Patio; A space to eat and play or reflect on the day.
With the advent of television and home air conditioning, the focus on living for many turned indoors. The result was a loss of contact with nature with a focus on indoor entertaining. Fortunately this trend has been reversed in recent years with patios, terraces and decks experiencing increased popularity.
The patio, a hard surfaced outdoor area adjacent to a house originates from the Spanish word patio which means courtyard and was used for outdoor dining and recreation. It is roofless, though can have an arbour.
A well planned and placed patio can provide you with a cool and shady space for the hot afternoon and evening or a place to bask in the early rays while gathering your thoughts for the day.
If a patio’s prime purpose is for dining it needs to be close to the kitchen, unless you have an army of people willing to cart all the dishes out. Keep access to the house easy. If not, you will find you don’t use it as you intended. Another option is to have patio kitchen set up. All you need to cart outside is your food, drinks and friends. Always ensure adequate room around the dining table (about 1m behind each occupied chair) to avoid having to squeeze past, causing spilt food accidents and frustration.
An escape patio may also be created and this can be further away from the house, in a shady or favourite location, where all you need to take is a drink and a book..
The surface used for a patio can be as varied as you would find for paving and the choice would depend on budget, requirements and permanence. Decorative gravel over weed mat or compacted road base is the cheapest option and may have stepping stones set into it. This option is suited to an escape patio though not a dining or recreational patio as the gravel will interfere with furniture stability and certain types of footwear. The options follow through from pavers set on road base and bedding sand to natural stone mortared onto concrete. The latter option can look stunning and gives a very European look to the patio. Be careful to select materials which tie in with the overall feel of your house.
If adjacent to a pool you may choose to use the same materials as the pool surround to link the areas together or you may choose a contrasting material to delineate areas of different function.
Planting into the paving can soften the effect of hard landscaping materials. Thyme or mint, for example, if allowed to scramble over the paving will provide a scent whenever trodden on.
Having a paved area jutting out from a house can seem a bit out of place. By adding some form of vertical element, the patio can be referenced to the house and surrounding environment. Consider adding some walls to the patio, not necessarily all the way around or high, but enough to define the area and make it feel like a room. They may help to direct the flow of pedestrian traffic or keep the dining table free from cavorting children. A pergola hanging with deciduous vines can provide summer shade and winter sun as well as providing the vertical reference. For a softer look, plants may be a better option. A hedge or a garden bed helps to separate the patio from the lawn and a shade tree or a few palms will provide a cooling effect.
Pay careful attention to drainage issues ensuring the water drains away from the house and pathways. Install drainage points if necessary. Also consider any service requirements prior to laying the surface. If power or water is needed on the patio, installing the necessary pipes or cables is a lot cheaper at this stage than trying to retro fit them.
Keep your patio functional, not just a fashion statement and it will provide you with a setting for many great times.