Whether you’re putting your place on the market or just looking to give your crib some extra curb appeal, your property’s exterior design deserves just as much attention as the interior.
But while you might’ve spent hours contemplating new window shutters, light fixtures, and foliage, there’s a good chance one exterior improvement has fallen toward the bottom of your priority list: your hardscaping. After all, how much can you possibly change a pathway or sidewalk?
Well, a lot, apparently.
The truth is, hardscaping is one of the first—if not the first—things to consider when sprucing up your outdoor space. We’re talking about the structures or materials that divide sections and provide places to walk and sit.
“Hardscaping should be the first component considered [because] it’s really the structure of the landscaping,” explains Frederico Azevedo, founder and CEO of Unlimited Earth Care. “If hardscaping is left as an afterthought to the overall design, it will disrupt the flow of any property.”
And, just like the plants you choose to grow in your backyard or the color you use to paint your front door, there are plenty of hardscaping trends that will help your property shine. Below are five expert-approved ways to improve your property’s walkways, sidewalks, and pathways.
Photo by Westover Landscape Design
Once upon a time, having grass sprout between your slabs of stone was considered sloppy and distasteful. Today, however, it’s actually encouraged to integrate greenery into your hardscaping.
“Grass-jointed paving paths combine structured geometry, lush natural textures, and vibrant color,” says landscape architect Janice Parker. “They provide an overlapping of formal and informal elements. Thoughtful stone selection, based on the architectural aesthetic of the home, ensures that the style works equally well for contemporary or traditional landscapes.”
While a symmetrical and evenly spaced pathway will pair nicely with a manicured yard, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Mixing different-sized and -shaped slabs will create the illusion of a naturally made pathway, which is also trending.
2. Crushed stone
Photo by Matthew Cunningham Landscape Design LLC
Want to create a beautiful walkway but don’t have the time for a big project? Consider using the ever-so-trendy crushed stone.
“It’s loose, has lots of texture, and produces great sound when traversing,” explains Michael McGown, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group. “It speaks to casual informality, and lets the plantings define the path.”
Not only does crushed stone look nice, it’s also easy on your wallet and Mother Nature. The total cost will vary based on the pathway, but a 50-pound bag of crushed stones can cost less than $40.
“It’s very inexpensive, so replacing existing hardscape is probably within the means of a typical homeowner or home buyer,” McGown says.
And it’s eco-friendly: Crushed stones are more permeable than, say, a slab of concrete, so the water and grass underneath your pathway will still be watered and nourished, McGowan adds.
3. Reclaimed brick
Photo by The Design Build Co.
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure—and the world of hardscaping is no exception. Specifically, McGowan says, reclaimed brick is having a moment.
“Reclaimed brick [has] color and texture,” he explains. “It’s got a natural patina and looks authentic and timeless. [Bricks] blur the line between contemporary and traditional.”
Don’t get us wrong, we love a freshly paved sidewalk as much as the next person; however, there’s something cozy and inviting about reclaimed materials.
4. Sustainable sidewalks
“I’ve always been engaged in working sustainably, so seeing more options and materials coming forward in the past few years is really exciting,” Azevedo says. “Sustainable hardscaping materials are produced in a way that is least damaging to the environment and allow water to penetrate the ground.”
While Azevedo points to urbanite (aka repurposed concrete) and recycled granite as suitable alternatives, he encourages homeowners to think outside the cinder block.
“Crushed seashells, particularly mollusk shells, which have been a burden on landfills in recent years, make an excellent ground cover for paths, or as acidity-controlling mulch for flower beds,” he says.
5. Luxurious limestone
Photo by Hutker Architects – More exterior home photos
All of the architectural greats feature limestone: the Pentagon, the Empire State Building, and, now, your walkway. While crushed stone and brick are suitable materials for your hardscape, they give your property a very specific look and feel. Limestone, on the other hand, is versatile enough to be a blank canvas so you can let your yard’s foliage take center stage.
It “can provide elegance to either” contemporary or traditional style, McGowan explains.
And unlike brick, which has a predetermined shape, you can cut limestone any way you’d like. So whether you want a straight sidewalk or something with more curve, this is one material that can get the job done.
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