paving design

The Creative Art of Paving Design

When contemplating paving design in the garden, there are a few key considerations:


Is it, for example, practical to pave a steep slope, or should we consider terracing first? What difference will it make if we choose cobbles over large flagstones for a specific area? Do the pavers need to be non-slip, or does it not matter? Can we minimise cutting pavers by designing the dimensions in multiples of the paver size? When considering water run-off, which way should stormwater be directed off the paved surface? Can we use grass pavers as an option, and does it make sense when considering purpose and also from a water-wise point of view? All things to take into consideration when it comes to paving design.


Is the paved area to be driven over, walked on or used as an entertainment space? Is it merely aesthetic or decorative? Is it a solid area, broken or interplanted, or perhaps just a series of stepping stones? Are there levels or steps involved that will require edging of the surface? Strength, size, quality, colour and paving technique will all come into play in this respect. Adaptability or connectivity – To create an integrated design, we need to allow the paved area to integrate with the surrounding landscape, or features within the paved area to be picked up in the garden space.


Ask yourself: can this paving stand on its own as a feature? Can certain colours, sizes or shapes be mixed up to create new interest? Can pavers from different manufacturers be used together? Repeatability – Use the feature to create or enhance strong rhythm with repetitive pattern, design or punctuation.


Apart from the lines that define the area as a whole (formal, informal, angular or meandering), the lines inherent in the very pattern itself have a strong influence on visual movement: horizontal for slow, vertical for fast, and a mix of both as well as diagonal for diffusion and interest. Circular paving is also a way to pause movement.

Innovation or creativity

Using recognisable objects and materials in new and unexpected ways. Introducing the unexpected.


Can this be done as a DIY project or should the experts be brought in? We often take the route of least outlay and it turns out to be expensive or unsatisfactory. This aspect requires careful consideration.

Rather than approaching a space that needs to be paved almost as a grudging afterthought, we should approach paving an area in the garden or patio as an important integrated element of the holistic design. The paving design should be carefully considered and planned in the same way that any element, feature or planting palette is planned.

Thinking Beyond Only Pavers

Rather than limiting a paved area to pavers alone, a wide variety of materials can be used to create texture, interest, colour and pattern. Materials can include brick, slate, wood, metal, mosaic, plants, stone, pebbles, tiles, glass or resin, and even water. The list is only as long as the limitations of our own imagination. A word to the wise though: know when to draw the line on mixing media and materials – just because you have a wide choice of options doesn’t mean you must use them all.

The Spirit of Age

Used (or previously loved) materials make for interesting design and have oodles of character. Reclaimed pavers, bricks, sleepers and a myriad of other materials of different shapes, colour, condition and manufacture are becoming more sought after. Mosses and lichens on old materials add a touch of the Spirit of the Ages. Often, the older and more weathered, sun-bleached or distressed, the better.

Colour, Blending, Contrast and Texture

The choice of whether to blend or contrast colours, materials and textures is the essence of character. Apart from introducing interest, contrast of one element enhances the virtues or qualities of another. So dark enhances contrasting light as smooth will enhance contrasting rough, informality enhances contrasting formality as straight is enhanced by contrasting curves. On the other hand, carefully considered blending adds a touch of sophistication using soft nuances and graduation. Stark contrasting increases drama whilst blending engenders tranquillity.

Patterns and Motifs

Choose to lay shapes in new and innovative ways. Introduce the unexpected and create ‘surprises’ that amuse, amaze or inspire. Patterns are essentially motifs that repeat themselves for rhythm and harmony. Create patterns that repeat in a rhythmical, even repetitive way throughout. Interesting material can be embroidered throughout the paving design. Effective patterns can be created by moving away from traditional lines and using offset linear relationships.

Framing for a Classy Finish

Framing the paved area with straight edging lends class to the space aesthetically and, from a more practical point of view, secures the paving elements. Straight edges can, however, also become mundane and uninteresting. Think about breaking those straight edges using splintering, disintegration, pixilation or deconstruction. This can allow the paving to integrate, spill over or ‘bleed’ into the surrounding landscape, lending to the end result that integrated appeal.

Shock and Awe

Do something unexpected – continue the paving up an abutting wall, break up the pattern with something amusing, like embedded upside-down wine bottles, inlay circular shapes (steppers or tree rings) into cobbles or ground-covers, use objects in ways for which they were not intended – even cement pressings of children’s hands or pet’s paws can instil an enigmatic air of the unexpected. Embellish or stitch interesting textures as a flat mosaic or standing proud of the paved surface. Slate can be packed vertically as an edging element instead of laid flat as convention dictates. The creative possibilities are limited only as far as the imagination can stretch itself.

The Gardener