Playful paving

Bits of tile add fresh color and movement to paths and patios

Lauren Bonar Swezey and Julie Chai


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 Gaud�. "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.

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