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Time to plan the patio project

By Annie Schwemmer and Ann Robinson

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, March 18 2013 7:07 p.m. MDT

A well-designed patio should be treated like an outdoor room with a floor, walls and ceiling represented like this patio with retaining wall and pergola.

Brent Murray, Renovation Design Group

Enlarge photo»

We are sure your spring project priority list is filling up fast. No doubt many of your lists include some overhaul to or addition of an outdoor space. Though Mother Nature may still throw us a snow storm or two, now is the time to plan your outdoor renovation so you will be ready to dig in when the warmer weather arrives.

To kick off our spring outdoor renovating series, we are going to talk about patios. Whether you are looking to create a new outdoor living space or seek to revamp an unsightly slab of concrete, the key (as always) is to plan ahead.

There are a few questions you should ask yourself when designing your patio. First, consider the intended purpose. Are you going to throw a lot of parties outside, use it as a family space, or are you hoping for a small private patio just big enough for one or two? The real question is this: Will your patio be a gathering space or a getaway?

The answer to that question will determine a lot about your project. Most patios are accessible from the kitchen, dining and/or living area, making them a perfect extension of your interior entertaining space. However, a getaway patio can be more remote from the main flow of the house, accessible from a more private part of the house such as the master bedroom.

If you are considering adding a patio, locating it properly on your lot is as important as how it relates to your interior space. When studying the location of a new patio, consider both the views you will have as well as the orientation, which will determine the light it receives. South exposures are generally bright and cheerful. East exposures are brighter in the morning and shadier in the afternoon and evening. Western exposures generally need additional thought about solar screening. North exposures have the most limited season for use.

Once you choose a location, the next step is to consider the size. Underestimating how big a patio should be is one of the most common mistakes. While there is no hard and fast rule as to size, 12-feet-by-12-feet is the minimum size that will accommodate an outdoor patio dining set with seating for six and feel "comfortable."

If the lot allows, a patio should be designed proportionately to the house. A general rule for the maximum size of a patio would be as wide as the house and as deep as the house's height. Another general guideline would be to match it to the size of the adjacent indoor room.

Of course, one size will not fit all. Your property will influence the size and shape of your patio. Most landscape schemes use three basic layouts: symmetrical to the house; asymmetrical (slightly askew to the house but still geometric); and voluptuous curves, flowing with nature.

A patio should be as visually appealing when you see it from inside the house as when you are out in the yard. The material you choose for your patio will largely be determined by personal taste and budget. Whether you choose brick, concrete, pavers or stone slabs, make sure the color and material in your patio relate well to those of your house.

As part of the design process, you should also plan the landscaping around your patio. A well-designed outdoor space will integrate the hardscape and the greenery. If you are working with an existing patio, you can break up the plane of the patio with containers in groupings with different heights. Done properly, this will make the outdoor living space feel more connected with the yard.

When designing your patio, think of it as an outdoor room: Floor, walls and ceiling should be represented. The floor is a given, but the walls can be represented with landscaping, railings, columns, retaining walls, etc. The ceiling can be anything from a pergola to an awning, gazebo or simply overhead lighting.

The more details you add to your outdoor space, the more you will want to use it. Consider adding a fireplace or an outdoor kitchen. Water features, fire pits, landscape lighting and the right patio furniture all add to the appeal of your new space. The type and style of patio doors leading outside will also enhance the space. The right doors will seamlessly connect the inside to the outdoor space, as outdoor living space should be an extension of your house.

Glean some inspiration from the thousands of photos online, and don't be afraid to dream. Whether building from scratch or updating an existing patio, have fun making it your own.

Ann Robinson and Annie V. Schwemmer are the Principal Architects and co-founders of a residential architectural firm focused on life-changing remodeling designs at RenovationDesignGroup.com. Send comments or questions to ask@RenovationDesignGroup.com

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