Choosing the surface material : The most common surface for a patio are paving slabs. There are many different types of paving slab with a wide range of price tags. Steer clear of concrete slabs - they are often more expensive than natural stone, will fade over time and always end up looking fake. Indian Sandstone has dominated the paving slab market for years as it is cheap, natural, widely available and looks good.
Intended use of the patio : Decide how you want to use the patio. Is the patio mainly for alfresco dining or sunbathing or relaxing with a book or all three? The intended use will dictate the size and location of the patio. A patio mainly for dining is best placed where there is some shade so that diners can keep cool on warmer days and seek the sun when the weather is cooler. A patio intended mainly for sunbathing needs to be in a spot where it's sunny all day. If you want young children to safely use the patio, it needs to be somewhere you can see them from the house.
Polished concrete makes a wonderful contemporary surface for the patio. Resin bound gravel is not only great for driveways, but makes an excellent contribution to the patio paving when combined with other materials for textural contrast. Get the best quality stone you can afford then the patio will last longer and stay looking good for many years. A patio should never be designed in isolation without considering the rest of the garden. A well designed garden where all the elements are in scale with each other and the house will connect the house and garden. A balanced design that includes a patio or multiple patios will give the garden coherence and ensure that it is a pleasant, comfortable space in which to spend time.
Including built-in seating : Patio designs incorporating built-in seating with pergolas and outdoor fireplaces look very chic and transform the patio into an outdoor room. It is also a great way to make use of all available space in a very small garden. This solution is convenient if you don't want to shuffle around with garden furniture. However, the position of the seating is fixed and restricts how you can use the patio. The space is less flexible as seating cannot be varied to turn a dining area into a lounging area.