Imagine this: you’ve been planning your backyard remodel for months, and the installation of your dream patio is finally finished. You step into your backyard, walk across the flagstone, and take a seat on one of your patio chairs. You take a sip of your coffee, look around your backyard, and…you realize that your patio feels totally disconnected from the rest of your landscape design. What happened?
This is a common complaint we hear from potential clients. A patio is a wonderful backyard landscaping idea, but it takes thoughtful design work to make it feel like a natural and connected element of your full landscape. Every time you embark on a major change to your landscaping—from patios to driveways to fences—you need to think about cohesion in your backyard plans.
How do our designers at Tilly create cohesive patio landscape designs? These are the top questions we ask to determine how to create the perfect style and flow for your patio.
Where are your pathways?
The first element to creating a functional patio design is understanding how you’re going to move around and through it. What connections does your new patio have with other spaces in your yard? Where is the entrance to your patio? Where are you going from your patio?
If you plan ahead and create practical and accessible routes for foot traffic, your patio will flow naturally into your landscape.
- You love to dine al fresco (and who doesn’t?). Keep a clear path between the entrance to your home and your dining set and to minimize the distance you need to travel with plates of food in your hands.
- It’s important that your patio is accessible to your sister who uses a wheelchair. With that in mind, all pathways should be wide enough to accommodate the chair and made of sturdy enough materials to support the tires.
Do you want a separate or open space?
This is an important question to ask before you start planting around your patio. Do you want your patio to feel spatially separate from its surroundings or open to them? Think of this as the difference between a walled off living room and an open concept living room/dining room/kitchen area.
If you want your patio to feel like a private oasis, use your plants to define your space. If you want to sit down and enjoy uninterrupted views across your landscaping, it’s best to keep any planting low. This metaphor also applies to the entrances and exits to your patio space.
An open space will have many paths in and out or might simply not have borders at all, while a more defined space might only have one or two paths connecting it to the rest of the landscape. The landscaping around a patio is key to defining your space.
- You want an area to relax with the other grownups while the kids run around on the lawn. You want to have your own space, but you also need to be able to keep an eye on them. A good solution would be low planting beds between the lawn and the patio—with a clear entrance point so your kids don’t run through the plants.
- Your next door neighbors have a beautiful second-floor deck…that happens to overlook your patio. You like your neighbors, but you want a little privacy. Create a screen with an awning or some strategically placed trees & shrubs so you can enjoy your dinner on the patio in peace without checking to see if Jeff and Diane are watching.
- You love your existing landscaping and really want your patio to flow right into the yard. You could build wide steps between the two spaces so they are more physically connected. As an added bonus, those steps could provide seating as well.
What’s the most functional way to place your furniture?
It’s tempting to immediately stick your favorite lounge chair in the spot with the best view, but there are a few more things you need to think about to make sure you’re using your space in the most practical way. The best backyard layout ideas certainly take views into account, but they also maximize space and provide easy access to important landscape features.
Don’t forget to think about the other elements you have on your patio. Do you have potted plants? A beautiful fire pit you’ve been dying to set up? Water features you have to design around? Place these thoughtfully as well to make sure they have the resources they need and work seamlessly with your landscape design.
- You wanted to place your lounge chair with the best view of your treasured vegetable garden, but you realize that’s right in the middle of the path from the garden to your back door. Shifting your chair to the side will make every garden harvest easier and create a smooth flow with your backyard garden design.
- It would be great to have your potted herbs right next to your barbecue, but that spot is close to the house and they wouldn’t get any light. Placing them a few feet to the side could open up access to the grill for people to come pick up their burgers and help your plants thrive.
- Open patio space is important to you, but you can’t place your new fire bowl too close to the edge of your patio without risking stray sparks hitting the landscaping around the fire pit. By making it a central feature of your patio but creating clear paths out in all directions, you can keep foot traffic smooth while spotlighting your backyard fire pit.
How can you integrate your patio design with your landscape design?
This is the big question! Landscape design is a nuanced art, but there are strategies that landscapers of any level can use to unify their patio with the rest of their backyard design. The key is to find or create common elements between the two spaces and highlight them. A little careful planning can even help you bring your favorite elements of your landscape into your patio space and fall in love with them all over again.
- Think about materials! If your new deck is wood, you could use timber edging on your flower beds and other landscaping around the deck. If you love your paver pathway, let it flow right into a full paver patio.
- Repeating the same varieties of plants helps to unify a space. You can use some of the same plant species in both areas or get creative by replicating the same feel with similar textures and colors. Adding plants is a great DIY project for landscapers of all levels.
- Think back to those memories of art class because forms and shapes can also be used to create a cohesive look in your landscaping. If your patio is very modern and full of sleek lines, try bringing some of those clean lines into the rest of the yard with sharp garden beds or even sculptural elements.
These are all the tools we use in our designs that can easily be applied to your own DIY backyard landscaping plans. When you brainstorm your backyard renovation ideas with these strategies in mind, you can boost your new patio from a simple backyard addition to a total backyard transformation!
We love knowing what landscaping questions keep you up at night. What conundrums should we tackle next?