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contemporary paving stones design

10 top paving stones to use in contemporary garden design

04 April 2013

“I have to admit: after trees and planters my third love in garden design is natural stone paving. I was privileged to be able to use, on one of my first roof gardens, a buff Chinese sandstone with beautiful subtle veins in an immense 90cm squares. Such colossal pavers not only uplift the scale of a small garden but also weave authenticity, a sense of honesty and purpose. Long after I was convinced to use a concrete product, from Blanc de Bierges, which is probably the closest man has gotten to nature with concrete production. All along I was using porcelain tiles to great effect with their slim profiles being able to fit in where stone is just too chunky and heavy. 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

Photograph by Helen Fickling 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

Photograph by Clive Nichols   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  

  6. Granite

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

  7. Limestone

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

8. Slate

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

Photograph by Clive Nichols   Parsons Green courtyard   tiles with slate coping

10. Concrete  

There is a stone, manufactured in Peterborough near Cambridge that I have used a while back quite a few times 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

“As natural stone prevails in so many architectural fields, crossing over techniques, practices and traditions proves useful to contemporary landscape and garden designers. Building a library of stones, experimenting with sizes, finishes and colours and studying the results over time, does take a lifetime…”

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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