Here are some design tips on how to create your hardscape project.

Design Tips for Your Hardscape Project

  • 1. What design elements make an outdoor space successful?
  • 2. Why is the "flooring" material important?
  • 3. What advice do you have about selecting the color / shape for an outdoor space?
  • 4. When should I consider a "large scale" paving stone vs. the smaller brick size stones?
  • 5. What are your favorite design details you like to add, when you have the opportunity?
  • 6. Why should I consider hiring a landscape architect? I think I know what I want to do, what will they add?
  • 7. I've made the decision to seek some professional design help. How much will it cost and how are fees usually structured?
  •  8. Custom Design
  • Credits

1. What design elements make an outdoor space successful?

R. Patrick Worzer Land Design Services, Inc.

Design elements contribute to a very important part of the overall design scheme. Elements such as walls, pavement, water, and landscape can contribute to the image of the project and it's sense of place. Success is achieved by incorporating the elements in a sensible fashion which will bring aesthetic value to the space and offer continued sustainability and value to the outdoor environment.

Design elements to make an outdoor space successful are those same types of elements that a homeowner would place into a home addition. Instead of designing walls with windows we should design with pavers, water and flowers to function in the same manner. The primary element of creating a successful outdoor space is size and shape. This will insure room to meet your needs and provide spaces for family and friends to gather while creating places for intimate conversation and quiet reflection. The next element to consider is connectivity to your home so that you can walk from your kitchen onto your patio to your grill with ease. After this, is creating design elements that attribute to privacy. All these elements should be combined in context to the architecture of your home or themed to meet your needs.

Some other elements are:

  • Outdoor dining set
  • Cooking and service area
  • Fire pit for enjoyment in cooler weather
  • Wall and/or landscape plantings to define your patio area and separate incompatible uses. For example homeowners should consider elements that separate dining areas from children's play areas.
  • Landscape planting to enhance views beyond your property or screen nosy neighbors.
  • Water features
  • Outdoor art
  • Shade structures such as trellis
  • Herb gardens
  • Seat walls

Ed Dermody — Woolpert

The design should enhance the intended use of the space. In general, all spaces should have a foreground, middle ground, and background.

Doug DeLong DeLong Landscape Architecture

2. Why is the "flooring" material important?

Flooring material in an outdoor space really works like any "room" you create. Be it outdoor or indoor. It is the base plane in which all things start from. You can create a theme all other elements can be incorporated in the "floor" space.

R. Patrick Worzer — Land Design Services, Inc.

Flooring is important for the same reasons carpet or hardwood floors are important in your dining room. The color and textures you choose will set the tone for your new outdoor space and provide a low maintenance surface. The color and shape of your patio should enhance your home and provide definition to your patio.

Ed Dermody — Woolpert

The ground plan of an outdoor space often is the dominant element and will set the "sense of place", particularly in the absence of walls or other enclosures.

Doug DeLong — DeLong Landscape Architecture

3. What advice do you have about selecting the color / shape for an outdoor space?

  • Dark, bold colors vs. light, natural shades?
  • Match the brick / siding / retaining walls or contrast them?
  • Should I stay with one shape / color, or when would adding a second shape / color be a good idea?
R. Patrick Worzer Land Design Services, Inc.

Selecting color and shape for outdoor spaces go hand in hand. One must consider a variety of effects such as color, texture, and pattern using both bold and light variations. If you intend on making a statement about the design, you need to keep in mind the amount of bold colors you want to use. Using bold colors can work great for accent purposes. Using a variety of colors and shapes can create a lot of effects, but be careful not to get "too busy". Remember - less is more!

The selection of shape and color of pavers does not have a single answer. The selection will depend on the intended use and the mood that is to be created. Existing materials and colors also have to be considered. An accent color or shape can be used in the design to create a pattern, establish the edge, and define changes in grade, such as steps.

Doug DeLong — DeLong Landscape Architecture

4. When should I consider a "large scale" paving stone vs. the smaller brick size stones?

Large scale paving stones vs. small stones is really a factor of scale related to the space you are working with. Consider the size of the area. You may wish to use large stones in a "field" area, but then use smaller stones as border.

R. Patrick Worzer — Land Design Services, Inc.

Larger paver vs. smaller pavers is a critical design decision that should be based on the following design principles. Larger pavers are masculine in nature that will create a heavy footprint while decreasing the sense of size of the patio. Often times this is a result of larger pavers being more unique in the market place and because of this, they become more apparent and demand visual attention. The smaller paver is simple and more common with greater design flexibility. Smaller pavers will also create a sense that your patio is larger and more spacious.

Ed Dermody — Woolpert

In general, the size of pavers should relate to the size of the space. However, there are a lot of examples of successful small spaces using larger pavers and vice versa.

Doug DeLong DeLong Landscape Architecture

5. What are your favorite design details you like to add, when you have the opportunity?

I prefer to introduce details that will offer an accent color or logo theme into the design. Using diamond shapes or a special mix of stone and pavers offer a great detail.

R. Patrick Worzer — Land Design Services, Inc.

My favorite design detail that should be included into outdoor spaces is developing a series of rooms that are separated with low vertical elements such as seat walls, water features, and or garden plantings. Spaces can also be defined by creating rug-like patterns in the pavers; this can be accomplished through using multiple colors and paver sizes. Other elements include simple grade changes, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, accent and safety lighting, seat walls, water features, outdoor furniture, colorful art objects and themed gardens.

Ed Dermody Woolpert

6. Why should I consider hiring a landscape architect? I think I know what I want to do, what will they add?

Why consider a landscape architect? We can provide added value to your project by bringing our experience to the table through working on numerous past projects that may be of a similar nature to yours. We contribute by having both knowledge of land development aspects such as grading and drainage as well as the plant material landscape and physiological aspects of the land. Landscape architects bring a wealth of knowledge mending both the artistic and natural sciences into a design project. In the end we work toward providing you with an exciting, comprehensive and feasible solution to your vision!

R. Patrick Worzer — Land Design Services, Inc.

Anne Lewis Lewisites Landscape Architects

I once worked for someone who justified residential design fees thusly: "You (the client) will make back our fee in decreased bid prices as submitted by your installing contractor."

​You will drive a contractor to distraction if you can't clearly express exactly what you want, and if it is evident that you are less than confident, then the contractor will price your job by the square foot with a hefty multiplier that represents the "free design team" they will anticipate spending with you.

​Bid prices are often tighter when an architect solicits them because all of the decisions have been made and detailed. The "recipe" just needs to be followed rather than invented.

​Landscape architects get indecision out of the way by DRAWING alternatives.  You will be able to "try on" more styles. 

Homeowners should consider using landscape architects when their projects become complicated and involve multiple tasks or trades. Often times a simple patio can be designed by a qualified contractor that understands your needs and expectations. This is often predicated on homeowners's understanding themselves and what they want. Most contractors want to build patios, not design multiple options with multiple cost implications involving other contractors. In other words, when your needs become complicated and involve multiple trades a landscape architect will be able to help you create a master plan so that your design is suited to you and your needs. It is also important to note that if you trust and have confidence in your contractor, then do not seek other professional help, many contractors are very good at what they do and are there to help you.

Should you decide to hire a landscape architect, know that we will become your advocate by serving your needs first with a desire to provide plans designed to meet your needs, accurate cost projections, pre-qualifying contractors, and construction schedule to keep your project on schedule and in budget. Drawings produced can be given to contractors for bidding and construction purposes while allowing you to organize the construction process and assign responsibility to each contractor involved. Through proper planning and organization homeowners can minimize wasted resources, time and money.

To understand when a landscape architect is needed for your project is based on the homeowner's ability to manage projects and persona; experience with contractors. Many landscape architects have experiences with contractors that can benefit your projects, and sometimes a contractor may recommend a landscape architect to you if needed.

As stated earlier, when the project becomes complicated, then professional help is needed. Landscape architects will add value by insuring a project is consistent with local and state codes, insure the design elements are sage and meet your needs, provide probable cost estimate, coordinating contractors, review cost proposals for consistency with design documents and consistency with quality workmanship.

Ed Dermody — Woolpert

One should consider the complexity of what they want to do and if they can convey the information accurately in order to get complete and comparable bids from qualified contractors.

Doug DeLong — DeLong Landscape Architecture

7. I've made the decision to seek some professional design help. How much will it cost and how are fees usually structured?

R. Patrick Worzer Land Design Services, Inc.

The level of professional help will vary according to your scope of work and level of experience you desire to hire. Generally you can expect design fees to range 10% of the expected construction cost. Most professionals will give you a free proposal with a defined scope and fee along with their hourly rate structure. Make sure you check references and use a licensed professional who is associated with a national professional organization. Credentials are important!

Fees are based on the homeowner's budgets and the scale of a project. A rule of thumb is 10% of a budget should be set aside for professional fees while the remaining budget is dedicated to construction. It is important that all roles are defined in the design process and delineated in phases so that the homeowner will be insured their needs and expectations are met.

​Homeowners should always remember that this is their backyard, their project and never be intimidated. The landscape architect, contractor and even the supply company are there to help you.

Ed Dermody Woolpert

8. Custom Design

Anne Lewis Lewisites Landscape Architects

What architects do is draw... think of it as writing directions. When drawings are issued to several contractors you can be confident that they are all pricing the same scope of work. Custom design is scary... what if you hate what your contractor builds... well you have more probability of hating it if you wave your arms around and show him/her magazine pictures than if you express yourself to a landscape architect and they draw it... then you are buying the painting which you see rather than commissioning one.

We all love the old craftsman touches, artisan details like the rock wall around a field with some stones jutting out to act as a stile to climb up and over. European plaza pavement with insets of flat stones or a change of pattern to accommodate water run off. If you are going to custom design something, CUSTOM DESIGN IT.


R. Patrick Worzer ASLA
Land Design Services Inc.


Anne Lewis ASLA
Lewisites Landscape Architecture

311 N. Lindberg Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63141

Ed Dermody ASLA
Dermody & Asoociates, LLC


Doug Delong ASLA
Delong Landscape Architecture

​7620 W Bruno Ave
St. Louis MO 63117