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Carson Arthur on outdoor renovations

It always surprises me when people assume that landscaping is just about the plants. Actually, landscaping includes all components of outdoor design, including those amazing outdoor rooms that are the hottest trend right now.

Blame television shows like mine if you like, but North Americans are fully invested in the idea that renovated homes are worth more money! But the renovations shouldn’t start behind the front door. A home’s landscaping is as important to its appeal and value as its interior. The good news is that most homeowners have recognized the importance of landscaping and are now spending their renovation dollars outside, as well as inside.

When it comes to desirability, longevity and return-on-investment, there is one outdoor renovation that surpasses all others: the patio. Studies by the Gallup organization, Money Sense Magazine, Landscape Ontario, Rona, and now Century 21 confirm that the value of outdoor renovations are trending up, with the patio leading the way!

“Over the past 5 years, an increase by consumers in terms of average square footage of material purchased per individual back yard patio has increased by approximately 10%-15%.” – Phil Perrier, Director of Marketing Strategy, Rinox Canada

There’s a good reason patios are popular. No longer the simple flat extensions off the back of the house, today’s patios have retaining walls, curved angles and even circular details. Patios can now be found in almost any kind of back or front yard. People gravitate towards low-maintenance spaces that allow them the freedom to enjoy their yards with little effort, and there are few things that require less effort than stone. A properly installed patio with a good base and jointing sand can easily last 25 years. That’s one important reason to make sure you pick a stone that you will love the entire time you have the space.

Patio stone has come a long way from the two-foot by two-foot concrete slabs that I keep replacing in older backyards. In fact, choosing a patio is now just like choosing flooring for a living room or a kitchen. Today, we have new colours such as jet-blacks, brick red and charcoal greys. And man-made material shaped to emulate natural stones with seemingly random patterns. When it comes to choosing size or pattern, there really is no single answer. Every patio stone adds character to the space.

I always tell homeowners to see the product in an actual installation before they commit – rather than just choosing from a brochure. Most retail locations have fantastic product displays, so that you can see your stone, touch it and even walk on it. For the general yard, I tend to choose stones that are in the grey or tan tones, as they create a neutral backdrop for beautiful furniture or art pieces. When I want to create something a little more dynamic, I love using dark colours in shaded areas or even mixing colours to make sure that the patio stands out.

Every year, I have more clients asking for less grass and bigger patios as part of their landscape designs. Larger patios may be more expensive but, when it comes to useable space, nothing compares.