Get inspired by beautiful small-space retreats from around the West, and see how to make one of your own
Lauren Bonar Swezey
1 of 11Steve Gunther
Circular patios can easily fit into gardens of any style, and they can be constructed of various materials. (For do-it-yourselfers, a circle is also the easiest shape to draw accurately. Follow our step-by-step instructions to build an elegant slate patio.)
A circular patio of tinted concrete aggregate is edged with rose flagstone. The naturalistic spa backing, tough plantings, and the paving’s rosy tones visually connect the patio to the surrounding desert.
Info: Mary Rose Duffield, Duffield Ratliff Landscape Design, Tucson, AZ (520/577-1241); Rosalee Gage, formerly of Santa Rita Landscaping, Tucson, AZ (520/623-0421)
2 of 11Thomas J. Story
Waterfall and moat
Suspended over a koi pond, a circular redwood deck in Gardnerville, NV, is both a viewing platform and shade structure for fish.
The nine piers of steel-reinforced concrete that support it were poured in place as an integral part of the pond bottom, as were the steps that appear to float across the water’s surface. Both the steps and piers were finished below the waterline with rough-textured black plaster.
Info: James Rowley, Naturally Beautiful Gardens, Minden, NV (775/267-5234)
3 of 11Rob D. Brodman
Cobbles and rock
Rectangular chunks of tumbled Connecticut bluestone, set on a bed of decomposed granite and sand, form a 12-foot-diameter dining patio in a wooded Berkeley backyard.
Info: Vanessa Kuemmerle, Vee Horticulture, Berkeley, CA (510/653-7667); BlueJay Feldman, Blue Ridge Landscape Co., Orinda, CA (925/258-9233)
4 of 11Thomas J. Story
Large and small aluminum letters, set between irregular chunks of black slate, gives this 8-foot-wide patio in Alameda, California, contemporary flavor.
Info: Shirley Alexandra Watts, Alameda, CA (510/521-5223)
5 of 11Photo by Saxon Holt
Inspiring patio designs
A patio of squares and rounds
Colored stones, surrounded by pavers of stained concrete, create the illusion of a stream bubbling through the center of this 12-foot patio in Berkeley.
Shopping tip Look for 1- to 2-in.-thick stone (it’s easier to cut) in 1- to 3-ft.-long pieces, and choose as many straight-sided pieces as possible. Buy 30 percent more than you think you’ll need. The quantities below are for our 8-ft.-diameter patio.
Tools and materials
Two 1-ft. stakes with pointed tips
1- to 2-ft.-long level
One 8½-ft.-long 2-by-4
1 yard rough sand
Hand tamper (from a rental yard)
¾ ton slate pieces
3-in. chisel and mallet
Goggles and gloves
7 of 11Rob D. Brodman
Step 1: Define patio area
Choose a level site, then rake soil smooth. Place a stake in soil to mark the patio’s center.
Cut a piece of string about 6 ft. long; tie to the bottom of the center stake, measure out 4 ft., and tie free end to the second stake. With that free stake, pull the string taut and trace the patio’s outline in the soil as you walk around the center stake. Remove stakes, then mark the circle with a hose.
8 of 11Rob D. Brodman
Prepare the site and place stones
Prepare the site
Using shovel, remove 3 in. depth of soil from the entire circle. Tape the level to the narrow side of the 2-by-4; use the board to level the surface.
Fill circle with 2 to 3 in. of sand, rake smooth, then recheck the overall level.
Moisten sand with water, then tamp it firmly. Level again.
Place the stones
Starting at the outer edge, position the large stones to sit slightly above the surrounding soil surface.
Arrange as carefully as possible for fit; place as many large pieces as possible, then fill in with smaller pieces.
Check the level of the patio regularly.
9 of 11Rob D. Brodman
Use a chisel and mallet to break stones into smaller pieces (wear goggles).
Place a stone atop a board, scrape a line on stone where you want to make cut, gently strike the chisel there to make a ⅛-in.-deep depression, then pound the stone hard until it breaks.
10 of 11Rob D. Brodman
Fill cracks and finish
Shovel sand over patio and sweep it into cracks; spray with water to settle.