Putting in a pea gravel patio is hands down one of the best upgrades we’ve made to our yard – not only is it a great area to entertain and relax with the kids or a few friends, but it’s a low maintenance and low cost way to get a useable patio area in very little time.
This is an especially good choice if you’re looking to create a laid back, relaxed feel in the backyard.
When we bought our house, I quickly set my sites on an unused slanted side-yard that I thought would be the perfect spot for a comfy little patio. It’s a narrow area, but I could imagine setting it up with a farmhouse table, a fire pit, and enough seating for friends and family to gather.
The space did have some issues – it’s on a slope, rocky, and was overgrown with all kinds of weeds and roots. Not to mention a gigantic bush that was basically eating our house.
I’m sure it was a nice bush but there was no way we were sharing a patio with it.
Giant Bush That Had To Go
On top of that, the side yard led right into my neighbor’s driveway, which was less than ideal. So it needed some work and a vision to bring it to life.
My husband didn’t really share this “vision” with me, but the forces of Pinterest were on my side. I knew I could prevail! (And I did prevail. Otherwise this would be a weirdly anti-climactic post).
Post Giant-Bush, the Area Still Looks Terrible
Anyway, once I had my mind made up that the space could be turned into a usable area, I got to work brainstorming the best way to make that happen.
The first big question was what surface we would use on the ground.
Initially the idea of putting in a deck, or maybe even a brick patio, was appealing. But those were both in the “big project” category, and since we were already in the middle of renovating the inside of the house, I couldn’t really push for another big ticket item in the yard.
So I did a little research, and quickly fell in love with the idea of installing a pea gravel patio instead.
Pea gravel is the unsung hero in landscaping that I had been missing!
Benefits of a Pea Gravel Patio:
- Installing a pea gravel patio can easily be a DIY project if you have the inclination. Here is an easy to follow tutorial on how to DIY a pea gravel patio.
- It’s easier to install and much more budget-friendly than other patio materials.
- No matter what shape you want your patio to be, you can make it happen with pea gravel. The small stones are super easy to work with, as long as you clearly delineate the edges of the patio. Want an oval patio? By all means, be my guest!
- It’s quick. Our landscaper leveled the ground, put down a base layer, secured a fabric liner to the ground and then added 2.5 inches of pea gravel. The project can be completed over a weekend. (Again, you can DIY this. We didn’t, only because we have 3 very young children and we have our hands full at the moment).
- The stones provide for good natural drainage, and they won’t crack from freezes and thaws.
- Pea gravel is such a pleasant surface! It makes a soft crunching sound under your feet as you walk on it, which feels very vacation-y.
Bonus: a year later we still don’t have any weeds whatsoever.
(Note: you can walk on pea gravel barefoot, but it’s not soft like sand. I prefer to have flip-flops on if I’m going to be out there for long).
When I’m working on a layout (for indoor or outdoor spaces) I always start with a sketchpad and pencil, and I like to draw out the space several different ways, including arranging and rearranging the furniture on paper.
It helps to make multiple different sketches, trying out various layouts. I always have a tape measure and notepad close at hand for this!
When sketching out our new patio space, I realized I could fit not only a farmhouse table, but that I could also pull off the much loved pea gravel patio with fire pit setup that I’ve been coveting.
I’d even have room for extra seating for guests!
I knew that once we added the tall privacy fencing and the land was properly leveled, I would have exactly the blank slate I needed to get the look and feel of a finished outdoor room.
Here’s a shot of one side of the completed patio area, including our eating nook:
A wait staff would add even more to this feeling, but I don’t really have the means for that.
Eventually I’ll add a light fixture to hang over the table, but I haven’t gotten that far yet.
I’m not being whimsical with the mismatched benches, this is just what I was able to scrounge up on Facebook Marketplace, where I get most of my yard treasures. Next year I’m hoping to get a nice rustic farmhouse table and properly coordinating benches.
If you don’t have the finances to get all of the furniture you want right away, be creative and make do with what you do have! Look around your house, shop at thrift stores, and check out FB Marketplace. You can usually find something cheap that will do the trick, at least in the interim. Over time the space can evolve, and you can make upgrades as you go.
As you can see in the photo below, the pea stones get darker after it rains. They look nice both wet and dry!
Pea Gravel Works Really Well in Contained Spaces
This space is 14′ x 21′ in the main seating area, and another 6’x12′ in the “nook” for the table. There’s also a small section where the stairs lead into the patio, and we’re able to fit an old table and a grill there.
I knew that the pea gravel would be a good way to go as long as it was properly contained and had a clear perimeter from the rest of the yard. Having that clear perimeter is essential when using pea stones.
Styling Your Pea Gravel Patio
When planning a design and choosing furnishings for your patio, it helps to think of your outside space the way you think of your inside spaces.
Pea gravel is an unpretentious, casual option for a patio. It makes sense to have furnishings that are similarly laid-back, to keep a consistent style and feel to the area.
In your patio, the ground surface is like the carpet, or hardwood floor, in your house. And you want to make sure that the other elements work with the floor!
Whereas a brick patio might lend itself to a more formal feel, pea gravel goes in the opposite direction. It’s a natural, movable surface, and the resulting feeling is decidedly more casual than brick. So use that vibe to your design advantage! You want to find outdoor furniture and accent pieces that come together in a cohesive way, without needing to be “matchy-matchy.”
You can choose outdoor furniture and layer your space with design elements that compliment both the feel of the pea gravel and the function of the space, just like you would layer decorative elements indoors (plants, patio umbrellas, throw pillows, blankets, lighting, etc.).
Not all surfaces need to be shiny and new – rugged, aged wood and chipping paint look perfectly at place in lots of outdoor settings, including in a pea stone patio.
I wanted to incorporate a few important things into the pea gravel patio design: a fire pit, wooden Adirondack chairs, a grill, and a farmhouse table.
All of the elements I just listed maintain the informal feeling that you get from the pea gravel ground surface.
Fire Pit on a Pea Gravel Patio
I knew that I wanted a fire pit as a feature in the patio. Fire pits are so cozy! I love the smell of the fire and the crackling sound on a cool night. What’s better than that?! Plus, fire pits work great with pea gravel surrounding them, since you don’t have to worry about sparks from the fire causing any issues.
We opted for a moveable fire pit versus a permanent structure, and I’m glad we did. I’ve already moved the fire pit several times – to make way for a coffee table holding appetizers, to host a brunch, etc. I imagine we will be using the space in lots of different ways over the years, and this gives us max flexibility. When it’s time for a cozy fire, we just move the fire pit right back into its place!
I love the look of wooden Adirondack chairs around a fire pit, and these chairs are a great match for a pea gravel patio too. They share a relaxed, laid-back look, so they’re a natural style match.
One issue with a lot of wooden Adirondacks is that they’re bulky to store during the winter. The Plant Theatre Adirondack Chairs that we have are foldable, which is a huge plus.
This winter I’ll store them inside, which will protect them from the elements and make sure that they stay in nice shape for years to come. And because they’re foldable I don’t need to worry about them taking over valuable space in the basement.
I also love these farmhouse blue and white striped throw pillow covers as an alternative to the full seat cushions, or even to layer on top of the full chair cushions.
Enclosing a Pea Gravel Patio
To make the patio feel private and comfortable, I knew it needed to be enclosed. Once we had the yard leveled, we had a very small retaining wall built, and added some privacy fencing. I also like that the fence makes it easy to run string lighting!
We also added a wooden arbor to clearly mark the side patio off from the rest of the yard.
It’s really important to have a clean, clear perimeter around a pea gravel patio. We have simple pressure treated wood beams in the ground between the edge of the pea gravel and the grass, and they work well to delineate one space from the next. Medium-sized, smooth stones are another popular and attractive option to separate the patio from other parts of your yard.
One way or another, you’ll definitely need some type of boundary to contain the stones.
It’s never going to be possible to keep all the stones in their place – some are bound to make their way onto the lawn. But you want to try to keep that to a minimum. Even with three really young kids who like to mess up all of my areas, the rocks don’t stray too far into the lawn! A few here and there, but I can deal with it.
Plus, pea gravel is a low-key, unfussy type of surface. So – don’t get too fussy about it!
Tips and Considerations for a Pea Gravel Patio
There are a few things to keep in mind with a pea gravel patio:
- You’ll need a boundary to contain the pea gravel (we used pressure treated wood beams).
- Make sure you have a fairly level space to work with – the more level the better the result.
- Be sure to put down a fabric liner before laying down pea stone. You don’t want weeds to come up through your patio.
- Use approximately 2.5 inches of pea gravel to fill in the space. More than that is too shallow, but if you make it too deep it will be harder to walk on it.
- Some furniture works better than others on pea gravel. For example, benches are much easier to use around a farmhouse table than chairs, because you don’t need to constantly be pulling them in and out over the stones.
I couldn’t be happier with the way our pea gravel patio turned out.
It’s a practical and economical way to create a patio that your family can enjoy, and the look and feel of the final result is really nice, even when compared to its vastly more expensive counterparts.
If I had to do the patio all over again, I would go the pea gravel route without hesitation.
You can read a more detailed post on the side yard makeover if you’d like to see the full transformation. I don’t want to exaggerate, but it will literally blow your mind.
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