Choosing a Patio Paving


Nothing can enlarge you home and living space more quickly and simply than a paved patio. The area becomes another room that extends living space beyond your walls, effectively increasing the livable square footage of your property.

When you’re choosing the materials for the paving, think simple. Avoid using too many textures and colors in one space. Whether your home is formal or rustic, adjacent paving should harmonize with the architecture to connect structure and site.

Your choice may also be limited by what’s available locally. Most paving materials are heavy, and costs grow quickly as the distance from the source of supply increases. Decide early whether to do your own paving or to have it done by a professional. Some materials are easy to install; others require heavy equipment and professional skills.

Whatever paving material you decide be sure to account for adequate drainage. Any time you pave an area you interfere with the natural percolation of water into the ground. You’ll need to pitch the paving surface slightly, directing runoff toward natural drainage or installed drains.

 The following descriptions of various paving materials, along with your Think Outside Designer are intended to help you choose the paving that is right for your project.


Poured Concrete.


This versatile material can be poured in any shape, can cover broad expanses, and can be finished in smooth, rough, or pebbled finishes. Used with imagination concrete can be elegant and refined, but ultimate appearance depends largely on proper design, planning, and quality of the installation.

The durability of properly installed concrete is unquestioned.  Site preparation (grading the earth, rebar, and building forms) can be time-consuming, but the actual pouring and finishing often go quickly. You may be able to prepare the site yourself, then let the professional take over. A professional can also etch and finish concrete to resemble stone, tile, or brick. Your Think Outside Designer will work with you to develop a pattern that compliments your style and home.

Concrete Pavers.

Standard concrete pavers are square, rounds, or rectangular, and come in a variety of colors and finishes to match any aesthetic. Exposed aggregate surfaces are available with many different special stone of glass mixtures. Pavers are easy to use, suitable for projects completed in phases, and are relatively inexpensive. You can lay them in mortar over concrete or on a sand bed, depending on your use requirements. Standard pavers offer many pattern possibilities; interlocking pavers have unique patterns, require no mortar, and are self-aligning.

Brick Paving.

Brick works well in both formal and rustic settings. Bricks are easy to work with, just rough enough for good traction, and com in a variety of colors, textures, and sizes. Most brick, though, is relatively expensive compared to other materials.

You can also mortar bricks over concrete or set them on sand beds. Work with your Think Outside Designer to develop a pattern that suites your taste and site.



 Stone paving over the warmth of a thoroughly natural material, and the most durable. Disadvantages include the high cost, the weight of material, and a surface that may be slick when wet if an appropriate finish is not selected.

Flagstone and slate are both sedimentary rocks that split naturally into irregular shaped flat slaps that are ideal for paving. Thick stones can be laid in sand over compacted aggregate. You can fit them together in an irregular pattern, usually with minimal cutting, or you can purchase stones with uniform shapes for a more formal appearance.


Tile Paving.

Exterior tile, either terracotta, stone, wood-look or the high-fired type, combine earth good looks with durability. Tile is as easy to lay as brick, and can be set either in sand or mortared over concrete, depending on thickness and use. Tile is more difficult to cut than brick, though, so it’s best to design your paving to accommodate full size tiles. Tile can be slippery when wet so be sure to select a tile that has a slip coefficient rated for outdoor use.


Gravel Paving.

With few exceptions paving of rock and gravel are less suited for outdoor living areas than they are for pathways or areas that can function as a type of ground cover. Low cost and easy install are strong points. Gravel paving provides a clean and often an informal look that is well suited for fire pit circles, informal pathways, and Zen gardens. Gravel surfaces need sweeping because stones tend to “travel” when walked on; this can be minimized by using a gravel paving cell which our designers can help specify.  

Pool Design

Determining the Pool’s Size and Shape

Cost and available space will help you determine the size and shape of your pool. But personal preferences and the ways in which you will use your pool are the most important considerations.


The cost of a swimming pool is determined by the area in which you live, the type of construction and condition of the site, access, and the size and shape of the pool. In general, irregular shapes require more wall surface than straight lines. However, a simple kidney or teardrop design can cost less, since the rounded corners and inside curves result in less actual perimeter feet. All cost estimates you obtain should specify the actual perimeter of the pool, in addition to its maximum dimensions and square footage. Many pool builders have established a variety of basic shapes as “standards” in their available models. It is possible to modify a standard design shape slightly without too much additional cost, but a complete departure into a freeform design will raise the price considerably.

Available space

The most reliable way to find out what size pool will fit on your property is to measure the available space yourself with a tape measure. Using high quality aerial imagery our designers will verify the dimensions of your proposed pool fit within your space.

 Personal Preferences

Your pool should be designed as an integrated part of your landscape design, house, and land contours. If you don’t know where to start our designers will guide you on what pool shape, size, and location is best for your property.

Before you can decide on a shape and position for your pool, you must decide what uses your pool is likely to have, now and in the future. It may be a recreation spot for casual relaxation for adults, a playground for children, or perhaps a training ground for competitive swimmers and divers. If the pool will be used mostly by small children the shallow should be the broadest. With children, however, future needs must be considered. As children learn to swim, they will quickly outgrow a pool designed for shallow-end activity or one with a special wading area.

Of all dimensions, the depth of your pool deserves the most attention. Three feet is recommended as the minimum depth, but even non-swimmers prefer 3.5 – 5 feet. Racing and turning requires 3.5 foot depth; divers must have 8.5 but preferably 9+ feet unobstructed depth.

 Resale Value

The possibility that you may sell your property after a pool has been installed may affect pool design. An odd-shaped pool may not attract potential buyers.

The standard rectangles, kidneys, teardrops, wedges, and L-shapes are the most popular pool designs. If you do decide a freeform or custom shape, be sure it fits the house and landscape design as well as being suitable for your family. Good landscape designs are good selling points, but peculiarities are not. A pool smaller than 450 square feet or one larger than 800 may hamper sale. Too small a pool is not adequate for a growing family, and the maintenance costs of a large pool may discourage other buyers.

 Popular pool shapes

Among the most popular swimming pool shapes are circles, rectangles, teardrops, kidneys, L-shapes, and freeform. Each has its advantages, and your personal style, preferences, and space will determine which shape is best for you.

Pool Design Shape Options.jpg
  • The circle is easily adapted to small yards. Often this shape is used for shallow wading pools, but circle pools can be designed deep enough for diving.

  • The rectangle is best for competitive swimming and can be designed in many different styles and with a variety of materials.

  • The teardrop fits into most gardens. A similar shape is the oval, with each end the same size.

  • The kidney is perhaps the most popular shape. Its curves can be modified to fit your particular site, and works with most styles.

  • The L-shape fits easily into a corner or around a house projection. Diving and swimming areas can be defined by pool shape.

  • Freeform pools are best for crowded yards, around existing trees, or irregular areas, since the shape can be customized to fit any space.

Design with a Purpose

Landscape Design makes a world of difference, and speaks a lot about you. The plants and structures that surround your home reflect your taste, your pleasures, your activities, your personality, and your planning.

Why tolerate a yard that isn’t living up to its promise? Say your garden is uninspired: you don’t get that special lift when you stride into you entryway. Or say its lawn-heavy; you’re oppressed by moving chores every weekend.

Say it’s inconvenient: no vine-draped terrace invites you to cool off and relax on a hot summer day. Even say it’s unfriendly, lacking an eating and entertaining space that would encourage friends to gather in your garden. But don’t despair. All of these negatives can be turned into a positive with some thoughtful landscape design.

Landscaping, of course, takes some work. It calls for planning, money, work, and time. But proper planning produces results that will serve your needs for years to come. And not every expenditure of money, work, time and thought gives such a lasting satisfaction.

Making the Outdoors Livable

Contemporary landscape design has evolved to reflect homeowners’ desires to cook, entertain, and live outdoors. Often our clients have found that their existing garden was not designed for outdoor living or their needs. There was no privacy; tables and chairs poked holes in the lawn; the sun was too hot; the wind too strong, the evenings too chilly.

It has become clear to many of our clients that  if the same kind of living is to take place outdoors as indoors the same problems need to be solved - furniture arrangement; pathways for circulation; patio materials and scale; walls (or fences or hedges) for privacy; and climate control. The goal of landscape design is not only for beauty but also for comfort and function. It may mean paving a patio, constructing a deck, devising a wind of sun screen, installing lights, or building a roof overhead. Regardless of your unique needs our designers will work with you to make your garden more livable and function for you in your style.

Landscape Design Bocce

Garden Design

The well thought out landscape design here satisfies 8 goals for these active homeowners.

1.  Recreation

The garden for this active family is centered on a bocce court and a generously sized lawn.

2. Comfort

A generous sized wood trellis providing shade during hot afternoons.

3. Flexibility

When the fire pit is not being used it can be covered for games and informal dining.

4. Entertaining

Meals and parties take place on the unit paving patio beneath suspended string lights.

5. Food Production

Raised beds provide plenty of space for winter and summer vegetable gardening.

6. Ease of Maintenance

A steel mowing strip boarding the lawn simplifies grass cutting.

7.  Privacy

Planted hedges along the property line provide screening from neighboring homes.

8. Seasonality

Specimen trees aligned with existing windows provide seasonal interest in the home and garden.  

Garden Style - The Choices are Many!

Landscape design works best when you have an underlining idea of the style you like. What are the possibilities? Here are a few different styles of gardens which can be applied to your space. In deciding which style is best for you to keep in mind the style should be compatible and compliment the style of your home.



Order and symmetry accompanied by meticulously maintained roses and hedge rows typically define a formal garden. Contrary to this, some current designers have been using more textured plantings and ornamental grasses in contemporary interpretations of the formal garden. Elements often include statues, birdbaths, and sundials centered on a traditional fountain.


Contemporary: The latest trends, colors, and styles make their appearance in contemporary gardens, typically paired with new and bold architecture. Often mistaken with “Modern” contemporary gardens are considered to be what’s cool and in the “now.” Contemporary is constantly changing reflecting the latest’s cutting-edge materials, lighting, and recreation trends.



Think mid-century bold shapes and strong lines, Modern landscapes represent a style popularized in the 1950s and 1960’s. Modern gardens are known for their clean aesthetic and sophisticated style. Often organized, modern gardens will feel minimal with a focus on architectural plantings that highlight the geometries of the building architecture. Pops of personality and color are typically added in plantings, furniture, and sometimes even a lawn flamingo.

Low-Water Garden: Becoming increasingly popular in the West, Low-Water Gardens strive to increase sustainability by reducing or eliminating the need for landscape irrigation. Contrary to how they may be perceived Low-Water gardens don’t necessarily need to be gold or brown. There are many drought-tolerant plantings that can provide flowers and greenery. Understanding your climate and planting zone is key to making sure your Low-Water Garden is successful.

tropical garden


If you love the idea of a tropical garden but don’t live in a tropical climate you may be in luck. There are many plants that are tropical in appearance be don’t require that you live in a tropical climate.   Acanthus, Wild Ginger, Bergenia, Canna, Mahonia, and Ferns will exude a tropical vibe just to name a few. No tropical garden would be complete without a hammock, the sound of running water and a Mai Tai in hand.

Rustic: This style of garden naturally compliments a farmhouse, Victorian, ranch, and rustic architecture. These lush and informal gardens are designed for wandering and enjoyment. Dense and diverse plantings ensure that there is always something new to be found. Rustic Gardens typically include white picket fences, brick, cast iron benches, and separate outdoor rooms.  


Cactus Garden:

Landscaping with cactus can often lead to creating a dramatic statement. Plants such as Yuccas, Agave, Tamarisks, and Succulents complete the dessert appeal of desert gardens. Sculptural boulders, gravel, aggregate concrete walks, and Adobe are representative material elements in these water conscious gardens.

Coastal: If you don’t have the luxury of living by the beach that doesn’t mean you can’t bring the beach to you! Coastal gardens are simple and relaxed representing the laid-back beach lifestyle. Coastal gardens vary by region, Coastal gardens of Southern California don’t look the same as coastal Gardens of Washington State.  Coastal gardens incorporate regional coastal plantings that flutter in the wind, look natural and promote a seaside atmosphere. If you do live near the coast, landscaping may present some challenges, salty winds and sandy soil make careful plant selection an important factor in success. Coastal gardens typically include Unstained wood, wicker furnishings, shutters, loose gravel, and sea shells collected on beach walks. No matter where you live creating a coastal garden will ensure you can enjoy an escape any time of the day.