contemporary paving stones design


In the first example below I've used a buff Chinese sandstone with beautiful subtle veins in immense 90cm squares. Such colossal pavers not only uplift the scale of a small garden but also weave authenticity and purpose. Not long after I was convinced to use a concrete product, from Blanc de Bierges, which is probably the closest man-made product to natural stone. It's great, yet I choose sandstone more often. I have been using porcelain tiles to great effect with their slim profiles being able to fit in where stone is just too chunky and heavy and today's choices are vast. Yet natural stone remains the most inspiring paving material – variable, authentic, inspirational, tactile and diverse.

1. Sandstone buff 2. Sandstone grey 3. Sandstone blue 4. Sandstone purple 5. Sandstone red 6. Granite 7. Limestone 8. Slate 9. Tiles 10. Concrete

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  1. SANDSTONE | buff.

Everybody loves a buff sandstone. It’s not as white and shimmering as porcelain tiles or limestone, it has beautiful veins and works well with most landscape materials in most climates. The silhouettes created by foliage onto the stone gives good contrast of light and shade and large slabs of buff sandstone can truly increase the feeling of spaciousness in small gardens. There are many sources of varying stone character from Yorkshire, China and India. Being a sedimentary rock some sandstone is fairy soft so the specification should consider the type of application.

contemporary paving stones sandstone buff

Clerkenwell roof garden Buff with Brown

  2. SANDSTONE | grey.

Some grey sandstones can appear gloomy at times. I therefore always prefer to use a light grey stone which has natural variations and combine it with another coloured stone or another textural finish. It is remarkable how the same stone reacts and appears to different finishes such as flaming, hammering and sandblasting – these all give tactile stone that is extremely useful used not only visually but also in steps, landings and traffic areas.

contemporary paving stones sandstone grey

Sandbanks courtyard garden   Grey step with Brown

  3. SANDSTONE | blue.

I love blue sandstone. Here in London it blends seamlessly with the light quality and in most Northern Hemisphere gardens it spears handsome and elegant. James van Sweden and Wolfgang Oehme, the American landscape architect, have used Blue stone in many of their North American gardens organically complimenting their romantic vision of contemporary prairie gardens.

contemporary paving stones sandstone blue

Cromwell Tower roof terrace Buff with Blue

What other surfaces could you use with paving? This garden has
plenty of them

  4. SANDSTONE | purple.

I have come across a few unique purple sandstones mainly from Derbyshire and China. Used effectively in building cladding they have a place in garden paving, giving a striking essence. One of the ways to show of the stone and quieten it down is to contrast it with other stones such as buff sandstone, slate or granite.

contemporary paving stones sandstone purple  

Shoreditch small garden 

  5. SANDSTONE | red.

Red veining in sandstone is quite prevalent and whilst it is not for everyone’s taste or for every project, It can be quite uplifting used wisely and with other complimenting materials such as hardwood, granite or concrete. In California and central Australia most sandstone is red making it highly unusual. Although there are some red sandstones available from China I find it less conducive to the light and plants character here in the UK. The red veining is interesting because it represents the process of the earth, the evolution of the stone and its age.

contemporary paving stones sandstone red

Chiswick large family garden


The grainy, igneous, construction stone that is in everybody’s kitchen countertops is never as beautiful as sandstone but always tough. What’s more, it is associated here in the West with corporate plazas, airports and driveways. In Japan, white, grey, pink and black granites are used religiously to create the most spiritual compositions in temple, memorial, public and private gardens. Utilising the toughness of the material with its infinite amount of finishes, colours and textures one can truly create meaningful works of art in contemporary gardens.

contemporary paving stones granite

Highbury garden

Is one enough? Forget monotonous - this small garden has
3 paving materials + lighting in between


Some limestones are not always frost proof enough to last well in Northern Europe. The volatility of the material, its brightness and required maintenance of sealing put me off at times. Yet some hardy limestones offer a buff quality found in sandstone with veining familiar through granite – it is those s tones that attract me and that I feel I can use as a dynamic material. Many limestones are quarried at slender thicknesses making them handy when the sub-base is high or there is limited height to pave. As with sandstone these pale stones tend to get tarnishes in high water tables or under tress and careful consideration must be employed in terms of sealing and cleaning maintenance.

contemporary paving stones limestone

Highbury garden


Although most of the roofing slate in Europe is exported from Spain, many beautiful dark slates have come my way originating in Brazil, South Africa and Portugal. I have been using them for countertops, water features, coping but mainly for paving. Being tough, slate allows me to specify narrow bands and often this is useful in areas where I require high detail such as a path and different width bands of slate can be used. Although slate tends to be quarried in thin profiles, as it is solid large slabs can be specified even with only 30mm thickness. This cuts down on transportation costs, storage space on site and labour.

contemporary paving stones slate

Hampstead garden

  9. TILES.

The world of porcelain tiles is vast and the types available, particularly from Italy and Spain, are increasing every day. When I use tiles it is usually to do with a physical necessity or limitation on site where an 8mm tile is the solution to a height problem. Yet the tiles that I use, usually, are mimicking natural stone but with quite a few advantages. The grouting can be matched to the tile; maintenance is low; reversion of colour is minimal and the cost is lower. On roof terraces, where weight might be an issue, tiles are particularly useful.

contemporary paving stones tiles

Parsons Green courtyard   tiles with slate coping


There is a stone, manufactured in Peterborough near Cambridge, which I have used a while back both in gardens and roof terraces. Blanc de Bierges was recently acquired by Evans Concrete Products after 40 years of concrete pioneering. The modular system also supports one-off sizes and slabs can be made in a variety of finishes. It is a cost effective solution that not only appears natural but is tough and enduring.

contemporary paving stones concrete

St george Wharf roof gardens

amir   Written, photographed (unless indicated) and posted by Amir Schlezinger.

What other surfaces could you use with paving? This garden has
plenty of them

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