or pavers are easy to install and durable. They come in many shapes, sizes and colors. Brick is also popular, which is long lasting, easy to install and comes in many colors and textures. Flagstone is a third choice. Available in many shapes and colors, flagstone can be pre-cut in custom or standard shapes and sizes.
You can use different-colored paving stones to arrange patterns or lines, adding sophistication and attractiveness to the look of the patio. You can alternate colors and textures for an interesting aesthetic look. If you have red matte bricks arranged in circles, for instance, you might insert one circle of black shiny ones near the edge, and another a few feet in. Edging the patio with another type stone or with the same stone placed on its side as a border can also look attractive.
A walkway leading around the side of the house or further out into the yard gives the landscape design a nice professional look. Of course you'll need to the level the area before installing the paving stones or bricks and follow proper installation guidelines.
Light and Shade
Considerations many people forget during planning but that become apparent once you sit or dine on the patio is light and shade. It's nice to have areas of both if possible, so on a hot day you can cool off or on a cooler day or time of day, you can sit in the sun. Also consider the angle of the sun during different times of day and what light and shade is happening at that time.
Table umbrellas and awnings can add movable shade, if necessary. Wooden gazebos and other structures can add permanent shady areas.
Large trees add a lot of shade and a pleasant atmosphere to your patio, such as the flickering movement and color of their leaves and the shape and texture of their trunks and limbs, so you might want to build your patio near an existing tree, or plant a small one that will eventually grow into a larger one. Make sure you consider the root structure of the young tree so it doesn't disrupt the level floor of your patio as it grows.
Plants, Fountains, Firepits and Furniture
If you would like to have a small area of grass or well-placed box gardens or pots on your patio, plan to have them in the areas that receive consistent amounts of sunlight. You'll need to plant accordingly, shade plants in shadier areas, sun-tolerant plants in sunnier areas. And don't forget watering. Make sure there's a hose that reaches to your planted area or install a watering or irrigation system to water for you. Unless you find watering by hand a fun and relaxing activity, then you could water everyday with a watering can.
Running water makes a lovely and relaxing sound and helps obscure traffic or other noises and creates an inviting atmosphere, especially if you are in a major metropolis or urban area. A small waterfall or fountain will add a special and luxurious feel to your patio.
A firepit or outdoor heater makes a nice addition for cool summer evenings. It also add light and warmth and makes a nice focal point for people to gather around for evening or even late night parties.
If you have a grass near or surrounding the patio, make sure to keep the lawn well-maintained and mowed. A brown or overgrown lawn can make the patio a less pleasant place to be.
Don't forget to plan for furniture. Make sure you design an area that has enough room for table and chairs. A lounge chair or two is also nice. You'll want to enjoy dining and relaxing in your outdoor living area.