Thomas J. Story
Renovating a patio or a path provides the perfect opportunity to bring a touch of whimsy to the garden. With the ground as your canvas, you can use patterns and colors that echo the hues of your flowers and furnishings.
Or think bigger: imagine seeing the Milky Way overhead and replicating it underfoot. All you need are tiles (or tile pieces) in colors that complement their surroundings, and a little imagination.
STARDUST SANCTUARY (pictured at left)
When landscape designer Kathy Kane redesigned her backyard, she incorporated a secluded space for contemplation. Her 10-foot by 10-foot "blue room" features a celestial-patterned mosaic that Kane created herself in two days for less than $100. "I've always liked paving that has a lot of interest," she says. "This design reminds me of stardust."
To make her mosaic, Kane used ceramic tiles (sold as remnants for $10 per box), which she broke into fragments. Before installing them, she put down a 2-inch-thick layer of base rock, settling it with a compactor from an equipment rental yard. She used spray paint to outline her pattern on the base rock (pictured above). Then she placed plastic netting over the pattern and laid tile fragments on the netting, securing each piece with Liquid Nails adhesive. After allowing the adhesive to dry overnight, she filled in the space between tile pieces with decomposed granite.
Design: Kane Design and Associates, Menlo Park, CA (650/326-4850)
FOLLOW THE FALLEN LEAVES
Not long after purchasing their home in Marin County, California, landscape designer Michelle Derviss and partner Liam O'Flaherty began planning an artful walkway inspired by the sculptural building style of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudï¿½. "The mosaic walkway gave us the opportunity to express our creativity," says Derviss. Its fallen-leaf pattern was inspired by the surrounding landscape of black oaks; the background reflects Derviss's love of intense colors. "Blue is a great backdrop for bright planting schemes," she explains.
In summer, Derviss fills beds along the path with succulents and herbs, including yellow variegated oregano. In fall, she swaps in yellow and orange calendula and plants daffodils for spring bloom.
You don't need special skills to work with tile, Derviss says. But a project of this size is time consuming. It took five weekends of kneeling on the ground (and a few back massages) to finish. The effort was worth it, she says. "It inspires a lot of smiles!"
Design: Michelle Derviss, Landscapes Designed, Novato, CA (415/892-3121)
Start small. Try applying tile pieces to a steppingstone first. Once you're comfortable with the process, move on to larger projects.
Draw a plan. If the design is complex, draw it on a smaller scale on grid paper.
Use a smooth surface. The best base for laying tiles is a level concrete pad that's free of lumps, depressions, and large cracks.
Outline the design. Use chalk to draw out the pattern on a paved surface. Once you're satisfied with the design, go over it with a marking pen.
Choose nonskid tiles. Avoid smooth tiles; choose textured ones instead.
Be safe. Before breaking a tile with a hammer, put on safety glasses and rubber gloves, and cover the tile with a cloth.