If you dream of cooking up a storm in an outdoor kitchen, entertaining on a patio, or relaxing comfortably in the tranquility of your garden, then a hardscape could be a great addition to your home. Hardscapes give definition and texture to a garden or backyard, while providing you and your family with extra space to enjoy the outdoors. However, patios and hardscape features require careful planning and execution.

Envision Your Space

Before enlisting the help of a landscape designer or professional mason, imagine how your space could be an extension of your lifestyle. Do you want to gather friends and family for cookouts on warm nights? Would you prefer to escape to a quiet retreat for relaxation? Or could a fire pit or outdoor fireplace allow you to enjoy your backyard in the colder months? It might be helpful to make a list of activities that you would enjoy, because the function of the space will inform its design.

Assembling pictures will also help your contractor understand your unique style. While the details will evolve, you should put together a preliminary portfolio that reflects your tastes. Do you prefer a modern, chic design or a rustic layout that blends in with the garden surroundings? What stone types, colors, and shapes do you envision? Also, explore themes that complement your home’s décor, which will make your outdoor space a natural extension of your home. After preliminary brainstorming, you’re ready to contact a knowledgeable professional who can assess your current space, offer expert construction and design tips, and help acquire any necessary permits.

Planning the Layout

Interior meets exterior. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to plan your outdoor space is to assess the layout of your interior. If you want to cook or dine outdoors, consider giving direct access to the main kitchen whenever possible. A detached or remote patio may not be ideal if you have to carry food down a walkway or steps to reach the outdoor kitchen or dining area. Also, if you plan to have frequent guests, you may want to provide them with easy access to a restroom without having to walk through a bedroom or other private areas of the home.

Working with slope. Landscape designers and professional masons have inventive ways to turn a sloped yard into a beautiful series of terraces. Using landscape timbers or retaining walls, an unusable hill can evolve into a unique and attractive recreational space with patios, gardens, and seating areas. Terraces are also ideal for incorporating outdoor water features, such as waterfalls, which have increased in popularity in recent years.

Lighting scheme. No one enjoys sitting in the dark, so think through a lighting scheme that will make your outdoor space usable at night. Start with the basics, making sure walkways, stairs, and outdoor patios are well lit. Landscape lighting specialists can also orchestrate a lighting scheme that adds drama to water features, stonework, or garden design elements. A professional design can help protect the safety of your family and guests and add depth and beauty to your backyard at night.

No matter what style of hardscape you choose, a quality professional can help ensure a successful build by assessing every aspect of your backyard. For instance, a designer will need to suggest a drainage solution that best meets the needs of your yard, as hardscapes can create runoff problems. With a holistic approach in mind, you can create a beautiful outdoor space that integrates seamlessly with your lifestyle and home.

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Sources: EBSCOhost Home Improvement Reference Center: Complete Guide to Patios and Complete Guide to Porches & Patio Rooms; Home & Garden Television (HGTV); Professional Landcare Network (PLANET).

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