How can there be so many websites, blogs, magazines, and even tv channels devoted to designing outdoor space? Easy: designing outdoor space is as much an art as a science.
Your outdoor spaces aren’t just extra square feet, they’re where indoor meets outdoor. Nowhere else is there so much focus on how one area becomes another. A great patio is a marriage of the comfort of indoor, and the excitement of outdoor. How can there be so much talk about outdoor design? Easy: in an outdoor space, you can say a lot with even a simple feature.
At KP Contracting, we build outdoor spaces, and love doing it. But our focus is ultimately on what you want to do with that space, whether we’re part of building it or not. To that end, we wanted to share ideas to show you just how versatile a paver patio can be.
A great patio unites your indoor and outdoor. However, it can also be a smart investment: a National Association of Realtors survey found that new patios can return from 69% to 80% on investment when you sell your house. In this post, we’ll review some of the main features that turn your backyard patio into a space where you can transition between the different parts of yourself.
Patio walls can be used for form and function. You can build a sitting wall to create extra space for guests, or a retaining wall to adapt your terrain to your design. In many cases, one wall serves both purposes.
There are 3 types of walls that are reviewed in the following section:
Sitting Patio Walls
Sitting Patio Wall
A seating wall can be a further transition between the patio itself, and the lawn beyond. Rather than an abrupt break between the patio and the grass, a sitting wall quietly understates the transition from one area to another. Moreover, it provides a relaxed place to perch for guests who may not want to use lawn furniture. A seating wall can also provide structure around another feature, like this one around a fire pit:
Sitting walls invite guests to relax in a space. At the same time, they can serve another important purpose as a retaining wall.
Retaining walls prevent erosion and make sloped landscapes into places where patios are possible. In doing so, they ensure that outdoor space you’ve built stays a space.
If all you’re looking for is a little isolation, a privacy wall is a good choice. Privacy walls are often wood or screen, as their purpose isn’t structural. A privacy wall made of a thick wood can also be an effective noise blocker.
Walls can mix form and function, but there are also patio features whose principal purpose is recreational, like fire pits.
2023 research from the National Association of Realtors found that fire features recovered 56% of their cost on average. Better yet, fire features rated highly for customer satisfaction, with a 9.7 joy score. Fire pits were also the top-rated outdoor feature in the Midwest and Northeast, according to a 2020 Homelight survey. Not only that, but patio fire features that include a gas grill recoup roughly 66% of what it costs to build them.
Fire features aren’t for everyone, however. If you’re in a dry climate, or one with high winds, fire pits can spell trouble. In fact, some local ordinances outlaw fires in times of high wind (usually 15 mph or higher), which might mean you’re paying for a feature you can’t regularly use. In most places, someone has to be on hand at any time a fire’s burning, even if it’s just embers. Some fire pit best practices, like keeping an extinguisher handy, are just a good idea even if there isn’t a corresponding ordinance.
Outdoor kitchens are having their moment right now. The current outdoor kitchen boom started with Covid. It’s continued because outdoor kitchens make meal prep an inclusive, communal experience. If everyone is by the grill while you’re inside fixing the side dishes, that Fourth of July party becomes a lot less fun.
Outdoor kitchens also recoup a fair deal of money. The National Association of Realtors found a 71% recoup in cost. Anecdotal accounts say that return can be up to 100%. Designer Sandy Koepke captures their popularity: “you’re basically creating a very usable room for a lot less money than if you were adding on to the house.” Outdoor kitchens generally go from $5,000 to $20,000, though high-end models can go well over $50,000.
Unless you live in a year-round warm climate, outdoor kitchens will need to be winterized, or even shut down during cold months. If you’re someone who wants to get twelve months out of an investment, an outdoor kitchen might not be for you.
Columns are a simple addition that transforms a patio space. They add an attractive formal element to the functional purpose of a retaining wall. Columns also announce the lines of demarcation between the paved part of your patio, and the lawn beyond.
Columns can also be a place to install lighting. A range of different lights can be mounted on columns for appearances that range from stately to minimalist.
Column lights can be understated…
Or used to attract fauns, I guess.
Columns may not match your home’s style, however. The understated lines of styles like saltbox homes, shotgun houses, or side hall homes would make patio columns look out of place.
Water features (pond/fountain/pool)
Full disclosure, not everyone likes water features. Some appraisers even estimate water features can slash up to $10,000 from your home’s value. A water feature’s value is often situational. For example, if the other homes in your neighborhood have a pool, it’s a good idea for you to have one, too. If you’re the only home with a pool, that might seem like a take-it-or-leave-it proposition for potential buyers.
Water features might not have financial appeal, but they do have curb appeal. Real estate agent Bethany Mendoza notes that water features “add curb appeal, make the house more inviting, and buyers tend to feel more relaxed and stay longer as they’re viewing the house.”
If you’re considering a water feature, think about the upkeep and maintenance costs. Unless you’re in a warm climate, your water feature will have to be drained and shut down during the Fall and Winter. Closing and winterizing an in-ground pool costs $200-$400. The cost is similar for opening a pool in the Summer.
Building a bridge between planning and paving
These are some of the major design options for a paver patio, but they’re not the only ones. For one, each of these can be taken further. Backyard kitchens alone could fill a whole post (and they have, here).
If you want to make sure your contractor’s the right person to actualize that plan, here’s six things to consider before you start your search. If you think we might be a good fit after reading that post, give us a call at (240) 266-5900, or reach out to us here.