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Minimalist designs drive patio trends

January 27, 2016 -  By

photo: Arapahoe Landscape Contractors 

Homeowners are asking for patios with minimalistic designs and efficient, high-end amenities for a space they can enjoy year-round. 

For today’s homeowner, a patio isn’t just a place to light up the grill anymore. It’s a place to relax, unwind and escape the chaos of the daily grind. Contractors and manufacturers are responding to this trend with clean designs and high-end amenities.

“Most patio trends are driven by the homeowner’s desire to make their outdoor spaces an extension of the indoors,” says Fernanda Pedroso, innovation group leader at Belgard, a manufacturer of retaining wall, hardscape and paving stone products.

Simpler and larger

John Butler, owner of Arapahoe Landscape Contractors in Allendale, N.J., says his clients are asking for patios with cleaner, linier designs. The owner of the $2 million company that offers 65 percent hardscaping and 35 percent maintenance services to a 90 percent residential clientele, says the tumbled look is taking a backseat to a smoother bluestone look. Elaborate waterfalls are being replaced with sheer descent versions, Butler says. Clients are requesting rectangular pools instead of ones with curvy, radial shapes. Green walls and hedges are ousting traditional metal railings. Natural, free-flowing stone patterns are being replaced by square patterns made with pavers of different sizes and finishes.

“Homeowners want to get to their backyard and not have to deal with a lot,” he says. “We are living such complex lives with everything constantly in demand for our attention, so they are looking for a Zen kind of thing.”

Manufacturers are responding to these trends by developing the building materials contractors need to create a sleek, minimalist look. Butler says he’s now seeing pavers that look like tile and hardwood, which he uses in accents and borders.

Pavers are also getting larger. The largest paver Butler used in the past measured 18 inches by 12 inches, but now he regularly uses 12-inch by 24-inch varieties. “In the old days, they would crack,” Butler says of the larger pavers. “Now manufacturers are coming up with better ways to make paver products that meet these larger profiles.”

Jesse Cravath, national hardscapes product manager for Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply, says that one of the biggest trends in hardscaping is manufacturers moving toward these larger pavers.

“In the past, a backyard patio might be made of all 4-inch by 8-inch bricks,” Cravath says. “Now we see a lot more 6-inch by 12-inch, 12-inch by 12-inch, and even 24-inch by 36-inch units.”

Gabriela Mariscal, geotechnical engineer for the National Concrete Masonry Association, says manufacturers are also producing pavers with a blend of several colors to help create stone that looks as natural as possible.

“The newer tendencies are stamped products and blended colors,” she says. “The aesthetics are changing, and people want materials that look closer to natural stone.”

Cravath agrees. “Typically you are not seeing just plain gray or brown or tan,” he says. “There is usually two to four color blends rather than solid colors.”

Another design trend incorporates geometric pavers in shapes like hexagons and pentagons that allow designers to create unique, custom features for their clients. “The varying shapes and colors of paver stones allow homeowners to form interesting designs, like creating a faux rug or using plank shapes for a chevron or herringbone look,” says Pedroso. “Patios today have a more distinct style than in years past, whether traditional or modern, which typically reflects the home’s interior design.”

Inside out

Hardscape experts agree that interior design trends have a big influence on outdoor living spaces. For example, designers are using pavers in different shapes, styles and finishes to create the illusion of different outdoor “rooms,” Cravath says.

“Inside the home, you might have tile in the kitchen, wood in the living room and a different surface in another area,” he explains. “On the patio, the gathering or reception area might have one surface, the fireplace area could have another surface, and the outdoor kitchen may have yet another. It’s definitely an extension of the indoors.”

Outdoor kitchens may not be a new trend, but homeowners are asking for more when it comes to functionality. There’s an increasing trend for outdoor kitchens to be fully functional, replicating everything an indoor kitchen can do, experts say. And suppliers are offering kitchen equipment to kits that include everything contractors need to install an outdoor living space.

“Every manufacturer is making some kind of kit and bundling things to sell not only the pavers and the rings for the fire pit but the kitchen that goes on top,” Cravath says. “This is all trending on efficiency for everyone involved, from the homeowner to the manufacturer.”

Designers are also beginning to play with optics, which Pedroso says is now more common inside the home but will soon expand to exterior spaces.

“Three-dimensional effects from graphic features and illusions with shadows create a visual rhythm using sunlight,” she says. “You can see examples of this with stone around a fireplace, a kitchen backsplash and in some hardscape walls.”

Emily Schappacher is a freelance writer based in Charlotte, N.C.

photo: Arapahoe Landscape Contractors 

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