I've been wanting to build a small patio at the end of our yard for dinner parties, but haven't found the patience to get the tools together and do it right. While I'm still waiting for the patience, I decided to just go ahead and lay down a simple slate patio just to test the location. I assumed I'd have to redo it, but after a month on these rustic and semi-uneven slate pieces, I sorta think I might leave it. It works surprisingly well as is. Outdoor patios need only a few things to make them successful: a clean, hard surface that's even enough for chair legs and super weather resistant. Stone or brick is a natural choice, but large pieces of slate are affordable and cover a lot of ground quickly. I was able to lay this rectangle down in about thirty minutes.
SET-UP SHOWN ABOVE
LINING IT UP
I wanted to line up the patio on an axis from the back door of the house to the bird house, so your eye had a pleasing view. This meant drawing a straight line between two stakes and using that as a center line as I laid out the grid.
I chose to space the stones about 3/4" apart, partially for drainage, partially so that the grid would stand out more and MAINLY because the stones were all different thicknesses and this helped to disguise that fact. One trick for making the stone not seem totally uneven in thickness is to try to keep the fat ones near the fat ones and the thin ones near the thin ones. By pairing like stones, I was further able to hide what would have become "stub your toe" inconsistencies.
Taking the time to line all the stones up and to center them on the birdhouse really paid off. The patio doesn't feel random. I do, however, plan to move both the birdhouse and the patio in the fall to line them both up with an even better focal point in the distance.