Inspiration for beautiful patios and paved outdoor spaces
When it comes to laying a patio or paved area in the garden, you might have in mind a regular grid of square or rectangular slabs, all the same size and colour.
But a paved space is much more than a functional choice. By playing with different textures, colours and laying patterns you can create interest and atmosphere. Add colourful gravels, planting and subtle lighting to create a space that feels alive and blends the boundaries between indoors and outdoors. It’s surprisingly easy to devise a practical space that’s in-keeping with your home and garden but also makes a beautiful statement.
We’re here to share some simple ideas that will help to elevate your patio designs, so you can plan an outdoor space to be proud of.
All shapes and sizes
When we first think of paving, our minds often jump to traditional square and rectangular slabs. But did you know that you can choose from paving slabs in dozens of different shapes and sizes?
For country-style gardens, the gentle curves of a round paved area (pictured) can be the perfect match for informal planting and lush borders. But you’re not limited to just a circular area either when using these stones. Add squaring off stones to create a square paved area with curved details, or use in one or more corners to join a circular paved area to the straight edge of a house wall or path.
Offset diamonds are the ultimate way to make a statement with your paving design. These tessellating slabs add subtle interest when laid in the same colour, but when all three shades are used it creates a stunning visual effect that’s a great garden centrepiece. The clean lines and geometry are a subtle contrast to country-style gardens.
Try new textures
Gone are the days when most paving slabs looked fairly similar, aside from the colour. Today’s slabs come in a huge range of textures that can make a striking impact on your outdoor space.
For modern patios and balconies, smooth and glossy porcelain slabs offer a sleek, sophisticated finish that looks at home against crisp white walls and evergreen planting. Try our Arnhem range for large, contemporary slabs in hard-wearing reconstituted stone.
Alternatively, consider natural stone or natural stone effect slabs that are the perfect complement to period properties and rustic, informal gardens. Natural slate creates a stunning backdrop against which planting will shine, whilst sandstone effect slabs have a softer edge for a comfortable, cosy space.
Experiment with pattern
How your finished patio looks will depend upon the paving slabs you choose, but also the pattern you lay them in. The laying pattern can make a huge difference, and can take a paved area from everyday to outstanding with just a little clever cutting.
Try laying square, rectangular and plank-shaped slabs in staggered brick patterns (also known as stretcher bond patterns) as an alternative to a traditional grid. Plank-shaped slabs can also be laid in stylish herringbone patterns that reflect interior design trends.
For a rustic look that also uses natural textures and colours, try a mixed paving pack. This contains stones of usually three different shapes plus a laying guide that will help you to create a paving pattern that looks informal and relaxed.
Create a wood effect
If Scandinavian style and rustic farmhouse chic are more your cup of tea, try plank-effect paving slabs that recreate the look of aged floorboards or classic timber decks. Tactile, stylish and very on-trend, these designs offer a more durable and low-maintenance finish than decking and look great paired with statement plants.
Choose classic cobbles
If you’re creating a traditional or country-style garden, a cobbled surface can be a beautiful way to complement colourful planting and rustic textures. Carpet stones are an easy way to lay an authentic-looking surface, as you can lay dozens of stones in one easy sheet – just like a paving slab. Add a grout in a neutral colour to give the illusion of cobbles laid one-by-one.
Sheets of carpet stones can also be cut to shape if you’d like a softer shape to the edge of your paved area, rather than a crisp line. They can also be easily fitted around statement trees and shrubs.
Add planting for texture
Add texture and interest to your paved space by leaving gaps between paving slabs to add planting. Simply skipping a paving slab here and there in the design leaves spaces that can be used in a multitude of ways. Add low-growing herbs, such as thyme, for ground coverage and fantastic scent, grasses for bold splashes of green or taller, robust plants for interest from all angles. Provided the plants you choose are happy in thin soil (herbs and grasses are ideal), they should thrive with minimum maintenance.
Consider leaving regularly-spaced planting gaps for a contemporary look that complements sleek, smooth modern paving laid in grid patterns. Alternatively, spaces scattered at random and planted with a mixture of taller grasses and fragrant herbs work brilliantly with rustic paving finishes in a country cottage-style garden. If you’ve got established trees, shrubs or borders in your garden, you might also want to pave around these.
Let there be light
If you want to make the most of your garden as the sun goes down, then outdoor lighting is a must. Integrating lights into your paving design is a subtle and stylish way to create a space that works well throughout the day, and shines at night. Pepper your paved area with post lights that add enough illumination to enjoy eating and entertaining outdoors without the glare of traditional wall or security lights. LED light technology means that these lights are efficient to run and will last for at least 2,000 hours – perfect for busy outdoor spaces.
If you don’t want to run electricity to your outdoor space, opt for solar-powered stake lights instead. Their sleek good looks that make them almost indistinguishable from traditional post lights. Plus, you’ll have no running costs to worry about thanks to solar lighting technology.
Use gravel, pebbles and small stones
Also known as decorative aggregates, these add texture, colour and interest to paving designs. Used as a border, in place of grout lines or in spaces deliberately left between paving slabs they can soften edges or make a bold statement.
Smooth pebbles work brilliantly as a narrow border that contrasts with the sleek, sharp lines of contemporary porcelain paving. Smaller pieces of gravel in soft sandy colours are a fantastic complement to natural sandstone paving and can be used to blur the boundary between a paved area and lawns or borders. Leave spaces between paving slabs and fill some with gently textured gravel and others with planting for an informal, country garden feel.
Give your patio the edge
The perfect polish for some patios is a decorative edging that adds a beautiful boundary to your space. If you’re opting for a more modern or formal design, a border makes a sleek, smart statement. We love the sharp lines of our Contemporary Paving Edging that looks particularly stylish in dark grey.
Alternatively, use edging to add a rustic feel and complement natural finishes and earthy tones. It’s a great way to add texture to a space and works well with country-garden style planting in adjoining borders.
Add interest with height
Think about adding height to your patio design to make your space more interesting, as well as practical. Create paved areas at different heights, with steps between them, to separate entertaining spaces. Add brick lights to the steps for subtle illumination that creates evening ambience - they also help to make changes in level easy for guests to spot.
Low walls around a patio shelter a space and add discrete boundaries for children and pets. They’re also a great way to add different textures. Traditional red brick walls blur the boundaries between indoors and outdoors making your garden feel like an extension of your home.
For an architectural statement, choose gabion cages to create a bespoke retaining wall that’s low-maintenance and easier to install than a traditional stone wall. Select the right gabion cages for your garden, assemble and fix in place, then fill with your choice of stones. Any stone larger than 5 centimetres (cm) in diameter can be used, so there’s huge opportunities to customise for a look that suits your home.
Include a water feature
A paved area can be the ideal space to add a water feature to your garden. Here, you can enjoy the sounds of moving water in a space where you can relax.
Choose a small fountain and fill with pebbles to create a space for moving water without a pool. Alternatively, incorporate a pond into the design of your patio and edge with stone edging or a low brick wall to tie it together with your paving.
It’ll also provide another space to add planting to your patio, in the form of water plants.
A fun and inviting way to link different parts of your garden, using paving slabs as stepping stones encourages exploration beyond your patio. It’s also a subtle way to create access that works well with natural planting and an informal garden design.
If you have little ones at home, why not try using paving stones to build a hopscotch area, or a checkerboard for playing games? Let the children get involved by choosing the paint colours, then once safely installed they can enjoy a weatherproof activity that’s hours of fun.
Ready to get started on your paving project? We’ve got plenty of help and advice to guide you through the process. Check out our buying guide to paving to help you choose the right slabs and stone for your garden, then head to our how to guide for step-by-step details that’ll walk you through your project from start to finish.