Open to the garden on two sides, this patio in Woodland Hills, California, has all the comforts of an indoor room. Owners Marla and Chuck O'Connell use it all year. "We gather friends and surfing buddies for wine and good conversation," Chuck says. Adds Marla, "We're outdoor people, living our fantasy."
A fireplace is the patio's focal point. The prefab box is framed in wood and capped with stone veneer.
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"I like clean lines balanced by earth-toned materials and organic shapes," says landscape designer Jared Vermeil. The father of a toddler, Vermeil loves creating contemporary yet family-friendly gardens. As he says, "Modern can feel warm and comfortable too."
This patio measures only 7 feet across. And, with the right tools, you can easily build it in a weekend.
Think of the possible uses for this circle of bricks. You can tuck it into a perennial border. Or place it in a remote corner of your garden, where you can linger at day's end over a glass of wine, or on Sunday morning with your coffee and magazines.
With our checklist of tools and materials, some PVC pipe, and a little elbow grease, you can transform your outdoor space into an instant retreat ― all for about $300. This DIY backyard lounge serves as both a casual spot for year-round entertaining and a private refuge with resort style.
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)
23 of 40John Granen
Front row seats
This small patio works, thanks to the dappled light and the partial sense of enclosure and privacy created by the greenhouse and foliage. The casual comfort of the two chairs seems to invite relaxation and intimate conversation.
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)
31 of 40Thomas J. Story
In their rear garden, lined with olive trees, Jeff Reed and Jennifer Madden enjoy an alfresco meal at a sculptural table they created.
Melodie Lewis loves color. When she renovated her Paradise Valley, Arizona, garden with the help of landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck, vivid hues were an integral part of the design, particularly for an intimate patio near the home's entry.
Small lots don't easily accommodate separate outdoor living areas. But Dean Shibuya and Jeffrey Molloy's 600-square-foot San Francisco backyard uses every square inch to contain several garden rooms comfortably.
Dry-laid flagstones, tightly spaced, cover the upper patio as well as the main walkway leading to it, while an arc-shaped path of natural steppingstones connects the upper patio to a smaller one that is nearer the house and overlooks a pond.
Planting a conventional turfgrass lawn is not a water-wise solution in the arid West. Nor is paving a big area always practical, since that much hardscape creates a lot of heat and glare, says Nate Downey of Santa Fe Permaculture.
But if you lace paving stones with ribbons of native buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides), you'll achieve an eye-calming "soft patio" effect, as Downey calls it, that needs much less water than a traditional bluegrass or fescue lawn.