An artful detached patio sets the stage for intimate parties

What would a garden be without an inviting patio on which to celebrate the joys of friendship? Daniel Sparler and Jeff Schouten turned a sunny spot in their Seattle garden into such a place. But unlike most patios, which are connected to the house, theirs is located down a winding path, in an area surrounded by lush shrubs, perennials, and annuals. It’s a destination with all the ambience of a campfire in the woods, only guests gather around a cozy table instead of a firepit. “We wanted this part of the garden to be a place set apart,” Sparler says. “We wanted to make a reference to the classics ― classic design.”

To make space for the hexagonal patio, Sparler and Schouten first cleared some shrubs and perennials from a planting bed, then encircled the space with a low wall and five columns of varying heights, all of reinforced concrete. The columns were poured in place at the same time as the walls between them, then coated with exterior latex paint in rosy mauve tones (the walls are purple). For added drama, vertical indentations were painted hunter green and purple. Floor tiles echo these colors.

Friends gather on the patio for alfresco dining or a glass of wine by candlelight, accompanied by talk and laughter.

Creating the mood

A small patio needs just a few elements to become a welcoming spot for chatting with friends over a relaxing supper.

Privacy. Tall shrubs, hedges, or vine-covered fences make a detached patio private. The columns (pictured at left) create the illusion of walls without appearing confining.

Eye candy. Outdoor art, colorful walls, interesting floor tiles, and containers create a sense of drama around the patio.

Comfort. Choose cushioned chairs and a roomy table.

Candlelight. Whether small votives or hurricane lamps, candles never fail to enhance the ambience.

Fragrance. A pot of jasmine, gardenia, or Bouvardia longiflora sends out delicious scents, especially on balmy nights.

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