Joe VanDerZanden is a part-time freelance writer and full-time landscape laborer from Ames. He usually writes with his boots on.

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Make the Most of Your Patio
by Joe VanDerZanden       #Advice   #Design

According to landscape architect David John, a well-designed garden is just the beginning of the story. In order to truly enjoy a residential landscape, John contends that homeowners should consider a total outdoor living space that allows them to enjoy the oasis that they took the time and effort to create.

“Patios present the perfect solution,” says John, a landscape design consultant and partner at Landscapes by Design, a design-build firm based in Slater, Iowa. “When designed properly, a precast paver patio will produce a space to which a family will gravitate, no matter the season and no matter the reason.”

Develop a “Lifestyle Roadmap”

The first step in the design process is conducting a thorough evaluation of your habits and routines as they pertain to an outdoor lifestyle.  John makes sure to query his clients about when, and in what manner, they envision themselves spending time outside.

“Some see themselves enjoying a morning cup of coffee with the paper on the patio, soaking up the morning sun,” he says. “Others might be keen on a season of weekend cook-outs in the shade or relaxing with family around a crackling fire pit in the evening.”

The salient point here is to design the patio for its  intended use: outdoor entertaining, privacy, weekends with the family, or whatever you have in mind. An appropriate design goal will add value to a patio because you will use it more frequently.


Private patios can also serve as a warm welcome. The design intent here was to create an inviting entryway while still providing a space for enjoying evening hours on the shady front porch.

In this suburban Iowa backyard, columns and a seat wall help define the fire pit area while providing plenty of space for a large gathering of friends and family.

Indulge your taste

Modern precast concrete pavers and even natural stone are available in an astounding variety of colors, shapes and textures. With such a wide palette of product from which to choose, patios can be designed and constructed to fit any taste.

“I encourage my clients to take full advantage of what our manufacturers offer,” says John. “We can do installations that use a boldly colored soldier course against a neutral field or others that incorporate the vintage feel of Old World cobblestone.”

With so many options to work with in terms of color, shape, texture and pattern, the design options are almost limitless. Use these options as design tools and make the most of your investment.


Native plantings, boulders and natural stone all work together with a precast paver “circle kit” to create a simple, yet elegant, backyard getaway.

Stick with the plan

A show-stopping paver patio fits with the architecture of the house and enhances the enjoyment of the garden. Listen to your landscape designer and be sure that the size and style of your proposed paver patio fits the style of your home.  Plant designers often refer to the rule “pick the right plant for the right spot.” The same can be said for patio design. Paver patios should be an appropriate size, have an agreeable exposure and fit with the design of the house and garden.

“Nobody wants to see their patio stick out like sore thumb,” cautions John.

Sometimes the best place for patios is away from the house; in this case limestone steps and flagstone lead the way to a garden retreat.
Concrete pavers and regionally quarried Iowa buff limestone solve a tricky problem of how to create a below grade patio.

Consider the options

“In a perfect world, the patio is more than just a place to park the grill,” says John. After designing hundreds of outdoor spaces he continues to encourage clients to incorporate features that will add value, comfort and utility to their patios. Among the most popular patio features is an outdoor fireplace or fire pit, which provides a pleasant place to gather in the evening hours. John also has seen a recent up tick in interest in outdoor kitchens complete with cooktops, beverage coolers, ovens and even prep sinks.

More-private paver patios are also a perfect spot for a water feature, such as a bubbling fountain or a nearby stream. The tranquil sound of water trickling through stones can add a relaxing, spa like quality to a homeowner’s outdoor retreat.

Outdoor kitchens can be as simple as a countertop and beverage cooler. Note the power source at the bar which allows easy hook-ups for food warmers, crockpots and blenders!

Be prepared

Perhaps the most important tip that will make the most of the patio design experience is to be prepared. Before the initial design meeting, John encourages his clients to plan ahead in two ways. First, he suggests collecting a selection of pictures, drawings or any other ideas that you find appealing. “Good ideas turn into good designs” is John’s mantra.

Secondly, he asks homeowners to think about the financial resources they are willing to devote to a new patio.

“Clients are sometimes apprehensive to give a budget number,” says John. “But the reality is that budget is a critical design tool.” Without knowing what a homeowner is able to commit to a project, the designer is unable to determine what options are available. John is quick to point out that there is a paver patio that can fit any budget and certainly add value, comfort and enjoyment to the home.

From Iowa Gardener Volume I Issue I. Photos by Landscapes by Design, Inc.

 

Posted: 03/12/14   RSS | Print

 

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