2. Choose flooring to suit your space and budget
When you look for flooring, consider more than just looks. The stone used here has an attractive natural appearance but is also practical, giving the metal furniture a flat, stable surface to rest on.
Photo/Illustration: Brandi Spade
Once you’ve decided on a size and the general boundaries for your seating area, you’re ready to install hardscaping, including one of the most important elements: flooring.
When selecting materials for the floor of a seating area, there are many options to choose from, including stone, brick, pavers, concrete, and gravel. In terms of making your selections, let the intended use and your budget be your guides.
When setting a budget for materials, I encourage clients to put their hardscaping dollars into their most lived-in areas. I’m a fan of using stone whenever possible because it feels natural and, if properly installed, provides a wobbleproof surface for furnishings. It’s often, however, on the higher end of the price continuum. Concrete is a great alternative to stone. It is typically less expensive per square foot (sometimes costing even less than pavers), easily adapts to irregular shapes, and lends itself to creative designs and finishes.
Gravel is probably the cheapest flooring option. It may not seem appealing, but you can easily dress up your gravel patio by including crisp edges to define the area. Steel edging, pavers, or brick set on edge are a couple of ways to establish clean lines while adding visual interest. Avoid using gravel directly outside of entry points to the home, however, because it can easily get tracked inside. With gravel, as with stone, you’ll likely have to weed out seedlings that blow in and germinate in the cracks, but this is typically an easy chore.
Though one flooring material can do the job, you don’t have to limit yourself. A mix of materials can be effective in reinforcing your underlying design concept. Use materials wisely, however, so as not to create a chaotic feel. Small gardens, especially, need a streamlined palette of textures and materials. Using brick to edge a flagstone or concrete patio, for instance, can be an effective combination of materials that lends unity to your design (photo, facing page).
Before making your final flooring selections, consider the area’s eventual use and likely furnishings. Furniture with slender feet, like those of metal chairs, require paving with more tightly spaced joints for stability. Traction is also important. Brick, as well as concrete and stone, can be slippery when wet or mossy. Make your final decision based not only on your style and budget but also on the practicality of the materials in your living space. Then, get busy installing it.