The importance of stone in landscape design and outdoor living

Posted April 18, 2019 in Landscape Design

As a versatile outdoor living design/build firm, we have met plenty of unique families, all with their own sense of outdoor style.  We have created outdoor living spaces that are rustic, Tuscan, contemporary, historic…you name it and we have most likely encountered it!  However, through the many stylistic preferences we have had the pleasure to work with, we can say that there are a few materials that are timeless, and one important key player is stone!

Gardeners, designers, builders and homeowners alike can attest that a well-rounded landscape and outdoor living space is much more than plants.  Stone, rock and boulders give naturalistic texture while also bringing an important balance to each and every space.  Whether in large or small applications, stone adds interest and designer aesthetic; let’s explore several striking applications that take each outdoor living space to another level.

Stone Veneer

stone veneer

I suppose we can start with the most obvious stone application in an outdoor living project, a beautiful stone veneer.  Veneer can be natural stone in full profile (3-5” thickness), a thin-cut natural stone (a full profile stone split into 1-1.5” thickness) or a cultured stone veneer manufactured to resemble the real thing.  When installed properly, either of the three in a dry-stack or mortared-in-place application will add elegance and sophistication to an outdoor living space.  Stone seating walls, fireplaces, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, planters and other custom structures bring a warm and naturalistic vibe with an earthy connection to outdoor living that is hard to outdo.


Decorative Features

decorative stone

Typically, when thinking of outdoor decorative features we tend to focus on furniture or accessories like lanterns, rugs and string lights, but stone applications can take decorative features in a whole other direction!  Take the above photo for example.  This is a natural stone basin, which can be used as a water feature or, as used here, a beautiful planter within the landscape!  This material was in this world before us and will certainly remain after us, conveying its longevity, durability and pure organic aesthetic.  Sure, planters made of fiberglass or terracotta are beautiful and function just as nice, but there is something almost regal about an earthly material serving purpose in the natural environment.  The same sentiment can be found in features like stone benches, boulder seating around a fire pit, stone sculptures…etc.

Water Features

stone water feature

On that same note, we can’t not talk about stone water features, which we absolutely love!  Almost any stone that is large enough can be transformed into a gorgeous water feature, when created by skilled hands.  The trio of monolithic basalt spires, pictured above, is an excellent instance of the balance of nature and skilled craftsmanship.  With all the mechanics hidden below the surface, the accompanying Delaware stone surround and the strategically placed landscape lighting to highlight the water’s movement, this focal point adds amazing character and relaxation to the space.  Notice how the surrounding plants and tropical flowers provide a softness to the feature, breaking up the space from being too hard or stark.  Just looking at this photo, you can almost hear the subtle trickle of water and feel the calm vibe it brings.

An Artful Disguise

dry riverbed

When contacting a professional design/build firm to help reimagine your outdoor living spaces, be sure to discuss any problems you are hoping to address.  No one said that backyard issues can’t be solved artfully!  In case, this family installed an in-ground swimming pool and needed to reimagine the spaces around it but had an existing swale in between the pool and the house.  Creative thinking took over and MasterPLAN created a dry riverbed complete with Delaware stone, a bluestone slab bridge to connect the areas and a nice planting balance with corkscrew rush, pickerel rush and iris.   When a rainstorm blows in, the homeowner no longer has to worry about the water flow, as it will fill the stone bed, feed the plants and be directed away from all outdoor living features.  An artful disguise, indeed!



The last feature we would like to talk about that offers more than a nice balance to backyard softscapes and outdoor living spaces but is also important in outdoor functionality are gabions!  What is a gabion you ask?  Great question!

By definition a gabion is a cage, cylinder or box filled with rocks, concrete or sometimes sand or soil for use in civil engineering, road building, erosion protection, military applications and landscaping.  In our world, we use them in outdoor living and landscaping applications, mainly as retaining walls filled with more appealing looking stone.  These gravity retaining walls do not require any particular foundation or footings and are built on graded soil once all debris and plants have been removed.  The walls do not require a foundation because of their weight, strength, permeability, ability to contour the ground as well as expand/contract with the freeze/thaw cycles.  These stone features serve a great purpose within the landscape but are so unique and interesting they end up sparking conversation!  The same feature principles can be applied to gabion seating walls, as the base of outdoor furniture, raised planters and even as surrounds for fireplaces and water features.  Novel, creative and practical…sign us up!

No matter what your design style may be, timeless materials like stone can be incorporated in many different applications to offer a cohesive designer feel.  For those who would like to explore their own outdoor living options, reach out to MasterPLAN Outdoor Living!  Serving the Poconos, Lehigh Valley through the Main Line of Philadelphia and western New Jersey, we would love to help you discover the true potential of your property, tailored to perfectly fit your family, home and lifestyle!  We believe that outdoor living is much more than patios, decks or swimming pools, they are the backdrop to your life’s story!  With honest communication, thoughtful design and skilled implementation, we will make sure that you and your family live your best lives outdoors!

Join Our Newsletter

Stay up to date with what is happening with MasterPLAN Outdoor Living.

Affiliates & Partners
Lehigh Valley Style
Lehigh Valley Business Association
Pennsylvania Builders Association
Qualified Remodelers
The Designer