Design Your Patio with Color Texture and Form

Characteristics of masonry materials -- their color, texture, and form -- affect the project's appearance, durability, and maintenance requirements. When selecting materials for your project, make sure your choices meet your design goals and contribute to a unified landscape.

Color is a prominent attribute, the one most people notice first. It's perhaps the most important design element when it comes to creating harmony between structures. Color helps set the mood. Reds, beiges, rusts, browns, yellows, and oranges are warm tones that complement traditional settings well. Blues, grays, or black impart a cooler feel and are ideal to use with contemporary designs. Other parts, such as mortar, sand, moss, furniture, and plants, impart color. Use these elements to introduce contrasting hues to set off the color of your paving. How much of a particular color you employ is important because the amount of a color affects how people perceive it. In small amounts, a color tends to recede or act as an accent. But a large amount of the same color becomes more prominent and could be overpowering.


The surface texture of a patio or walkway affects style, comfort, and safety. Light reflectance, surface temperature, and ease of cleaning and maintenance are all related to texture.

Smooth vs. rough. Smooth surfaces such as glazed tile, polished stone, and steel-troweled concrete are slick when wet and can harshly reflect sunlight. For maximum safety, avoid any material that gets slippery when wet. Small areas placed as accents do not greatly decrease the safety of the surface. Smooth surfaces are easier to sweep clean than rough ones.

Variation in the texture of natural stone provides a safe surface and gives your patio or wall an old-fashioned look. Brick and precast pavers are rough enough to provide plenty of traction even when wet and are perfect for formal designs. Poured concrete offers the flattest, most uniform surface, and can be colored and textured -- even when used in retaining walls.

Hard vs. soft. Brick, tile, and concrete are hard, durable surfaces good for patios and walks. Gravel, wood chips, bark mulch, and the like make resilient surfaces that are more comfortable to walk on. They can lend a rustic look that complements woodland or informal landscape designs.

If you don't want to cover the entire patio with soft materials, use them for paths and accents. Just as you wouldn't hesitate to use different flooring in different rooms inside your home, you can pave your patio with more than one kind of material. Different kinds of paving for help define different areas, separating quiet, intimate spaces from party spots.


Masonry materials come in many shapes and forms. When used in a wall, walk, or patio, many of them create a visual rhythm that's pleasing as well as functional. Working with patterns, whether formal or informal, can give you unlimited creative license when designing your project. For example, varying the placement of colors in a modular material like brick breathes life into a patio surface. A contrasting shape inserted into the surface, such as a large, irregular stone set into a background of consistent-size stones, immediately draws attention to that stone and adds interest to the surface. Varying the thickness of ashlar stone in the courses of a wall produces a visual rhythm. Variations in shape and form add the element of surprise; whenever you look at the surface you'll spot another detail you hadn't noticed before.

Fixing an odd lot

If your site is an odd shape and not well-suited to the symmetry of modular materials, combine different textures and colors in a mosaic layout. Mosaics attract attention to themselves and pull it away from any irregular shapes or dimensions in the space. Don't try to hide the division between the materials; this is a situation where a sharp contrast is better.


Mixing decking with masonry walls or paving provides additional design options. Wood-and-masonry combinations improve the appearance of your outdoor room. Patio and deck combinations work especially well for separating areas of use. The different colors and patterns of the materials clearly indicate that the spaces they mark have different purposes. Deck-and-paving combinations make it possible to enlarge a patio over a steep slope. Decking easily spans slopes and rough or poorly drained terrain, making it a better choice than paving when such sites are the only ones available for expansion. When expanding either surface, select at least one material that's already in use in your yard. Then, instead of looking like an afterthought, the new material will complement your home and landscape, and the new outdoor living space will look like it belongs there.


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