The Patio – What Is Possible?

This post was originally entered a year or ago. Since then I have visited a few places recently with owners wondering what to do with patios. It has inspired me to post this again, but with yet a few more example patios added. The constructions of these vary from stamped concrete to interlocking brick pavers to  natural stone slabs. But the one thing I have prided myself on was in making each and every one of them appealing as possible to all of our senses.

(click on any image to enlarge)

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Patios are places to relax and enjoy the warmer air. We entertain there and we invite others to share our environments with food and drink and nice sights. I have a strong bias – and always have – towards using brick pavers and stamped concrete in my patios. I also love stone but I always found the durability issue led me away from using the native stones, at least set in sand. Bricks and cement rarely break down. I overbuild the bases of these things, beyond doubt, but the results have been universally stable which, to me, means much.


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There is also this – I prefer that the design of the patio be as pleasing as possible, by all means. But at the same time, I also prefer to know that the developments around the edges and background be equally important – if not far more so. Elements of night lighting, visible features such as waterfalls, gorgeous blooming plants, the many and various points of interest a landscaper and the gardener can provide occupy every bit as much priority in design for me.


In some ways, I guess I’m paranoid about eventually losing integrity of the bases of my constructions more than anything. Add that I have done so many driveways and fire lanes in large commercial projects and you get someone who values stability over just about anything. I suppose it is my own particular training and that experience of watching things over time more than anything that lends to biases towards surfaces. Issues of drainage, compaction, underlying strength are huge for me. But I also enjoy the notion that spills and accidents which regularly occur can be dealt with merely by replacing the bricks themselves instead of reinventing the wheel trying to find matching natural stone pieces, then worrying about their fits when dealing with some fairly obscene accidents and discolorations. In the end, no doubt, I have become a brick guy, with a definite nod towards poured stamped concrete. With all the new patterns, colors and textures, it just seems like the best product.

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I feature this patio below elsewhere and it is otherwise not particularly noteworthy in terms of creativity, but it illustrates well my sense of how I prefer putting them together and my sense, upon leaving, that this place will stay very much the way it began – with ample range for improvement and augmentation around the edges. I really do believe a surface is just the start.


In a patio such as this there was very little sloping tolerance allowing for drainage. It is also plain huge. The homeowner himself installed much of the piping (and we had to make a few “adjustments”) owing to such a small slope. We also figured out the best possible way of dealing with keeping the water from the occasional torrential downpour and Reno’s snowfalls away from the house, away from the pool and devise a way to make all that go away.


We arrived at the “Channel Drain”, coursing across the patio, as the ideal solution. Complexities such as this are why brick pavers are such a delight to work with as well. They lend themselves to such tricks by being segmented and adjustable at the onset. The remainder of the project, on the back sides, could simply be diverted into beds and away from both pool and house.



Nor are bricks the only cement solution. Large slabs can be artfully arranged as well, even split such as the ones below and filled in with Thyme and aromatic herbs whose smells light up when crushed by foot traffic and who don’t even mind.


Who wouldn’t enjoy a foot-massaging surface such as the pathway construction from Portland’s Chinese Garden below? Detailed and fascinating stone – or pebble – work such as this one show what is possible if one has the time and inclination for the installation. I actually did run across a few where homeowners have done something similar to this. They were an entire Summer’s work and they were amazing.


Imagine an entire patio of these:


Small, intimate places beg for sharp-looking and fascinating surfaces. Larger ones tend to relate to a theme which struggles to see the relevance of a surface dominating the view or even the local scenery.

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Since so many of my constructions have tended towards the “large”, I guess it should be understandable I would prefer some heavyweight base for the patio, driveway and sidewalk surfaces to lay on.

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😉  Some of these are lots of work, too!

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Like Forrest Gump said. “I’m tired now. I think I’ll quit.”

8 thoughts on “The Patio – What Is Possible?

  1. Steve, I look at all your wonderful photos and wish I were a landscape architect. Glorious work! I’m inspired by your projects. I have a feeling Gourdo will regret my having seen them. Happy New Year to you!
    .-= JulenaJo´s last blog ..Happy New Year! =-.

  2. That’s actually an aluminum edge, with 8″-10″ nails into the earth every few holes. Nice and flexible and very strong. If you enlarge the picture, you can see it quite well. Even click it twice to get real, real big.

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