THE LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT USES PATIOS, walkways and retaining walls to map out a “floor plan” for your outdoor living space. These hardscape features create a framework for movement, visual definition, and balance among use areas in your garden. Walls, steps, and walkways help us navigate changing elevations on the site, or add a variety of levels to a flat site. View images of patios, walkways and retaining walls here
There are three basic styles in pool deck and patio design:
- Organic. The goal is to achieve a natural looking effect. It is balanced but does not rely on perfect symmetry.
- Casual. This design approach is clean and defined, yet leaves place for surprises. Such as a sweeping curve, the surprise of a rough-hewn chunk of stone, an unexpected flaring or turn in an otherwise straight-forward walkway.
- Formal. This design style aspires to a tailored, clean-lined and symmetrical appearance in the garden environment.
These definitions are simply a leaping off place for the design. Your landscape architect will refine your ideas and help develop your personal vision.
Read about our architectural design process here
We enjoy the flow and balance, the way everything works together. There is almost always something in bloom. It is truly exciting and has yet to get old.”
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This pool deck uses stone of varying colors, shapes and sizes to achieve an edgy, fragmented look that offsets the smooth curve of the steps and pool borders. The random geometric pattern and color palette make this flagstone pool deck a stand out.
The balanced simplicity of this patio design belies the complex thinking that went into it. A pool deck of neutral-toned rectangular pavers in three different sizes is laid in a repeating pattern. Sweeping into that linear plane is a circular flagstone step down to a living room patio. Nine slabs of natural cleft flagstone in irregular shapes and sizes make the living room floor. The gigantic floor stones transition to a massive building stone fireplace.
Garden Walkways & Stepping Stones
Walkways invite the visitor to explore or lead the eye to a focal point.
This walkway narrows as it approaches the garden entrance. The low thick walls that border this walk draw an irresistible sight line to the massive garden wall and entry gate.
The casual, meandering style of the walkway shown here encourages you to slow down and enjoy a view of your destination: the pool and waterfall at the far end of the lawn. It invites you into the space and makes you want to stay.
Retaining Walls & Steps
STEPS AND RETAINING WALLS MAY EASE STEEP SLOPES or carve out the setting for raised planting beds that border a walkway or patio seating area. We use them for contouring, layering and leveling on the site. Steps and terracing also create transitions.
The terraced steps of cobblestone and turf soften the hard edge of the swimming pool deck and make a graceful transition to the open lawn. Stone and turf steps make a graceful terracing effect at the edge of this pool deck.
This walkway of long shallow steps has a clear destination. It eases the way uphill on what would otherwise be a fairly steep grade. Note how the vegetation slightly overhangs and softens the hard edges of these massive stone steps. These long, low steps lead to an outdoor living room.
Here is a good example of how retaining walls are used to create an outdoor “floor plan.” This split level patio design is divided into two seating areas with inner borders that contain planting beds. The walls can be put to further use as perching spots for guests at a large party. Retaining walls define this split-level outdoor living room.
This image demonstrates how a patio design incorporates a walkway, retaining wall, and steps that work together to create different levels (or eye lines). This design puts it all together. The hardscape features blend perfectly to show off flower beds and lead the eye to a massive outdoor hearth at the far end of the patio. A visitor standing at the beginning of the walkway is invited into the landscape by multiple sightlines that lead to the patio and fireplace at the far end of the garden:
1. The reverse curve (or S curve) of the walkway draws the eye into the composition and lands at the steps to the patio level.
2. The curve of the retaining wall intersects the curve of the walkway and snugs into patio steps
3. The flower bed backed by medium tall shrubs draw the eye higher
4. All the site lines point to the outdoor fireplace at the far end of the patio
A GOOD PATIO DESIGN, like a god landscape design, is a composition made of movement and rest, of passages, and destinations. At various points along the way, it invites you to pause or to continue on to see what’s next. What’s next for you?