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Things to Consider Before Starting a Path Project
More than a passage from one area of your property to the next, a walkway is a versatile hardscaping tool that provides a break in the landscape and divides the garden. It can be a border for beds or can break straight lines with a curving path. It can physically and visually connect the focal points of your landscape. A well-designed path can add curb appeal to your home's front yard, spotlight a gorgeous garden, and effortlessly guide you from indoors to outdoors.
Whether you are building a walkway from scratch or redoing an existing one due to worn materials or a poor design, you'll need to plan, research, and survey the site before forging a new path. Among things to think about:
- Budget: A path doesn't have to cost a lot to look good. Sometimes simple and basic is the best solution.
- Architectural Style: Choose something that goes with the architectural design or period of your house. A bad idea: Old-world cobblestones with a Midcentury Modern home.
- Materials: Choose materials that are used on the exterior of your home or in other hardscape elements. Also, think about whether the material complements the home's style and colors and is available in your region.
- Size and Shape: Consider the width and length of the path, along with the shape. Do the size and shape relate to the scale of the home and landscape? Is it wide enough for a wheelbarrow or wheelchair?
- Safety: Can visitors move easily along the path without obstruction from width or texture?
- Maintenance: Do you want a special type of grass growing between the pavers, but you hate any kind of yard or lawn upkeep? Go for something simple and easy to maintain.
- Durability: Will it survive foot traffic and the elements?
- Texture: Slick and smooth can be slippery, while something with lots of bumps might be a challenge for people who use wheelchairs and need an accessible path.
- Lighting: If the path will be used in the evening, plan to illuminate it for safe passage.
- Drainage: You want a walkway, not a swamp. Choose a nonporous material for easy drainage, like permeable concrete pavers.
Discover materials, designs, and solutions for your next walkway project.Continue to 2 of 21 below.
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A flagstone walkway is deeply embedded in a lush carpet of fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. Folia Horticultural and Design achieved the look for this home on Mercer Island, Washington by positioning the organic-shaped stones about 8 inches apart on the edge of the front slope, which is planted with ornamental grasses like Miscanthus sinensus 'Gracillimus.' The path leads to the home's entry.Continue to 3 of 21 below.
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Wagner Hodgson Landscape Architecture used the existing grade change of this home to integrate the landscape with the main house. The property, set on 20 acres with views of Lake Champlain in Vermont, features segmented stone walkways that connect the home with the guest house. The rectangular stepping stones, laid out in a gently curving pattern, are
bluestone treated with a thermal finish set in local crushed stone.Continue to 4 of 21 below.
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In Living Color
Cast-concrete pavers let you stop along a winding path to admire the colorful foliage of ornamental grasses, succulents, and cannas in this Northern California garden. Landscape designer Michelle Derviss used an aged redwood and fir bark mulch, which is soft to walk on if you veer off the path. Softwood mulches like this help to feed the soil. Derviss also recommends cedar or pine mulch.Continue to 5 of 21 below.
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A slightly curving walkway is made of Mesabi-black granite from Minnesota in this design by Common Ground Landscapes for a house in Glenwood Beach, Michigan. The darker stone complements the home's light exterior and echoes the gray roof.Continue to 6 of 21 below.
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Concrete PadsContinue to 7 of 21 below.
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A sustainable house in Austin, Texas designed by Cornerstone Architects mixes warm natural finishes, like stained wood with gray-toned concrete and local limestone. Nestled into a hill, the home offers privacy and seclusion from the street, yet the entry was designed to be warm and welcoming by using an open design featuring flat, textured concrete and dark pea gravel with sculptural agaves.Continue to 8 of 21 below.
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Southwest StoneContinue to 9 of 21 below.
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Accent on Red
Traditional bricks set in a running-bond pattern lead toward the front door of this charming San Diego cottage-style home. Gatling Design bordered the path and flower beds with bricks in a soldier pattern to edge and tie in with the walkway. Deep red begonias and a Kolbe Sangria door continue that red accent throughout the landscape.Continue to 10 of 21 below.
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Flagstone and Ground Cover
Flagstones for paths are cut or split along natural fissure lines, creating slim, flat paving. For this sloping walkway designed by Zeterre Landscape Architecture, Arizona pink flagstone features the tight-growing ground cover Dymondia for a naturalistic look. Other plants used in this California Bay area landscape include Armeria, Lavender, and Fortnight Lily.Continue to 11 of 21 below.
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A charming three-story wooden house in Saugerties, New York features a landscape designed by Phillippe Soule with a walkway that echoes the lines of the home. Peeking through the paving stones is the ground cover Lamium maculatum. Other plants used in the garden include Nepeta racemosa 'Walker's Low,' Salvia nemorosa 'Caradonna,' Geranium 'Johnson's Blue,' Baptista Australis, Anemone robustissima, and Phlox.Continue to 12 of 21 below.
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On a street corner in Santa Monica is a 5,000-square-foot Industrial Modern house surrounded by bungalows, Spanish Colonials, and single-story homes. Designed by architect Christopher Mercier of (fer) studio, the homeowners favored California modernism.
"I took those notions and stretched them," said Mercier in the Los Angeles Times. “I merged volumes and created flow, but not in a modular fashion. I wanted to allow for more shifting and diagonal movement.”
Landscape designer Victoria Pakshong repeated the home's diagonal lines in the concrete walkways, which have score lines for texture and interest. The surrounding planting beds are filled with bark mulch. The lowered exterior rear patio (at the roof cover) is porcelain tile to match the first floor inside the house.Continue to 13 of 21 below.
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A walkway created with vivid mosaic tiles meanders across the front garden and up to the porch of this Northern California home. Landscape designer Michelle Derviss used bright blue cracked tiles as the walkway's background, with remnant tiles in assorted colors and pebbles forming the organic leaf shapes. The mosaic path's colors are repeated in the oranges, yellows, purples, greens, and blues of the garden plants, which are primarily succulents.Continue to 14 of 21 below.
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Path to a View of Red RocksContinue to 15 of 21 below.
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Equestrian Estate Entryway
A smooth, clean, stone walkway designed by Blackwell Architecture leads to a modern equestrian estate in Canada with a slanted (pitched) roof. The flat, tight-fitting stone used for the front path wisely doesn't compete with the compound's architectural materials, which include basalt, cedar siding, heavy fir beams, and zinc panels for the roofs, designed by RHEINZINK and custom fabricated by Ace Copper Specialists.Continue to 16 of 21 below.
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Around the Corner
What's more intriguing than a path that disappears? At a house in Altadena, California, round aggregate pavers in a sea of Zoysia tenuifolia, aka Korean grass, wind past a couple corners from the sidewalk to the patio.Continue to 17 of 21 below.
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Saltillo and Tile
A Spanish Colonial Revival house in San Marino, California, near Pasadena, features an entry garden with natives like climbing Bougainvillea and succulents. Landscape architect Nord Eriksson of EPT Design used Demac stamped concrete on the walkways, for a color and texture that gives more authenticity to the 1920s-era home. Rollins-Andrew Interiors designed the saltillo tile with painted Mexican ceramic tile risers, which show from the street and add to the home's curb appeal.Continue to 18 of 21 below.
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Pavers and Pebbles
The front path of this modern farmhouse-style home designed by SinglePoint Design Build features integral-colored concrete walk pads surrounded by 3-inch river rock pebbles. In place of an asphalt or plain concrete driveway are 3-x-12-inch Stepstone pavers, which are also used for the Northern California home's back patio.Continue to 19 of 21 below.
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Some locations in a landscape are suited for a mix of materials. This Northern California walkway created by Michelle Derviss Landscape Design features cut stone, flagstone, and pebbles set in mortar for a variation of a mosaic-style process.Continue to 20 of 21 below.
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To the Private Patio
An eclectic home in Venice, California features basic square terracotta tiles set in pea gravel, leading to a red-painted enclosure that is a private, four-walled hideaway.Continue to 21 of 21 below.
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Decomposed granite (DG) is a smart solution for a front path that features drought-tolerant, native landscaping. The driveway of this house in Santa Monica is also made of DG, which is gritty granite rock that binds together when compacted and doesn't kick up dust when you walk or drive a car on it.