Pave The Way

By DiAnne Crown

July 9, 2010 5 min read

Dread spending your precious hours off work weeding, watering and mowing? Reduce the weekend workload with custom paving, and create a stylish outdoor living space for family and friends while you're at it. "I like to think of the residential landscape as having outside walls, floors and ceilings," says landscape architect Johanna James-Heinz of Green View Companies. "The lawn and paving are the floors, and having a balance of both is what most people are looking for so they can have a lot of different options." Today's new patio designs make that balance beautiful. James-Heinz first asks how a homeowner wants to use the space. Will there be family meals together, occasional groups of family and friends, frequent large parties? Plan for the most frequent use first, she says, and then provide options for special occasions, such as a large patio with a grass panel in the middle or a medium-sized patio with space for overflow in the yard. These offer intimate space for family use, as well as optional space for larger groups.*Materials Choose materials, colors and textures based on the finishes of the house and neighborhood, budget and any special accessibility needs. Popular choices include natural clay brick and stone; poured exposed aggregate; and tinted, stamped concrete, James-Heinz says. Natural materials wear well over long periods and don't fade or change color, she says, and the color is the same throughout, so any chips are less obvious. Be sure to select bricks rated to withstand the freeze-thaw cycles in your area. If budget is the primary consideration, concrete is less expensive and can imitate natural materials. Designs can be pressed into the cement with rubber stamps to create the look of brick, slate or even tile, says Ron Bortmess, owner of Bortmess Concrete. For a level, nonskid surface, Bortmess recommends concrete with a broomed, slightly rough surface. But even that doesn't have to look like a big white slab, he says. Concrete tinted in earth tones, even two tones, can complement the house or pool shed. For water conservation, inquire about modular pavers and other "green" materials that allow water to percolate through the surface and into the ground rather than to run off the property and into the storm sewer. Or, suggests James-Heinz, slope your patio toward a rain garden of plants tolerant of both wet and dry conditions. Before choosing any material, says James-Heinz, "look at a product in person, not just pictures in a book, to get a feel for how it's going to look in a landscape."*Scale and Design The size of the patio should be proportionate to the size of the house and lot. "One typical problem is a too-small patio for the size of the home," says real estate broker Fritz Pfister. "If you have a 2,000-square-foot home, a 10-by-10-foot patio is just too small." It also should comfortably fit its intended uses. Too small, Pfister says, "and you put a patio table and four chairs on it and you're already approaching the edge. Think the same as you do when you plan the interior spaces of your home. You need room for traffic patterns and furniture placement that make it comfortable and easy to maneuver." Also plan for large decorative items, such as potted tropical plants. However, adds James-Heinz, a very small yard doesn't necessarily need a very small patio. "A tiny patio in a small yard can actually look too fussy, not clean and neat and controlled," she says. James-Heinz notes that paving actually controls how people use a space. Certain paving patterns accelerate people's pace as they walk along a path, for example. Using different patterns, sizes or colors of pavers in a seating area on a large patio can define that space as a destination rather than as a walkway, almost like a rug. Don't make the paved area so big that it negatively affects your home's resale value, however, cautions Pfister. A family may want to pave the lawn for a basketball court, "but there aren't too many buyers who want a basketball court in the backyard."*Getting the Job Done First, figure out what you like and what you want to spend. For inspiration, James-Heinz says, "look at the famous gardens of Italy, England and even Japan. See how they've used paving materials and especially how they've detailed their edges. We may not have exactly the same materials or the same budget available, but I think we can learn a lot by looking at those historical, beautiful gardens. Look at books; take garden walks and tours; visit botanical gardens and arboretums when you're on vacation." Then be as clear as possible when communicating with the designer, and if the first design doesn't appeal to you, keep trying. You'll enjoy that beautiful balance of lawn and pavement for years to come.COPYRIGHT 2010 CREATORS.COM

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