See 6 Stunning Patio Transformations

New amenities, plantings and paving elevate these outdoor living spaces
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A patio can be more than a concrete slab, as these six transformations show. From a geometric brick paving pattern that alludes to a homeowner’s vision for a labyrinth, to bluestone pavers intermixed with gravel to spread the budget further, these patios previously featured on Houzz inspire stylish outdoor living and solve distinct landscape challenges.

1. Asian-Inspired Patio for Both Dog and Owner
Location: Kalorama neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Designer: Jennifer Horn of JHLA

BEFORE: The existing patio behind this Washington, D.C., home already featured bluestone paving and a water feature, but the water fountain splashed everywhere and the natural cleft bluestone was laid in a loose pattern that made the patio appear smaller. Additionally, the homeowner’s beloved black Lab trampled anything planted at ground level.

The homeowner asked landscape architect Jennifer Horn for an attractive, modern garden space inspired by his travels to Asia where he could entertain and also keep his dog.

Patio Details: A Minimalist Patio Makes Maximum Room for a Dog

AFTER: Horn re-envisioned the patio with the homeowner’s requests as her jumping-off point. While bluestone paving still covers the patio floor, the thermal finish and running bond pattern make it feel more cohesive and organized — and also feel good on dog paws. The new water feature runs the patio’s length, slowly recirculating water in a gentle rhythm.

Residence - Kalorama

Aquatic plants like water lilies and lotuses grow in the fountain, which also acts a bit like a moat, protecting plants next to the repainted stucco fence from the dog. Vines, including passionflower and trailing forsythia, and ferns dangle from wood planters down into the side yard.

Related: Transform Your Own Outdoor Living Space


A new ipe fence along the patio’s far wall provides a clean, bright backdrop and also shields the side garden from the street.

2. Family-Friendly in Washington, D.C. 
Location: Cathedral Heights neighborhood
Designer: Mark White of GardenWise

A family in Washington, D.C.’s, Cathedral Heights neighborhood already had an expansive backyard, including a patio between their house and detached garage, but its slope and poor space-planning didn’t make it all that usable or inviting.

Patio of the Week: Underutilized Backyard Gets New Life

AFTER: The homeowners worked with landscape architect Mark White, who graded the backyard into two flat, usable levels. He expanded the patio next to the house, adding a fireplace, an elegant seat wall and new perimeter landscaping. 

A new patio features a crisscrossing paving pattern of brick and bluestone, anchoring the space and contrasting the light-colored patio furniture and fireplace. 

Cathedral Heights Residence

The fireplace was designed as a focal point, built in between two garage windows and along the new raised planter. (You can see plants to the sides if you look closely.) The fireplace surround pops against the gray stone of the chimney, tying in with the house and garage. 

The mostly evergreen plants frame the space, creating a green backdrop for outdoor dining and lounging. 

Dining furniture: Kingsley-Bate; chimney: Chocolate Gray stone; fireplace surround: capstone; paving: brick and bluestone

3. Lush Living on a San Francisco Parking Space
Location: Mission District
Designer: Beth Mullins of Growsgreen Landscape Design

BEFORE: An unused concrete parking spot in the backyard of a couple’s first-floor home in San Francisco’s Mission District was the perfect opportunity for a new outdoor living space, especially since they already had underground parking.

Dolores Park Garden

AFTER: Landscape designer Beth Mullins worked a near garden miracle, transforming the cracked concrete pad into a lush back patio with a new upper-level ipe deck. With the two distinct areas she created, the space appears larger and less sunken. The raised deck also allowed Mullins to avoid demolishing the existing concrete underneath. 

Related: Patio Details: Seattle Townhouse Gets a Taste of Outdoor Living

Built-in planters filled with Bay Area-friendly succulents, grasses and other low-water plants frame the deck and also function as a guardrail.

Dolores Park Garden

Poured-in-place concrete pavers form a solid base for outdoor dining and entertaining, and the couple’s young daughter enjoys playing hopscotch on them. Dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Nana’, USDA zones 6 to 11), a slow-growing, clumping grasslike perennial, grows in between the pavers. It is easy to grow, doesn’t require too much soil and can handle foot traffic.

Sectional: Ikea; white dining set: vintage

4. Enhanced Outdoor Living in the Pacific Northwest
Location: South Seattle
Designer: Mark S. Garff

Related: Open Up Your Deck With a Paved Path

BEFORE: The owners of this traditional Seattle townhouse had an outdoor deck, but the scale didn’t feel right in the compact backyard, and the deck didn’t have the contemporary industrial style they liked. Additionally, to reach the deck’s stairs to the lower part of the garden, visitors had to cut through any activity or gathering happening on the deck.

Edible Urban Oasis -- need to write (make sure to get info)

AFTER: Landscape architect Mark S. Garff maintained the existing deck, but he removed the railings and moved the staircase closer to the house, opening up the deck to the rest of the yard and rerouting the circulation to the edge of the deck. 

Edible Urban Oasis

New extra-wide steps framed with steel lead down to the new patio, a combination of bluestone pavers and gravel. By spacing out the pavers and filling in the gaps with gravel, Garff created a permeable patio that also made the more expensive bluestone go further. 

Built-in cedar planters hold perennial flowers and edible plants, and also function as a railing, a barrier and extra seating.


5. Simple Modernity in New York City
Location: Brooklyn Heights neighborhood
Designers: Sean Lewis and Jesse Terzi of New Eco Landscapes

BEFORE: A run-down patio behind a couple’s home in Brooklyn had a couple of plants, cracked concrete, a cobblestone wall and some other decrepit features. The rear wall abuts a church. 

The homeowners, who are dog owners, wanted an outdoor space where their pets could play and where they could entertain, while still leaving the patio open to other activities. They also wanted the yard to speak more to the surrounding architecture.

Steam Punk Eclectic in Brooklyn Heights

AFTER: Landscape designers Sean Lewis and Jesse Terzi channeled New York with their design, but they didn’t replicate the home. The homeowners had wanted a backyard labyrinth, which Terzi and Lewis didn’t think they had room for, so they installed the brick patio in a circular pattern instead. The brick paving ties into the home’s facade, while new tiered steel planters complement metal stairs and a balcony off the townhouse. Two seating areas can easily be moved around, to make plenty of room for the dogs to play.

Eclectic in Brooklyn Heights

6. Peace and Quiet on a Busy Los Angeles Street
Location: Brentwood neighborhood
Designer: Kurt Krueger Architects

BEFORE: Southern California is all about outdoor living, but as this house in Los Angeles had limited backyard space and a very exposed front yard on a busy street, the homeowners had never really been able to take advantage of it.

Westgate Residence Patio Recipe -- questions sent

AFTER: Architect Kurt Krueger was hired to renovate the whole house, which included converting the unused front lawn into a private patio sanctuary. Tile paving, a privacy fence, sliding sunshades and a bubbling water fountain, plus ambient landscape lighting, mean the homeowners can relax outside — day or night — forgetting the heavy traffic that lies just on the other side of the fence.

West Street View

Nine Design Tips for Entertaining in a Small Space

Nine Design Tips for Entertaining in a Small Space

Supersize your next soiree with these clever tricks for lighting, seating and crowd control
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The fact that you have a small space shouldn’t mean you can’t have big get-togethers. To help you make your space function well for entertaining—while still working for your day-to-day life—here are some of my favorite tips for furniture, styling and even secret crowd control. You can have the night of your life no matter what your home’s square footage.

1. Color choices. As with any small space, a compact entertaining area can be made to feel bigger by using lots of light color—especially bright white—on the walls. However, an entertaining space sometimes is better off feeling cozy and lively, rather than airy and minimalist.

Related: How to Tastefully Incoporate Coral in Your Home's Color Scheme 

Seaholm Condo, Austin Texas

Don’t be scared to embrace dark or dramatic hues on the walls, either as the primary color or as an accent, to help set a more intimate mood. You can also contrast dark or vivid hues with light, pale hues. These often will recede to create an interplay of depths that can make a room feel bigger and more energetic.

Look to the color scheme of your favorite restaurant for ideas, and keep in mind that any hue will look different in evening light than it does in stark daylight. Lay out paint chips and observe how the color reads at different times of the day.

Saint-Laurent Cottage

2. Lighting. Speaking of lighting, it’s especially important in an entertaining space to have a good lighting scheme that can be controlled to set the right mood. Even in a small space, a single light fixture in the middle of the ceiling can’t be expected to do all the work.

Multilight sconces, such as the smart plug-in fixtures shown here, can help add lighting at a face-flattering angle to make your space and your guests look their best. Use dimmable fixtures, or simply include several smaller lamps so you can build up brightness or a soft glow as desired.

Seaholm Condo, Austin Texas

3. Accents. Besides lighting, mirrors and lighter-hued accents can help a small space feel pleasing rather than claustrophobic. Items like white picture frames or artwork give the eye some visual breaks, while mirrors extend the sight line.

Mirrors also give people an opportunity to surreptitiously catch a glimpse of another party guest—or simply check for spinach in their teeth.

Bachelor Pad

4. Seating. When entertaining, you’ll want to be able to seat a large number of people. Another day, you might want a comfortable place to decompress alone (or even sneak a quick nap). Start your furniture plan with a large sofa, and you’ll be ready for both of these scenarios. When it comes time to pack in guests, you can sit good friends shoulder to shoulder on a long sectional, and the rest of the week you can lounge in comfort.

Houzz Tours Krea-Pernille

An armless sofa frees up precious inches to squeeze in an extra person or two at the ends if you want maximum seating. You can then add in toss pillows to act as an armrest or backrest as needed.

Alternately, a modern sofa with wide arms like this one will give people a place to casually perch while they chat, or an extra spot to set down a drink or snack. Just make sure to provide a serving tray with edges to catch spills. (A dark upholstery that hides stains doesn’t hurt either.)

Of course, a large sofa can fit only so many guests—and some people will probably prefer their own seat. To maximize seating, I like to balance a large sofa with 16- to- 20-inch midcentury modern side chairs. They add a little classic flair without taking up too much space.

You can keep a few in your main entertaining room, or pull some from another room, such as the dining room or even a patio, as needed.

Warm & Inviting Family Home


5. Versatile tables. Besides needing a place to sit, your guests will also need space in which to move around, stretch their legs or maybe even dance a little. Avoiding bulky tables and furnishings that block circulation will help make even a small space feel much more open.

Instead of a chunky coffee table, try a leggy option that won’t get in the way of an outstretched foot. Even better, use several small tables that can be moved out of the way or rearranged as desired.


In general, having an eclectic mix of seating allows you to tackle different entertaining scenarios, so feel free to break out of the typical matchy-matchy box of the “one sofa, two chairs” living room set. Throwing in a few small stools gives you extra seats or tables as needed, and a high side table can be used as compact dining surface or mini bar. Multifunctional pieces like these give you options, and they can be tucked off to the side when not needed.

Bellevue Towers

6. Dining areas. Although spaces vary, an oval or circular table is usually a good fit for small spaces that may need to accommodate a flexible number of guests. The rounded edges allow you to seat guests without having to bump anyone into a corner. Round tables also make it easier to host an odd number of guests without it looking “off.”

As in the living room, using one long bench or banquet mixed with standard dining chairs gives you room to slip in a few extra guests (especially small children) while giving others the option of a solo seat.

LoHi Private Residence

Wall sconces also are a great solution to add a little lighting over a small dining table or another key area. Choose one on a swing arm and you can push it up against the wall if you move the table to free up standing room.

Related: Install Wall Scones to Brighten a Small Room 

Park Slope Apartment

If you don’t have room for a dedicated dining table, a convertible coffee table is a handy solution. They typically fold out into a larger surface, with height-adjustable legs to convert from coffee table to dining table in just a few clicks.

Earls Court Apartment


7. Serving stations. Whether your party is 10 people or 100, you can always use a little crowd control. Creating natural reasons for people to circulate through a space, rather than bunching up in one area, makes for better traffic flow and more mingling.

One of the best ways to subtly get people moving is to place a drink station (or a food station, in a buffet scenario) away from obvious gathering spots, like the kitchen island or the main seating. Setting up a little bar like this one in a corner out of the way of traffic will keep guests circulating instead of stopping in hallways or doorways.


8. Acoustics. Besides controlling light, you’ll also want to be able to control bad acoustics at a party. All that chatting can add up to an unpleasant din if you don’t take steps to cut down on noise. Adding fabrics will greatly cut down on echoes in a small space, so try to add drapery, rugs, upholstery or canvas art to break up the hard surfaces and keep the noise down to a dull roar.

Related: Choose From Thousands of Curtains to Control Acoustics 

Queenscorp Condo

9. Putting guests at ease. Ultimately, one of the most important decorating decisions in a room of any size is to consider the comfort of your guests as you choose which pieces to include. If guests feel as though they must move and act in an overly careful manner to avoid spoiling your pristine surfaces, they will never be able to relax. Choosing fabrics that are easy to care for, and arranging accents in a more casual way, will help put your guests at ease while creating a sophisticated statement and leaving lots of room for your personality shine through. So, if you plan on having guests over often, maybe it’s best to reconsider that white sofa, delicate rug or antique vase, and embrace a more casual style—or let the party take place at someone else’s home.

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