If you’ve read any business news lately, you know the pandemic created a new work-from-home model that’s here to stay. And a lot of households that experienced the lockdowns are rethinking ways to make their spaces more comfortable for spending more time at home, as well as for smaller social gatherings.

(All photos: Hays Johnson.)

Landscape designers are responding to the trend. Hays Johnson, owner of Terra Fina Landworks in Raleigh, NC, sees this in his work.

“People seem more cognizant of entertaining opportunities at home,” said Johnson. “The last few years have made people contemplate how they’re using all the space in and around their house. They want to see friends, but outside.”

That’s good news for patio design. And Terra Fina recently wrapped up a project to replace wooden deck with a more solid and long-lasting patio, raised to the first floor of the house and designed to complement the home’s original brick construction.

“The owners wanted to make an investment in a quality structure and make sure it tied seamlessly to the existing house,” said Johnson. “They didn’t want that ‘you did some work here recently’ look in five years’ time, that can happen with some additions.

“The home has a colonial feel with brick on the house, so pavers were a natural choice.”

Removing the wood deck left over three feet of elevation from the back yard to the back entrance. The Terra Fina crew needed to create an impacted base of crushed granite held in place with a curved brick retaining wall and steps up to gain a flat surface level with the home’s first floor.

Once that was done, Pathway Autumn pavers were installed. A herringbone pattern was the best choice to match the classic look of the home. And Johnson’s design went a few steps further, with Pennsylvania blue stone capping the retaining wall as well as creating a geometric cross pattern in the paver field.

The owners couldn’t wait to use it. They had a large table and chairs placed even before Johnson had installed the final decorative handrail.

“It was truly an extension to indoor living,” said Johnson. “Brick made it feel part of original construction. It really brings timeless quality that will still look good in 30 years.”

But there’s more. With a showpiece patio like that, you don’t want to amble across a wet lawn to get there. At the owner’s request, Johnson recommended a serpentine patio to lead guests around the house to the outdoor room.

What’s the best way to work with a landscape designer to improve your home outdoors?

Johnson suggests a big picture approach: “Talk about what are the items you really want to address? What is the overall idea? For example, ‘an entertaining’ space. Then, find examples of what you like – in magazines or on the internet – because this is a field where a picture is truly worth a thousand words. Clients might call something a different term than I use, so show me a picture. Keep to the core concept, then add details. A pergola? A fire pit and grill? 

“Designers have a role as a communicator to make clear sense of what you want,” said Johnson. My job is to make customers feel like needs being met.”