Contemporary patio design is one of the most unique and dynamic elements of contemporary landscape design.
It offers more opportunity for expansion and integration with other landscaping elements than do other types of hardscape. Planters, fountains, retaining walls, and even gardens can be integrated into the physical structure and basic form of a contemporary patio. Because of the increasing popularity of contemporary architecture throughout the Houston area, patios are being built with increasing sophistication using a number of construction materials put together in entirely new ways.
One method we use to distinguish contemporary patio design from more traditional forms is the creation of deliberately geometric patterns in stonework. Although stonework patterns are not limited to a single geometric form or size of form, it is essential that the angles in quadrilateral forms and the sizes of these forms be identical, obviously complimentary, or directly proportional. Such patterns create the immediate impression of that which has been man-made—something mathematically calculated, carefully measured, and precision cut. Irregularities in stonework tend to make it appear more random and more analogous to natural rock formations. An example of this principle in one of our more popular contemporary patio design styles is a linear hardscape made out of rectangular cuts of stone that run across the ground and turn at a sharp right angle upward to form a retaining wall. Smaller patios without walls can be built of blocks that are cut like perfect squares, or they can be made of one or more circles with radii that divide the hardscape into equal proportions. Circular patios are often built around contemporary fountains, particularly when the fountain is used as an introductory keynote to front yard landscaping.
Contemporary patios can also be built using unique brick designs. While many people may at face value think of brick as a material that is used only in traditional and historical masonry, it has found widespread use in recent years as a valuable construction material in contemporary structures as well. There are a number of brick elements that can we can vary to create a contemporary look and texture for the patio design. Color selection is perhaps the most important of these. Since red brick is the standard image that most people visualize when they think of a brick structure, any extreme deviation from this color pattern (such as an off-white or dark gray) can grab the attention enough to overcome assumptions and introduce an entirely new contemporary sense. Bricks can be cut or sanded with sharp, clean lines that remove the oven-baked appearance we typically visualize. Grout details can also be varied to create patterns of avant garde artistry between bricks. Sometimes a contemporary patio design can be created from a pattern that is based on something traditional, such as the running bond pattern that has been staggered by breaks between the rows and deviated into more angular linear movements.
As stone and brick patios continue to rise in popularity, concrete continues to maintain its status as a mainstay material used in contemporary patio design. The key lies in how we finish its surface in order to make it appear more abstract, refined, or chic. Broom finish concrete relies on linear parallel lines to create a sense of movement similar to those seen in linear stonework does. This style is very apropos to homes with contemporary architecture that is based on principals of minimalism, stark angularity, and an emphasis on large windows. In fact, many contemporary Houston homes extend this principle of artistic minimalism extends throughout the landscape. Most of the vegetation will be is replaced by outdoor artwork, gravel beds, and patios whose design functions as a reflection of the deliberately inorganic, intellectual elements of the landscape. Concrete in these areas should be toned down with no sheen on its surface. This will prevent it from reflecting light and make it a more suitable compliment to stepping stone paths, decorative rock formations, and abstract statuary. In still other instances, we may build a contemporary-style patio immediately adjacent to a living room or family room with wall-sized windows and a sliding glass door that permits immediate transition from indoor living space to outdoor living space. Such a patio is normally built out of concrete blocks in segmented rows and columns that allow us to later remove selected blocks at will to create open spaces where small trees can be planted, Zen gardens can be installed, or even custom contemporary fountains can be designed.
In conclusion, then, it is evident that it is not so much a matter of what materials or forms are used to create a contemporary patio, nor is it a matter of how many of these additional features are integrated into the design. Rather, what defines the contemporary style regardless of what feature is actually being built (be it a home, a garden, or a landscape itself) is the combination of geometric angles and shapes in a manner that is instantly recognizable as the work of mathematics, and consequently the uniquely human faculty of Mind that is able to measure, segment, and create relationships between the abstract.