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Need inspiration for your front yard? Paving stones are perfect for a driveway

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Time to freshen up your front yard? Does your house deserve a driveway that’s just a bit special? Read the architect’s top tips – and get inspiration straight from her own private project.

When Marte Aksnes bought a new semi-detached house in Asker, it came with a challenge. How could she use the outdoor area better – and also make sure the house and driveway blended in with the surroundings? The solution included slate.

Rustic and stylish

Marte Aksnes, an experienced architect, had given upon on the garden when she moved into the vertically split semi-detached house. The new house was large, but was built on steep ground and needed some outdoor storage/a tool-shed.

– The house is on a hillside that was blasted out in the 1980s and we wanted the new extension to take up as little space as possible. We also really needed space for outdoor storage and to redesign the driveway area.

A floor plan of the driveway with stepping stones laid in a pattern. A natural stone staircase with slate steps goes up to a terrace.

The first thing they did was build the storage room into the hillside on three sides. The surrounding area was rugged, but quite attractive, with moss, visible rock and wild vegetation. These were elements they wanted to retain.

– The question was how to make this work with the filled-in area round the storage shed. The old driveway was laid with gravel, but that was an annoyance, partly because it spread out into the road. So the question was how ‘solid’ we wanted to make it?

Retain the original

They considered a number of solutions for the new front yard. The only thing they knew was that it had to be greener – and that it shouldn’t be asphalt. One alternative they considered was reinforced grass.

– It looks nice and is good in terms of drainage, but is difficult to achieve. What often happens is that, as the sun heats the concrete, the grass withers. So, we discounted that and went back to the gravel idea.

A footpath of stepping stones in natural stone. The Oppdal quartzite slate is laid in a pattern with gravel between the slabs.
A close-up of a staircase of natural stone with lush planting on the side. The steps are solid slate in Oppdal quartzite from Norway.

In addition, they wanted access to the terrace, situated up against the new storage shed. That meant some kind of steps which, as far as possible, should fit into the natural environment. It therefore definitely couldn’t be Chinese granite, as the colour wouldn’t fit the property’s.

– We also considered cast, sharp-edged concrete as a contrast to the natural elements. This can often be cool, but here there wasn’t much real nature left, Marte Aksnes explains.

As much nature as possible

But then they found the solution. Inspired by Japanese gardens, they decided to use stepping stones for a gradual transition between gravel and grass in the entrance area. Their choice of material was Norwegian natural stone, , specifically Light Oppdal quartzite slate, which resulted in a very special pattern.

A footpath of stepping stones in atural stone. The  Oppdal quartzite slate slabs are laid in a pattern with gravel in between.

– We didn’t want sharp transitions by the house or out towards the road, so we lay slate paving stones so they ‘hop‘ backwards and forwards with broken edges. This looks more natural and can ‘knit’ the driveway together in a more stylish way, she explains.

They also chose to use solid Oppdal quartzite slate for the steps and had them all cut in the right dimensions.

– It was not only quicker than casting concrete, it also looks lovely. In a paved yard, it’s important to retain as much of nature’s imprint as possible and nothing is more perfect for this than natural local slate.

A staircase of massive natural steps in Oppdal quartzite slate with beautiful planting on the sides

Think simpler

They’re really pleased with the result and many visitors have also given the thumbs up. The family don’t usually park on the paving, but the five-centimetre thick stones can easily bear the weight of a car.

– If you don’t want to pave the whole driveway, you can always consider just using slate in the for the driving track, she says, adding a tip to anyone thinking of designing a new drive.

– Look back at how simply it was done in the past. Think about the environment, the underlay’s ability to absorb water and think simpler. Choose five really nice paving stones that you actually walk on!

– We chose solid Oppdal quartzite slate for the steps and had them ‘tailormade’ in the right dimensions. It was not only quicker than casting concrete, it also looks lovely. In a paved yard, it’s important to retain as much of nature’s imprint as possible and nothing is more perfect for this than natural local slate.

Marthe Hanestad Aksnes
Architect, Dyrø og Moen AS Arkitekter MNAL

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