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With our love of the outdoors, a great patio on which to relax and entertain is often at the top of the home wish list. The key to creating the ultimate space is in the planning, says Les Edwards, director of ED Landscapes.
“You need to assess your needs, map out the perfect size and location, and take the time to consider how you want it to look and feel,” he says. To pave the way, here's our ground-up guide.
Top tip: Building approval is required for most structures and requirements vary between states. Check with your local council, which can advise what paperwork needs to be in place prior to construction.
What do you want to achieve? Is the patio going to be an entertaining destination requiring an undercover barbecue or outdoor kitchen, or do you simply need a shady spot or a chill-out zone by the pool? Are you aiming to transform a problematic lawn area with pavers?
When you have a clear purpose in mind, you can start formulating ideas about size and location, as well as making practical decisions, such as whether you need to add a roof to create an all-weather zone.
Watch it: How to lay pavers
A prime patio position has easy access to and from the house, says Phil Bissett, business development manager at outdoor living specialist Softwoods. “In many cases patios are attached to the house, so they function as an outdoor room, ideally off the kitchen or living area,” he says.
To determine the suitability of the site, Phil suggests checking out factors such as easements, stormwater drain and septic tank locations, as well as council restrictions regarding clearance from the boundary. These may impact where you can build.
Also consider how the structure may affect the amount of light your home receives. “If it's going next to the house, where it may shield windows or glass sliding doors, you may want to break up a metal roof with polycarbonate skylights to allow light in, or alternatively, opt for a full polycarbonate roof,” he says.
Plan what's going in the patio zone before settling on a size. “Consider how many people will regularly use the area, what dining setting or barbecue you want to include, or whether it's primarily an outdoor lounge area where you'll put a large modular sofa, or group of occasional chairs,” says Les Edwards.
Often furniture takes up more space than you imagine, to allow for traffic flow and clearance for dining chairs to slide out. As a guide, the average patio size is around 7–8m x 4–5m. To get a sense of the dimensions, highlight your proposed floor area and furniture set-up with line-marking spray paint.
Ideally the patio should complement the style of your home and landscaping, so choose materials accordingly. “A budget-friendly structure could be as simple as a treated pine frame and posts with an open-style pergola, over which you can grow a deciduous vine for shade in summer and winter sun,” says Les.
Watch it: How to build a pergola
Most patios are designed to sit flush with the lawn, or a step or two up from the garden. When choosing flooring, draw style cues from your home and surrounding hard landscaping. Honed concrete can form a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor spaces, timber flooring will add warmth, while pavers interspersed with mondo grass soften the look and feel of hard surfaces.
Where the patio is located away from the house, using similar materials and colours to the main building will help to link it visually.
Some clever styling tips will help your patio become one of the most inviting spaces in your home.
Set up furniture as you would an indoor room. Orientate chairs and sofas towards attractive views, or opposite one another to encourage conversation. Add a coffee table or side tables within reach, on which you can plonk a drink or a snack.
Increase the comfort factor with a generous outdoor rug, which will anchor a table or outdoor sofa, and introduce colour and texture with weather-resistant scatter cushions.
Good outdoor lighting can dramatically change the ambience after dark. A central pendant light suspended from the roof will add a subtle glow, LEDs look great inset into timber floors, while festoon lights strung along rafters or a pergola roof provide a party vibe. “Even with a patio roof, it's important that additions like fans and lights are rated for outdoor use, so always check with a qualified electrician,” advises Les.
Consider suspending hanging plants from the roof, train climbing varieties to run along an arbour, cluster a trio of pots in graduating sizes in a corner or fill planter boxes with a screening tree like lilly pilly to provide privacy and act as a windbreak.
Create a focal point
Set off an open patio with a fire pit, where you can gather around with family and friends and enjoy the flickering flames under the night sky.
Whether you love leaf motifs, or geometric shapes are more your style, there's a screen panel to suit, with decorative screens doubling as wall art while also semi-enclosing the space and enhancing the sense of privacy.
Inclusions can stretch as far as your budget, with everything from lighting, strip heaters and fans to sound systems and integrated outdoor kitchens achievable. Choose items rated for outdoor use and have them installed by a licensed tradesperson. Aluminium outdoor louvres are a great way to shield rain, wind and sun on one or both sides, and to enhance privacy.
Photography credit: Gap Interiors, House and Leisure and Paul Debois.