I recently had the opportunity to design a new outdoor living space for this quaint seaside home. The existing patio provided a reasonable footprint for the family to enjoy time outdoors, however the space was poorly designed, bland, and generally unappealing. Ultimately, this patio found its purpose to be a transitional walkway from the side entry door to the fenced in pool, when it should be a place to relax with family and host company.
The main flaw of the existing patio is an all too common mistake. The patio not only followed but was carried to the foundation of the house. Directly against the house foundation is quite possibly one of the hardest areas for us contractors to achieve adequately compacted base for the concrete pavers that are to be built above. This area is also prone to water runoff from the roof. Between the water issues and compaction challenges, this area will always be prone to sinking and un-level patio surfaces. Secondly, the area directly against the foundation is nearly impossible to allow foot traffic. Unless you or your guests are rubbing against the shingles of the house as you walk, the first 1' off the foundation is a waste of material, money, and space.
My approach for this design was to give this large family a space where they could enjoy time outdoors without feeling the need to migrate to the pool patio every time there was to be an outdoor event. I decided to generously pull the new patio away from the house further into the yard. The yard is large enough that any sporting activities will not be affected by the real estate sold to the new patio. Secondly, I proposed a stone sitting-wall or built in grill island to designate this space as outdoor dining, entertaining, and relaxing. Thirdly, I created large planting beds around the outer perimeter of the patio to slightly enclose the space and capture the "secret garden feel". The concept of pulling the patio away from the house forced longer walkways to access the four entryways on and off the patio. I chose to use a different material from the main patio (natural cleft pattern bluestone) and used an irregular bluestone for these walkways.
The voids between the new walkways created planting beds where I imported large boulders. Strategically positioned, these large boulders create a natural and organic feel that compliments the natural setting. I used low maintenance plant materials that are staples in any New England landscape like Dwarf Weeping Japanese Maple, Hydrangea, Ornamental Grasses, and Coneflowers. Various low growing perennials like Japanese Blood Grass, Creeping phlox, and Coreopsis in time will grow around the base of the boulders and create the perfect look!
The main patio flooring is a full-color natural cleft bluestone in random pattern. A strong durable material that is 2" thick will easily stand up to New England winters. Upon closer inspection you may notice the antique granite millwheel inlaid into the patio. This millwheel designates the cover of the septic cleanout, as it was necessary to build a portion of the patio over the septic distribution box to achieve the design. To add an extra element of functionality to the space, I used Kichler landscape lighting to illuminate the patio space during the night. Although floodlights and security lights serve a purpose, they do not provide the correct ambiance for enjoying the outdoors. The end result is a simple yet well thought out patio that provides a unique space for the family to relax and entertain guests. Sadly, the patio that we replaced was comparable in cost to the new bluestone patio I've built. Oftentimes homeowners do not feel that landscape elements require a design phase. This misconception results in a patchwork of ideas and thoughts, which amounts to a poorly designed larger picture. Ironically, something as simple as the t-shirt I'm wearing or the pen on my desk all started from a design, yet homeowners will spend thousands of dollars on landscape construction and will be reluctant to invest money toward a design. A well thought out patio design will always maximize your investment, regardless of your budget.