Paving ideas for traditional garden styles

Last time we looked at contemporary paving ideas but if modern really isn’t your thing and you want to create a more traditional feel for your garden, then the materials you use hold the main key to how your garden will look.


Traditional paving often has slightly rounded edges or a more intricate pattern.

Last time we discussed how using smooth paving with very straight edges creates a modern and contemporary feel, well the exact opposite is true if you’re looking for something traditional. The more lumpy and bumpy the edges of the materials, be it bricks or paving, the more traditional it will look.

There are many shades of traditional. There’s the very formal, right the way through to very rustic. Very formal gardens have a very geometric layout, so the materials you use will be in very rigid patterns to suit the formality of the garden.

More rustic garden styles can use the exact same materials, but because there is less structure to the garden, there isn’t the formality with the design shapes, then the randomness of the materials is what gives it the rustic feel along with the uneven surfaces.

The examples below show you what I mean. The same paving stones have been used in both gardens, but one has more a defined shape and the other a more rustic design style because of the uneven edges.


Same paving stones, first quite formal with defined edge. Second more rustic looking.

The wonderful thing about rustic and traditional styles of garden is that you can incorporate more things into the paving. Whilst I would still stick with no more than three different types of hard landscaping materials, like brick, stone and cobbles, you still want clarity in the design, you don’t want to go overboard and have too many different types of materials together.

So when I say you can add more things I mean feature areas within the paving, like mosaics made from cobbles. Or you could create a segment in the paving that’s a pattern of bricks.


Paving feature segments

There is a lot more freedom to be creative with the more rustic and traditional styles of garden design. The other advantage is the more rustic a look you are aiming for, the less you have to worry about how the materials will weather and age, because it will be part and parcel of the feel of the garden.

With contemporary schemes they look much better when they’re really perfectly clean, as soon as they start to weather and lose some of that crispness, they don’t look as good.

So if you’re not sure if you should go for a more traditional style of garden and can’t decide between that and a more modern feel, then take a look at the style of your property for guidance. The really old traditional style of house will always look better with traditional materials. That’s not to say you can’t have a more contemporary spin on it, but it is easier if you match the garden style with the house.

BUT do be warned, nice materials will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

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Paving ideas for contemporary garden styles

If you’d like a modern and contemporary look to your garden, then it’s very important that you choose the right hard landscaping materials.


The landscape materials will often have more impact on how your garden will look than the overall design layout. For example, you could have a semicircular retaining wall and patio area, which on paper might look very modern, but if you use traditional brick and paving, then the design will look, well, very traditional!

However, if you were to have that same semicircular wall rendered and painted white and had a very smooth, perfectly cut linear paving with it, then it would look very modern.

Here’s how you choose the right materials for a contemporary garden design

Basically, the straighter and smoother material is, the more contemporary it will look. Of course the reverse is also true. The more uneven and rustic material edges are, the more traditional it will look. Let’s now look at some examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Examples of paving suitable for a contemporary garden style

As you can see from the photographs above, the clean cut lines are what makes a material look modern. It makes sense really, in ye olden days the tools for cutting stone would have been very basic, whereas now we have these enormous great saws that can cut perfect edges.

Paving patterns

How you combine the paving is also very important. Again, the more you put in, the more fussy it will look, and therefore less contemporary. So, do not use more than three different paving sizes. One or two different sizes tends to work best though.

It might sound very boring just having one size of paving slab, and technically, I suppose it is, but it’s what you do with it that counts!

If you have a rectangular slab in one size, you have various options on how you lay that slab. As you can see from the images below, even with just one size paving stone, you can still do quite a lot with it.


My preference is to go usually for three different sizes. It’s nice to have quite a large rectangular paving slab with a long linear one. Again there’s a lot you can do with just three sizes of paving, see the example below.

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

So really, the main thing you need to do is keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to mix lots of different colours and materials together or you’ll end up with a mishmash. If you want a truly contemporary feel and modern look to your garden, then you really must control yourself and not go crazy with mixing lots of different materials together.

How do you create a modern garden feel, but not too contemporary?

Now, whilst you may not want a typically traditional garden, you might not want something that is uber modern either. So how do you create something that’s in-between modern and traditional?

Well, again it does come down to material choices as much as the design.

Basically, the simple way is to mix more sizes together. So rather than just having two or three different types of paving you have five or so. If you choose paving that is not perfectly smooth, and has a slightly riven surface, then that will also make it look slightly less modern, as shown in the photograph below


Mix more paving sizes if you don’t want your patio to be too contemporary looking.

So what are your garden plans this year, will you be building a new patio?

Tell me what you are wanting to do in your garden this year and I’ll see if I can help with future blog posts. We’ve been discussing it a bit already over on the Successful Garden Design Facebook page, do join us and post a photo of your project or leave a comment here on the website in the comment box below.

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