The Principles of Hardscaping Design
Hardscaping generally works in a complementary balance with the softscaping of a given property. This is not to say that the two should be balanced out 50/50, but that each should enhance what is special about the other. Ultimately, the hardscape–to–softscape ratio of your outer space will likely depend on the size of your property. If you live on a large piece of land, softscaping will inevitably account for the majority of your outdoor property, and a rocky trail or miniature pond would thereby serve as an accent to the overall greenery. By contrast, a basic hardscape feature — such as a patio or fountain — could ultimately monopolize your backyard if the property is smaller. Asymmetrical balance: In terms of balance, hardscaping elements don't need to be set up as bookends, but there should be some respect to symmetry in the overall layout. This can be achieved through asymmetry, where elements are arranged with regard to balance, but without the mirror–image constraints that characterize symmetry. A perfect example would be a backyard that features a fountain on the left side and a stone path that curves out from the right of the backdoor. Despite their contrast, the fountain and path could serve as complementary elements that would balance out the hardscaped scheme of the backyard as a whole. Other examples of asymmetrical hardscaping could include the following:
- A patio bookended with a hot tub to the right and an outdoor fireplace to the left
- A cobblestone path leading out leftward from the backdoor; a goldfish pond to the right
- A waterfall along a rocky slope that leads into a stone swimming pool
Focal points: At the heart of every hardscaped scheme lays the focal point: the object that draws the majority of attention from household members and guests. Whereas surrounding hardscape and softscape serves as a backdrop, it's the focal point that not only attracts the most attention, but also tends to standout within the periphery of people's vision. A hardscape focal point tends to be a large, tall and somewhat unique object that contrasts with its surroundings. An example could include any of the following:
Interior/exterior continuity: The purpose behind hardscaping is relatively simple — to provide a sense of unity between indoor and outdoor living spaces. Therefore, the intent is not to overwhelm with contrasting styles between the inside and outside of a home. To the contrary, a hardscape should lift much of its thematic elements from the styles, colors and motifs seen within the rooms and hallways of a corresponding property. Examples of how hardscaping could reflect an interior scheme might include any of the following:
- Stone panels mirrored between the indoor fireplace and outdoor path, steps and patio
- Decorative wood panels on the interior walls and outdoor structures
- Exotic design elements, such as Mediterranean motifs, on the inside and outside
- Lighting features
- Color schemes that extend from the interior rooms to the backyard
For utmost unity, a hardscaped design scheme can reflect not just the interior colors and structural elements of a house, but also the style and textures of the indoor furnishings. Outward view correlation: The continuity principle can even be extended to the natural view beyond your property. If you live on the crest of a panoramic view of mountains, hilltops or ocean water, you might consider correlating some of the hardscape elements to the sights that lie within view of your windows and deck. For example, if a mountaintop can be seen far off beyond the valleys and hills behind your house, consider utilizing white and grey stone along the curved walkway that leads outward from your backdoor.
The Materials of Hardscaping
Concrete pavers: While traditional poured in place concrete has long been associated with the dull, urban landscape, homeowners are now embracing interlocking concrete pavers due to their durability and aesthetic appeal. Consisting of flat, pre–hardened concrete pieces, pavers come in a wide variety of sizes and can be installed in a variety of patterns. Unlike traditional concrete slabs, pavers do not weaken under the changing extremes of weather. Thanks to the interlocking capability of a properly installed paver job, the pavers move with the freeze thaw cycle and remain structurally sound for a lifetime. Because of the joints in a concrete paver installation they are not susceptible to the cracks that form on poured sidewalks and patios when the underlying soil softens or redistributes. Furthermore, concrete pavers are capable of enduring quadruple the weight of slabs. When it comes to residential hardscaping, concrete pavers are an optimal choice for the following elements:
- Patios — Unlike wood, concrete pavers don't need finishing and aren't subject to mold or deterioration over time. Also, they are not subject to cracking like poured concrete. Many finish styles and colors allow for a truly custom patio that will last for the lifetime of the house.
- Walkways — Whereas stone can be more costly, brick can be uneven and gravel can feel loose and awkward, concrete pavers provide solid, even surfaces under the feet.
- Pool decks — Concrete pavers are a great option for pool decks. They are salt resistant, slip resistant, and chlorine will not affect their colors. Around pools, the joints will take on moisture and leave the pavement cooler underfoot.