Great Ideas: Patios That Use Mixed Materials

mixed materials patio
A patio with pea gravel and flagstone. Clive Nichols/Getty Images
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    Mix Up Materials

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    Overhead of patio with mixed materials. Elliott Kaufman/Getty Images

    Where do great patio design ideas come from? You might see patio designs on TV or get garden design ideas from a garden tour.

    Outdoor patios can be attached to a house, or detached. They are often designed and oriented with the landscape. Patios are versatile: they can take on any shape and be built with various materials, like concrete, pavers, stone, tile, brick or gravel. Most patios are set on a concrete slab or a sand and pebble base.

    Once you've decided to build a patio and chosen a...MORE site, there are other design considerations:

    • Space: Available space will determine your patio's size.
    • Shapes: Squares, rectangles, ovals.
    • Levels: Multidimensional surfaces work well with slopes and uneven levels.
    • Drainage: Working with existing runoff systems or determining the best place to build one.
    • Grading: Deals with soil redistribution for a flat, even patio base.
    • Privacy Screening: Walls and enclosures turn a patio into an outdoor room.

    Patios are versatile: they can take on any shape and be built with various materials, like concrete, pavers, stone, tile, brick or gravel. Most patios are set on a concrete slab or a sand and pebble base.

    Division of space and suggesting a separation or another area outdoors can be achieved by altering the direction of pavers or bricks, or by mixing materials.

    The following pictures include these design elements.

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    Gravel Fire Pit Patio

    three patio materials
    Three materials mixed to form a patio area. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    As you look at this patio, keep in mind that there was no mixing of mortar involved. Using the circular fountain as a focal point, the gray stones radiate out in a sunburst pattern from the edge of the fountain. Underneath is a loose material -- pea gravel. The larger flagstone pavers can be spaced apart for pathways or butted-up closer together and leveled for a seating area. When designing a patio surface, remember that there's no hard-and-fast rule about using just one paving material.

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    Round Pavers in Gravel

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    Round aggregate pavers set in pea gravel. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Loose materials like gravel are an easy way to create an almost-instant patio or hardscaped area in any part of your yard. Gravel is much easier and more forgiving than the concrete-pouring process or even a brick-and-sand patio. Round aggregate pavers in assorted sizes were common and available at hardware stores and garden centers in the mid-20th century, and are once again finding their way into yards and on pathways as an interesting alternative.

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    Flagstone with River Rock Mosaic

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    Patio with flagstone and Mexican river rock mosaic. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Flagstone pavers on this patio floor get a framing effect with a mosaic border of Mexican river rock. The smooth rocks used for this mosaic are usually laid flat -- note how these are turned on their "sides" for a more richly textured and unusual look.

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    Square Pavers and Pebbles

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    Pavers with pea gravel make a modern patio. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    A prefab house at the L.A. Garden Show gets an easy and attractive patio area with square concrete pavers spaced evenly with a filler of pebbles.

    The three aqua / turquoise ceramic planters are tall and architectural, making a visual impact without taking up lots of space. Tall modern planters and clean lines look good with architectural-looking plants, like broad-leafed grasses and succulents.

     

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    Three Patio Floors

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    Patio area with three circular areas, each with a different material. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Three paving or patio flooring materials are combined to show variety but also demonstrate that you don't need to be limited to one type. So what do we have here?

    • Decomposed granite (DG) is the solid-packed dirt-looking material
    • Bricks in a semi-whorled pattern with concrete pavers
    • Pea gravel, which is small, pea-sized pebbles

    Each patio flooring area has flexible edging that allows you to make curves, circles, or meandering, non-geometric pathways.

     

     

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  • 07 of 15

    Brick Pavers and Black Gravel

    cobblestones and black gravel
    Cobblestone pavers with black gravel. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    A study in contrasts, both in shape and color: terracotta-colored square brick pavers of a patio are edged or filled-in with black-rock gravel. The result: even though both are on the same level, you know where one ends and the other begins, or vice versa.

    It's a striking, geometric, modern look - and not all types of plants would look good in this planting bed. The cacti and succulents work well here; a cottage garden would not.

     

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    Wheelchair Accessible Patio Garden

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    A patio with wheelchair-accessible gardening beds. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    This wheelchair-accessible garden was featured at the L.A. Garden Show. Laramee Haynes' design is ingenious on many different levels. The height of the raised planters is perfect for individuals in wheelchairs to work in their gardens. The entire patio garden and planting beds are designed in the round and rotate on a truck axle, making it easy and comfortable to wheel from one section to another or have the planter boxes move like a lazy Susan. The design also allows the gardener a good...MORE view at any point of the rest of the planting beds.

    This patio garden design is inviting -- it draws you in and engages you to interact almost immediately, rather than being formal and unapproachable.

     

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  • 09 of 15

    Mid-century Modern Patio

    lloyd wright designed house
    Concrete and bark mulch patio at a Lloyd Wright-designed house. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Two vintage designer lounge chairs are positioned poolside on a smooth, subtly patterned concrete patio floor. The Agave americana in containers are an appropriately architectural plant choice for this house, which was designed by Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, in the late 1950s. The home and garden were part of the Theodore Payne water-wise garden tour.

     

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    The View From the Terrace

    terrace-like patio
    Patio Design Ideas A low, half-circle wall and a bench facing in one direction emphasize that this is a view- or terrace-type patio. © Lisa Hallett Taylor

    A terrace-style patio at the San Diego Botanic Garden in Encinitas, California, takes full advantage of the breathtaking ocean view. The low, curved wall establishes a definite shape to the patio area as well as a barrier.

    While the patio is situated on a "bluff" that's only about 4 feet from ground level, the wall and landscape design give the illusion of being set on a much higher level. Note also that the seating area is kept to a minimum and faces toward the view -- it's not...MORE designed in the standard conversation-style layout.

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    Low Wall for Privacy

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    Front patio with low privacy wall. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    A raised patio that is used as a room-like outdoor entryway requires some privacy, especially when the homeowners dine outside. This is where a low wall serves a few purposes: it encloses the patio and makes it more of an outdoor room, offers privacy by not being as visible from the street, and provides a physical barrier, so you don't scoot your chair back too far and end up in a prickly shrub.

    When entertaining, add some pillows and use the wall for additional seating; place containers for...MORE color and interest; add candles or lanterns for evening ambiance.

    The mixed materials used on this patio are saltillo tiles and glazed ceramic tiles where they show on the stair risers.

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    Sun Bath Garden Hideaway

    flagstone and gravel patio
    Flagstone and gravel patio area with a bathtub for a true sunbathing experience. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Large flagstones set in pebbles or pea gravel make up the floor of this backyard patio retreat. The tub is large enough for two, but no more, making it the perfect hideaway for a couple. Privacy can be obtained by way of close plantings or containers. A nearby water feature creates a different type of privacy by blocking any neighborhood noise with the soothing sound of running water. Patio citrus trees enhance the sensory experience of this patio hideaway.

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    Front Yard Flagstone Patio

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    Front yard flagstone patio. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Instead of a boring, thirsty lawn in drought-stricken California, this Santa Monica front yard uses every inch of space for drought-tolerant and sustainable gardening, recycled pathways, repurposed and creative sitting areas, like this patio.

    Materials used are widely spaced pink / peach flagstone pavers with pea gravel in between. The circular metal object in the center is a vintage street-hole cover that the homeowners bought on a trip. This is a perfect example of repurposing: in this case, a...MORE former industrial object becomes a decorative element and focal point for an outdoor patio. Simple, easy and original!

    This yard was part of the Theodore Payne Foundation's annual self-guided garden tour.

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    Gravel Framing and Edging

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    Gravel patio area mixed with patio trees and edging plants. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    Drought-tolerant plants in a bark-mulch bed and pea gravel edge and frame a patio area, delineating it from another section of the yard. The pea gravel probably has some sort of edging to contain it and keep it neat and linear.

     

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    Bark Mulch and Pea Gravel

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    Paver patio with gravel pathway. Lisa Hallett Taylor

    This outdoor room at the L.A. Garden Show shows how loose materials can be pulled together for a casual yet finished look. The pathway is filled with pea gravel while bark mulch is on each side of the path. Pavers are placed in the patio dining and seating area for a more solid surface underfoot. Plant boxes edge the pathway and patio area for some instant plant life. An umbrella serves as a focal point and provides much-needed shade for dining outside, of course.