The Versatility of Concrete
Of all the materials available to build patios, concrete is the most traditional yet versatile choice. It’s smooth, clean, can be cast and formed into curvilinear or geometric shapes, and, with the addition of tints, can become anything other than the classic light grey.
Other benefits: it offers permanence, durability , and is fairly inexpensive―even more so if you do it yourself―provided you know what you’re doing and are more than capable of accomplishing the task. For beginning do-it-yourselfers, it’s not easy work, nor is it a one-person job. If you aren’t sure you can tackle a concrete patio project on your own, hire a contractor.
You can’t go wrong with pouring a simple concrete slab, but if you want to add textures or a pattern, certain techniques can be applied during the curing process. One of the easiest ways to add texture is to apply a stiff broom over the drying concrete, once in each direction, which will give the surface some “tooth” and keep it from becoming slippery when wet.
Concrete pavers are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, colours, and textures, and can be placed on top of a bed of packed sand. If you dread the idea of weeds or volunteer plants growing between spaces, pavers can be butted together for a smooth, unbroken surface. If you opt for the more traditional method of leaving spaces between pavers (this means you’ll buy fewer pavers), they can be filled with pea gravel, pebbles, or a tight, low-growing ground cover.
Let’s take a look at some stunning and diverse outdoor patios made of concrete.
Concrete patios reign in Palm Springs, especially when the sun sets behind the San Jacinto peaks. It’s a desert community with little rainfall, lots of sun and hot temperatures, and gardens with more hardscape than softscape . The plants that do thrive in this climate include water-wise succulents and cacti.
A Mid-century Modern house in Palm Springs’ Indian Canyons neighbourhood, designed by architects William Krisel and Stan Sackley, received updates by Monty Collins Interior Design to bring it into the 21st century. This patio features a classic broom-swept finish. The white sheet-metal patio set is Richard Schultz’s Topiary collection for Knoll and is available in other colours.
Colours and materials used inside are continued outside to connect the spaces of this Arizona home. Designed by Coffman Studio, the garden features acid-finish concrete patios and pavers, a rusted metal fire pit, bold yellow and aqua walls, rusticated steel planters, ornamental grasses, succulents, and a cover for filtered shade.
That’s Simon relaxing on the synthetic lawn.
A new house with a Midcentury Modern influence sits on a Los Angeles hilltop where a historic Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) structure was built and later moved to the Colburn School. Designed and constructed by Bonura Building, the large residence includes a geometric pool and a concrete patio with clean, horizontal lines.
Poured in Place
Elevation Architects designed the home, patio, and landscape for this charming modern house in Healdsburg, California. The concrete slabs were poured in place and acid washed. Those stripes of green ground cover are Elfin thyme, which grows quickly, stays compact, and can be walked on. The patio is framed with white, grey, and black pea gravel.
That Seamless Transition
The mid-20th-century concept of designing a seamless transition from indoors to outdoors is one that has persisted and always looks modern. The design makes the most sense with one-story houses, allowing occupants to walk out of open sliding glass or French doors and into a garden with little effort and move back and forth with ease. For a smooth, level transition, nothing beats concrete, especially if the material and color indoors and out are the same or at least appear to be.
This Seattle home built in the 1950s was remodeled by Lane Williams Architects, and features two large sliding doors that open the den and dining rooms to the same-level patio.
Palm Springs Patio
A bad 1980s remodel of an Alexander home in Palm Springs was peeled away by H3K Design-Renovation to reveal its Midcentury Modern roots. A mostly concrete back garden incorporates a fire pit that’s flush with the ground since it’s an infrequently used feature. At zero-level, a bar or extra dining table can be placed over the pit for a party, with the fire off, of course.
Falling Waters Landscape
Acid-washed natural-grey poured-in-place concrete pads are interplanted with a mix of thyme, Scotch, and Irish moss ground covers. Designed by Falling Waters Landscape, the patio, in San Diego’s Kensington neighbourhood, features ipe wood built-in seating, architectural planters, and a fire pit with a board-form finish.
WA Design Architects
With dark architectural features like a zinc roof, steel posts, an outdoor fireplace clad in Choctaw sandstone, a black pebble finish on pool surfaces, and black granite on the edges down to the waterline, a clean, light-coloured patio made sense to WA Design Architects. The Berkeley-based firm used concrete with white Portland cement for this custom-designed patio in Saratoga, California.
Freeform coloured slabs of concrete that resemble large flagstone pavers are separated by gravel channels in this patio design by Stout Build-Design. Located in Playa Del Rey, California, the design features drought-tolerant landscaping, a built-in fire pit with seating, and a built-in barbecue.
The geometric shapes of this remodeled home are repeated in the concrete patio and pool surround, which also blends the indoors with the outdoors. A group project that included Key Residential, Pool Environments, Jason Osterberger Designs, and Randy Angell Designs, the outdoor space includes a linear fireplace and hearth that stretches to the architectural fountain.
Mod Patio and Wall
John Jensen Photography
Anything other than a plain, smooth concrete patio would look busy and compete with the other interesting elements of this garden, like the amoeba/Swiss-cheese wall and brightly coloured outdoor furniture. The landscape for this Oregon residence was designed by Anita Van Asperdt of Land Current and mixes modern details with the surrounding hillside.
Floating Pavers with Pea Gravel
Evenly placed concrete pavers are sunk into a bed of pea gravel for a mixture of textures. Concrete pavers can be purchased or cast-in-place and made in assorted shapes and sizes.
Bella Vita Garden Design
Because town homes and patio homes have limited outdoor space, it makes sense to have outdoor flooring that is simple and easy to walk on. Even in a small garden, San Francisco-based Bella Vita Garden Design expertly incorporated planting beds for golden barrel cactus, sculptures, and other succulents. A low wall permits views of the nearby mountains.
Out of South Africa
A concrete patio was designed by LevEco Architects of South Africa with a cover made from IsoPine, which is a composite polystyrene material. Like many modern homes, the concrete flooring is at the same level as indoors, creating a seamless transition to the garden.
A Patio Inspired by Colours of the Desert
Bright colours influenced by desert plants are a trademark of landscape architect Steve Martino‘s projects in the Phoenix, Arizona, area. Surfaces like concrete walls and floors might be blue, red, yellow, purple or green that change slightly by the sun or shadows cast during a certain time of day. Besides providing shelter, Martino uses things like shade sails over a patio to alter surface colours and light.
By Lisa Hallett Taylor