A guide to finding the perfect natural stone tiles for your patio or courtyard
Natural stone is the perfect way to inject your personality into the design of your patio or courtyard and create an al fresco slice of paradise
Even the smallest outdoor space can make an enormous difference to everyday living, offering a haven in which you can sit and contemplate life, read your favourite book or enjoy a convivial or romantic meal in the open air.
Creating a natural link between interior and exterior zones of a home makes a significant difference to the overall feel of the entire property. Key to this is the use of natural materials and perhaps there is no better example than stone.
Whether used inside or on an external courtyard or patio, stone tiles are a winning choice with their hardwearing properties and innate capacity to evoke emotions. In this article we look at how to use them to best effect in an outdoor patio.
Natural stone as the perfect material for your courtyard or patio
Stone has been used for and in exterior spaces since time immemorial, in particular for patios and courtyards. What’s the difference between the two? In broad terms, a courtyard generally refers to an outdoor space surrounded on all sides by walls, whereas a patio can just as easily be attached to a home as located in the middle of the garden, and while it may have a wall on one side, it is more often than not completely open. The key is that its floor is in stone, concrete or brick.
In lavish villas in hot climates, a courtyard would often traditionally feature water features and a grass area, offering respite from the harsh sun. Today, the term also refers to less ornate spaces, but at the end of the day, what is important that no matter how large or small, a patio and courtyard are both designed to offer pleasant outdoor moments.
Stone is ideal for use in either or these outdoor spaces because it has the unusual effect of intensifying the sense of intimacy for guests and owners alike. It is the only material that can truly transmit the idea of life in constant evolution, meaning that every time you enter the courtyard or patio, you experience different sensations.
Tiles for vertical and horizontal spaces in a courtyard or patio
When it comes to designing your patio or courtyard, the starting point will be the materials you choose for the surfaces. Obviously this will always mean the floor, but in many contexts you will also need to think about the walls if your outdoor space has them. Using the same material on both horizontal and vertical surfaces, be it in a different iteration such as varying colours or textures, creates a sense of completeness and elevates the overall aesthetic.
Once you have these fundamental elements in place, you can think about the decorative components, such as furniture, plants, lighting and even mirrors if you want to amplify a small space, for example.
The advantages of stone tiles for a courtyard or patio
The main reason most people choose stone for their courtyard or patio is down to aesthetics. Natural stone tiles are not only beautiful to look at, but they also bring an emotion to the setting due to the link with nature and their authenticity. No two tiles are every identical, and this is something precious in a world of mass-manufactured, homogeneous products.
Apart from this more subjective advantage, natural stone tiles also offer two other important benefits when it comes to a courtyard or patio:
It goes without saying that a material used for an outdoor space is going to be exposed to ever-changing weather, from rain to harsh sun to wind and even snow. The good news is that stone is more than able to stand up to the rigours of the elements – after all, we only have to think of great examples of architecture such as the Coliseum to realise just how hardwearing this incredible material is.
Stone is also able to withstand bumps and wear and tear, and this is another important aspect when thinking about the material to use on a courtyard or patio floor, where visitors will be dining and in relaxed mode. The last thing you want to do as a host is worry about asking guests to be careful not to scrape their chairs on the floor, for example. With natural stone, even the scratches that do accumulate over time add to the sense of authenticity and take on their own character.
Another important consequence of this durability is that stone becomes a more sustainable choice as it does not need to be frequently replaced. Given its timeless nature, aesthetically it is also more durable because it is less susceptible to changing trends and fashions.
One other aspect that strengthens its eco-friendly credentials is that it provides insulation. This makes it a particularly smart choice for courtyards surrounded by three or four walls of your home, as the stone acts as an extra layer that helps keep the home warm in winter and cool in summer.
Decorating ideas for your courtyard or patio
The key to decorating a courtyard or patio is to keep it simple. You want to avoid cluttering the space, because the idea is that people should be able to move around it freely and enjoy the outdoor atmosphere rather than feeling overwhelmed by too many objects.
Somewhere to sit and enjoy a convivial meal is a priority, and the Span dining table and bench seating are the perfect solutions. Made from beautiful Bianco Carrara marble, their clean lines and simple shapes bring an almost Zenlike quality to an outdoor setting.
A courtyard or patio should also ideally be a place that fosters relaxation, so comfortable chairs or floor cushions are always inviting. That said, they work well when combined with the purity of natural stone in pieces such as the Curl chaise longue and a coffee table from Elisa Ossino’s Proiezioni collection in Nero Marquinia and Bianco Carrara marbles. Alternatively, for a more casual look, you might opt for the René bistro table designed by Piero Lissoni and introduce a touch of French café style.
How to choose the right stone for your outdoor space
Before deciding on natural stone tiles for your courtyard or patio, here are 3 things to consider:
- The climate
- Sun exposure
- The aesthetic effect you hope to achieve
If you live in a hot climate, you want to choose a stone that reflects the sun rather than absorbing its heat. Marbles such as Bianco Carrara and Grigio Versilia fit the bill perfectly because they are highly resistant to changes in temperature. If your patio or courtyard is not particularly exposed to constant sun, darker stones are an interesting choice, but remember to also install some artificial lighting to create an intimate atmosphere at night.
Other choices for less sunny zones include Light Travertine or Imperiale, a lovely caramel-coloured stone from the travertine family, that is stunning in our Stone Parquet finish. Both of these have a tendency to lighten over time if exposed to constant sun, but in a more protected zone, they add a sense of authenticity and warmth.
Generally speaking, the best natural stones for a patio or courtyard are:
We’ve already looked at some examples of marble and travertine so here three limestones to consider:
Pietra d’Avola, an intense chocolatey-brown tone that creates a sense of drama and elegance.
Crema d’Orcia, a warmer alternative to classic white Carrara if you are looking for something pale, soft and creamy.
Silk Georgette®, a distinctive and luxurious stone with elegant swathes of grey-beige veining.
The advantages of natural stone tiles over slabs
Natural stone tiles are a popular alternative to slabs for many reasons:
- Being smaller, there is less likelihood of waste and they are easier as a basis for designs, particularly in spaces such as a patio or courtyard.
- They are easier to handle and store and also pose less risk during the laying process given their much smaller size and weight. This makes the installation process safer in a home environment if you have boxes of tiles rather than enormous slabs.
- They come in an incredible range of aesthetic solutions, from simple honed tiles to patterned and textured offerings.
- It’s much easier to replace one or two tiles than an entire slab.
In summary, natural stone tiles are hardwearing, practical, easy to install and, last but definitely not least, they deliver on aesthetics, making them the perfect solution for a courtyard or patio. If you would like some help designing your dream outdoor space, please get in touch with us. We will be delighted to help you bring a little Made in Italy design flair to your courtyard or patio.