A patio really is the ultimate ‘outdoor living room’. Providing the perfect transition from house to garden, it will increase your living space while adding value to your property. Use it for pottering or playing, it’s ideal for gardeners and non-gardeners alike. So how do you transform the most unpromising plot into an idyllic retreat?
Start with a blank sheet of paper and an open mind. Make a scale drawing of the available space. Next consider exactly what you want from your patio. If you have children consider a soft or non-slip flooring. If you’ll be relaxing in the afternoon sun you’ll need sufficient space for a recliner. If dining al-fresco is your thing you’ll need easy access to the kitchen. Also consider which, if any, services you’ll need such as electricity or water. Whatever your plans, it’s vital that you tailor the space to your requirements.
Location, location, location
Think carefully about site and aspect. If your garden faces south, a hard surface along the back of the house may be ideal, but don’t automatically assume your patio must be next to the house. A patio distanced from the house makes an impressive focal point and if you only get to enjoy your patio after work, position it in the evening sun. Also consider building an ‘L’-shaped patio to create a separate area, perfect for shelter from the sun’s rays, or a grown-up’s getaway!
There’s a wealth of flooring options out there. Choose from decking, brick paving, slabs, gravel, galvanised aluminium, rubber… but don’t get too carried away. Keep it subtle and remember to choose materials which match or enhance your property, for example reclaimed bricks look great with period properties. Gravel is inexpensive but not comfortable to walk on so bear that in mind if you like going barefoot! Metals, whilst undoubtedly contemporary, can give off a brilliant glare, so position with care. Good old-fashioned paving slabs are hard to beat, particularly if jazzed up with stunning plants and containers.
Whether minimalist Zen area or wisteria-clad pergola, your patio reflects your style, so make it uniquely yours. Lighting and heating can transform a drab outdoor area into a magical evening retreat. Go hi-tech with fibre optics or simply hang outdoor fairy lights in the trees. Specialist underfloor heating will max out your budget, but a patio heater or chiminea will also make your patio inviting throughout the year. Be selective with furniture and only choose items you know you’ll use. Wood furniture is more expensive than plastic but looks infinitely better.
Choosing plants suited to the plot is crucial, so don’t buy a beautiful Magnolia if you’re your patio is tiny. Think about plants which will add year-round interest and don’t forget herbs such as lavender and rosemary which will release wonderful heady wafts across a patio. Climbers like Lonicera or jasmine will soften the edges of a pergola and are good at disguising a plain fence or wall. Pots and containers lend themselves well to patios and look great with plants of varying height and colour.
Get it right and your patio will reward you for years to come. Enjoy your garden!