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Designing a Patio

In essence a patio acts as the link, the connection point in your landscape between the home and the garden. It is ideal for outdoor living that forms an intrinsic part of life these days. It is not uncommon to hear about outdoor rooms, or outdoor living areas, or outdoor space. The patio in itself can become your outdoor room in your garden. The patio does not need to be sited off the dining room, lounge or family room. In fact there is nothing wrong with having a series of interrelated patios that can be connected by steps, or a patio area that is detached from the house but next to the swimming pool, or even a loose standing patio totally secluded in the corner of your garden. Outdoor living can happen anywhere in your garden and you should not be curtailed by the design of a specific type of patio. In this section we'll provide you with some patio ideas and patio plans you can use to design a patio. We cover three basic ideas on patio design and how to make the most of outdoor living making use of patios. The first of these patio, outdoor rooms, and outdoor living area ideas is a patio off the house, the second is a garden patio, and the third is a pool house patio.

The patio off the house

This type of patio is essentially the cohesive link, the connection point, the bridge between the house and the garden. A transitional zone that affords you the luxury of bringing the outdoors into your life, this patio, being an extension of the house can provide you with all the comforts of indoor living and at the same time allow you to enjoy your garden. A beautiful patio will encourage all your family members to spend more time outdoors, whether it is dining 'al fresco' outdoors, entertaining or even just relaxing outdoors.

Ideally the patio should not just look good from the outside; it should also look good from 'inside looking out.' When designing your patio, do not hesitate to include a focal point. This focal point can be a water feature, container plants, or even a jardinière. Fill the jardinière with container plants that will also add vertical interest in your patio area.

The flooring of your patio area must make a natural transition between the outdoors and the indoors. Wooden patio decks have always been popular, but nowadays screed flooring is highly fashionable, but tiles and slate are always worth considering. (TIP: TIP: Make sure that the materials used to construct the patio adjacent to the house blend with those used in the house.)

Climate control on the patios is an important consideration if one is to fully enjoy the 'outdoor room'. Therefore, your patio design should be accommodative to the climate in your area as well as the microclimate which influences your property. If wind is a possible problem then you could consider making use of slatted fences to deflect the wind. If the wind is a seasonal problem then a folding screen will avert the problem. If you live in an area that experiences very cold winters then one consideration could be to make provision to enclose the patio my using sliding doors or even the installation of a plug point for a patio heater.

The appropriate use of planting form an essential part of patio design. In fact it is akin to adding the finishing touches to a well-designed interior. The right choice of containers; that is the shape and size, and the right choice of plants, your patio can become your 'outdoor room'. Your patio can then take on its own unique character and not just another space.

When making use of containers, group the pots rather than dotting them all over. It will then have a greater impact, Raise the containers, place them on different levels. You could even make use of bricks to raise the containers to different levels in their groupings. Stack containers on jardinières of even benches to add height and drama in your outdoor room. Introduce some hanging baskets to provide height and vertical interest to your patio. For horizontal interest you could also consider using pebble paving in intricate designs as the focal point

If you want a low maintenance patio garden using containers, do not hesitate to make use of shrubs and grasses as they are less time consuming than annuals. Furthermore most shrubs and grasses are well-suited to large containers. Evergreen plants such as carex grass, Phormium tenax, miniature conifers or even miniature cypresses, palms (like the Phoenix sp.), ficus species and Rosmarinus officinalis will work wonderfully on a patio. If this choice of container plants is a bit too harsh for your liking, you could always soften the container edges by making use of plants that trail. These trailing container plants can include plants such as Swan River daisy, Brachycome species, the spider plant, Chlorophytum comosum, or Helichrysum petiolate, lobelia, or ivy-leaved pelargonium and cascading Petunias and Verbena. Ultimately the choice is yours to make.

The patio in the garden

There is no hard and fast rule that says that a patio should flow directly off the house. Your patio can also be situated in a sunny spot in your garden, or in a secluded shady spot in the garden. The patio design in either case would incorporate a pathway that leads off from the house to the secluded garden patio. A secluded area in your garden might just be the perfect place to unwind and enjoy your garden. This pathway can be made of any material that you fancy, or that fits in with the style of the house and the garden. Gravel of different colors arranged in an interesting pattern maybe, or paving bricks, or wooden decking, or cobblestones. Another interesting feature can be achieved by cordoning off the patio area. Make use of trellises over which climbers can be grown, or large planted-up containers, or screening shrubs cut into a hedge shape, whatever may suit your personal style. A fragrant starry wild jasmine will make an excellent choice as a climber in this case.

If you happen to live in an area that experiences hot summers, it would be a good idea to provide some protection for the garden patio in the form of a portable patio umbrella, or arbor or wooden beams like in a grape arbor with a grapevine growing over it. Make sure that the furniture you choose for your patio is practical, comfortable and weather-resistant. (TIP: TIP: Make sure that the colors and textures of the patio as well as the patio furniture is in harmony with the outdoor landscaping style and focal points and decorative accents.)

The Pool house patio

It is not always the case that one has one's pool near the house. Sometimes the pool and be a distance away from the house which makes the conditions perfect for having a pool house patio. The pool house patio can also afford you the space to install a built-in BBQ, a bar fridge as well as a built-in counter that can double up as working space to accommodate easy entertaining. Cupboards under the counters are also a great idea in the pool house patio. These cupboards will also serve as storage space for BBQ implements and utensils, crockery, cutlery and even cushions and folding chairs.

When constructing the pool house patio you should make sure that it forms a link with the garden and the house. If you however do not want a permanent structure then a thatched lapa would be ideal. On the other hand a permanent brick and mortar structure must be constructed in such a way so as to complement the style of the house and the garden. Linking the house and the pool house patio can be achieved by using a pathway. The pathway can be constructed from materials that fit the style of the house and the garden. Do not make use of paving that might become slippery when wet in the pool house patio itself. (TIP: TIP: When designing your pool house patio make sure that it does not detract from the style of the house. Ensure that unity in style is maintained.)

Sprucing up the Patio

At some point you may want to spruce up your existing patio to give it a new look or to freshen it up a bit. The following tips can help you spruce up your patio.

  • Very often all that is required to spruce up a patio is to add a new coat of paint. A new coat of paint can dramatically transform your patio area into a welcoming entertainment area. Some individuals even go so far as to paint a trompe l'oeil in their patios on the walls. This creates a backdrop scene so realistic that it gives the illusion of being real.
  • Maybe all you may need to do is to make new covers for the patio furniture. Bored with your cane or wooden patio furniture then perhaps a change to wrought iron furniture, of vice versa, will do the trick in getting an instant spruce up. The wrought iron furniture cushion covers can be changed to create a whole new look and feel in the patio. Always remember to opt for a choice that is practical, comfortable and weather resistant.
  • Add some vertical interest to your patio by introducing a trellis, bench, wall shelving, or jardinière to show off some plants in your patio area.
  • Make food preparation part of entertainment in the patio area by adding a built-in BBQ. This will pay off big rewards in adding more sociable entertaining.
  • Bring the sound of water to the patio – install a water feature near the patio and enjoy the soothing sound of water tinkling. Add some colorful plants. Change the plants by making use of colorful annuals that will ensure a change of scenery every season.