DIY Patio Paradise

Dreaming of whiling away sunny afternoons on your own incredible patio this summer? First, take advice from these experts.

Credit: chrisjagers

A stunning backyard patio is possible with a lot of hard work

Top tips from five experts on how to take your backyard getaway from so-so to sensational



Wood decks warmed by the summer sun can be sharp-looking and barefoot-friendly. But keep in mind what you’ll be using this area for, advises Ruth Olde, certified landscape designer and partner at Blasig Landscape Design. “If it’s covered, I love the warmth and richness of wood, but if it’s exposed at all it can get really slippery.” 
Olde says that if it’s an area you will use to enjoy nice weather, and not a main pathway to your home, wood is “truly West Coast wonderful.” Otherwise stone may be a better choice.
STONE PATIOS can be very elegant, plus your outdoor retreat will need little maintenance and be connected to the landscape, according to Michael Bjorge, principal designer and CEO of Pacifica Landscape Works and winner of The 2008 Canadian National Award of Landscape Excellence. “If budget allows, natural stone is definitely one of the nicest ways to go.” 
Stone can be a nice patio surface and is also a garden in itself, adds Don Phillips, owner of Lost Art Garden and Landscape. He free-stacks stone and leaves gaps between the rocks for plants to sprout up.
CREATE BALANCE between soft and hard elements. “Combining the patio and garden is key to making it look complete and congruous,” says Phillips. Stone can be used to create graceful curves to connect your patio and garden, he adds. Simply set the curve of the pathway using any size or shape of stone you desire and echo the circular theme throughout your landscape. Curved, linear lines also allow spaces to flow and appear larger, adds Bjorge. 
A FOCAL POINT is critical when creating an outdoor garden room, says Bjorge. He recommends a fire pit as a simple and effective way to do this (right). If you wish to make a smaller space seem bigger, Olde advises placing the focal point at the farthest visible corner or spot of the garden. This could be a fountain, a dramatic container or a work of art. If it’s a raised planter, put it on an angle and not parallel to the property lines, she suggests, otherwise the boundaries will seem closer. 
Be inventive with the placement of planters; a pot atop a repainted patio chair can look simple and elegant (above right). Conversely, to make a larger space seem cozier, nestle your patio in with trees and bushes, leaving them low enough so that the space around you still seems expansive (bottom left). This will create the sense of a room, says Bjorge, which is frequently his goal when designing outdoor sitting areas.