Modern patio & paving design
It is typical for a patio to provide a much needed transition from the home into the garden. As a transitional space it is good design practice to allow paving to match the interior design of the home.
This concept has been beautifully represented in architectural magazines and property programmes of recent times. The inspirational dream of modern living with clean lines and neutral colours is held by many. Consequently many people seek effective modern garden paving ideas when planning a gardens design.
It is very common for a garden to be planned straight after a home refurbishment or interior make over. This can provide a completely blank canvas to start planning the dream garden. A regular landscape design request I receive is to try to match paving to the internal tiling of the home. This functional and seamless connectivity represents the simplicity of contemporary style and living.
To create the perfect contemporary space however it will take more than modern garden paving ideas. Not only will the paving choice be important, designing the surrounding garden context will also be essential. The best modern garden paving ideas come from aiding functionality and integrating other garden elements.
To create the perfect contemporary patio you will need to understand some architectural design philosophy. By using a combination of precedent images, brainstorming and sketches the perfect patio is within your grasp. I have put together a breakdown of elements to consider along with some perfect modern paving ideas below.
Bringing the indoors outdoors
One of the design requirements for contemporary spaces is plenty of light, air and flowing spaces. This has led to a large proportion of interior designers choosing open plan themes. To capture as much natural light as possible large sliding patio doors have become common place. Having an extensive view of the outside has now made residential landscape design more important than ever.
Many have loved the idea of the same surface material matching both inside and outside. This is a great way to visually connect the two spaces and even better if the two are at the same level. Whether this transitional level is possible however will rely on the height of your damp proof course.
As modern garden design generally utilises clean lines and fresh facades it is effective to add in some visual contrasts. This can be achieved with variability in colours, materials and visual textures. As well as utilising these for modern paving design ideas natural elements such as planting and water can also add contrast. Commonly with landscape design there are many elements which can be used to utilise contrasts.
To maximise contrast in the most dramatic of context playing with juxtaposition can be very effective. Juxtaposition is the placing together of two varying objects or materials to draw a direct visual comparison. By placing the two in one field of view allows you to greatly appreciate their individual qualities. In regard to contemporary garden design this could be a smooth terracotta pot against slate stack wall cladding.
Some very effective modern paving ideas can include patterning. This can utilise juxtaposition and contrasts in an effective way. Examples of patterning can be seen when expanses of one material are broken up with another. This is quite typical of commercial and contemporary landscaping schemes.
Bold lines can be used to draw the eye or organic shapes to create movement. A good example of this is the promenade paving at Cocacobana beach designed by Roberto Burle Marx. Roberto was a famous landscape architect who embraced modernism within landscape design.
One of the ways to excite the senses in any landscape scheme is with visual textures. Because of scale, distance and perspective smooth materials at a distance can look bland and boring. Adding textured features and focal points can create much more interest.
This is especially the case if we add colour differences into the mix. Some modern paving ideas include setting small black pebbles into back mortar as a boundary around lighter paving tiles. Vertical structures with texture can also offset smooth paving.
When planning a new modern paving design try to utilise the effect of shadow. This can be done by using vertical structures such as pergolas or changes in level such as raised edgings. By far the best way to enjoy shadow is by building structures with both vertical and horizontal lines. This can be achieved by building custom made pergolas like the one below.
Modern paving ideas usually lie within the realm of hard landscaping materials. However some of the best ways to enhance a modern patio is with planting. The planting of contemporary schemes however are usually very different from traditional ideas of planting. Very much like Roberto Burle Marx’s gardens planting can be used in blocks of one species.
This is particularly effective if that species has an interesting foliage colour. Blocks of colour can be grown to create dramatic contrasts and bold statements. Planting that has architectural foliage which provides colour and movement is perfect. For example, Chinese blood grass can be grown in blocks around light coloured paving to create a dramatic contrast which moves in the breeze.
When looking for modern garden paving design ideas it is important not to neglect the vertical features. These can add enclosure and more visual interest to a contemporary space. Vertical features include fencing, trellis, screening walling and raised beds.
Walls are typical of most gardens creating physical barriers and retaining soil. These can be the perfect backdrop to modern paving especially with cladding. Seeing most paving has a smooth texture cladding like stack cladding can boost a contemporary patio.
Walls can also be rendered which provides a smooth modern look to walls. Rendering is a great way to revamp old walls and make them more weather resistant. Rendered walls can also be painted any colour opening the door to many design themes and choices.
In recent times slatted fencing has given us all an alternative to traditional fences. Their delicate horizontal line gives a very contemporary feel. These are perfect for providing enclosure to modern paving creating an outside room effect. The light timber slats help to soften the hard and heavy feel to the paving materials.
Raised beds can be a great way to add some height to a modern patio area. They can act as an intermediate level in the garden between the ground and fences. Raised beds can also act as great seating around a patio if space is tight for furniture. The best thing about raised beds is they allow a decent depth of growing medium. This allows you to grow strong and robust planting to compliment your modern paving.
Lighting is a whole design subject within itself when it comes to modern landscape design. Lights can be used to border pathways or illuminate garden features. Up lighting can provide illuminating V shapes of light perfect for shining through plants and trees.
Popular modern paving ideas include floor lights which can span the perimeter of a patio. Wall lights are also very effective around a patio design creating a cool place to sit out at night.
Some of the best modern gardens paving ideas are not always permanent hard landscaping installations. Simple patio accessories such as patio heaters can add heat and interest on those chilly evenings.
These can create a warm glow and some extra atmosphere to a contemporary space when the sun goes down. Patio heaters come in a few different forms but the best are the log burners in my opinion. There is nothing better than becoming mesmerised by the dancing flames on a summer evening.
When looking for ways to inject some magic into a modern paving scheme why not incorporate a water feature. There is nothing quite like the sound of splashing water to invigorate a space.
Water features are a great way to add some sound and atmosphere to a patio. Combined with lighting these can be a feast for the eyes even during the dark and cold winter months. There are so many styles and types available, some of the most popular for modern gardens are the reflective metal spheres.
Fire captivates us like no other natural phenomena. This chemical reaction has kept mankind safe from the cold and wild animals since the dawn of time. It is probably no surprise therefore that its communal properties are still celebrated to this day.
There is nothing to accompany great time with friends than a good fire. This is no less the case when planning a contemporary patio design. There are many great examples where fire pits have been built into fantastic patio designs. As a central focal point the fire pit encourages social conversation even with very new acquaintances. Fire pits are amazing modern paving ideas great for both parties and quiet nights in.
Modern paving itself comes in a varying array of materials, colours and materials. In truth no particular paving can be referred to as specifically modern. It is more the integrity of the surrounding context and design which determines if it is modern.
There are however some typical features that make some paving more suitable for modern gardens. Modern paving generally has clean edges, neutral colours and no surface variation. Below I have broken down some of these general attributes by modern material choices.
Slate is an incredibly dense and impervious material with an extremely smooth finish. Slate has been used for centuries typically for its waterproofing qualities. Its metamorphic composition means it is easily milled into thin pavers which are particularly durable. When slate is broken vertically it has a rough and textured surface.
This has made it very popular with modern water features, cladding and sculpture. The conventional greys, blues and blacks mean slate is ideal for contemporary patios. There are also many slates which have colour patterning such as reds, oranges, greens and purples.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock which has formed over millions of years from dead creatures. The slow build up of calcium from bones and shells become compressed into rock. Limestone comes in many forms but is known for being durable and attractive. This material dries out quickly in heavy rain and has a smooth clean texture.
Generally exhibiting a light grey colour limestone has become popular for modern paving schemes. One of the most famous limestones’s for this is Portland stone. Mined from Dorset in the south west of England Portland still has visible shells of ancient sea life present within its grain.
Porcelain paving has become very popular in recent years and perfect for modern gardens. This paving is effectively tiling made into larger and thicker units for external use. Porcelain paving is made by mixing sand, clay and minerals and backing them at extremely high temperatures.
The result is an incredibly hard wearing and non porous paving. This means it does not absorb water or any other liquid material. This makes porcelain paving very stain resistant as it is effectively sealed from the inside. Porcelain paving can come in many colours shapes and forms making it an ideal modern paving idea.
Sandstone paving has got to be one of the most common and popular paving types. As its name suggests sandstone is a sedimentary rock made up of millions of sand grains and minerals. This gives the stone a pleasant texture and smoothness. Sandstone comes in a wide variety of colours making it extremely diverse.
Widely quarried from across the globe it is also very affordable. Sandstone can be processed in a number of ways to produce a multitude of different finished. It can be polished, sand blasted or roughly chiselled. This makes it very versatile and a great modern garden paving idea.
Granite is an extremely dense igneous rock with a fine grain of tiny crystals. This gives it a speckled look and has a very sophisticated finish. Granite has long been associated with high quality and durability. It is easy to cut into thin strips for tiling, cladding as well as paving. It can have subtle tones of pink, grey and white making it ideal for contemporary spaces.
Due to its dense nature and fine grain it is easy to achieve a variation of textures and finishes. Granite can be polished at very high pressures to achieve an almost marble like appearance. Fine crystals in the rocks grain can actually reflect light and create a sparkling appearance. Granite paving although expensive is perfect for high specification modern paving and patios.
Paving in modern gardens generally lends itself to a uniform and consistent paving size. Simplicity of line is usually the important factor more than the size of the paving itself. Generally modern paving design should have as less joints as possible. This means larger paving units are usually best. Common sizes include 600x600mm and 900x900mm paving.
Joints are the gaps between pavers. As suggested above joints in modern gardens are usually small, consistent and at a lower density than traditional schemes.
If you are planning a modern garden paving design or need hard landscaping services why not contact our team? We cover Buckinghamshire as well as the whole Chiltern area. We also cover Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire Bedfordshire as well as London.
Some of our typical, local project locations include; Amersham, Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Chalfont, Chesham, Gerard's Cross, Great Missenden, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and Wendover.
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.