Driveways aren't exactly known for their good looks. Given their purpose, which is literally just getting your car off the street, it can seem like there's not much you can do to make them pretty. But since they're often at the front of the house, it's definitely worth thinking about driveway design ideas that'll be both practical and beautiful. From long country drives to street-view city garages, these landscape and driveway design ideas will steer you in the right direction to drive up your curb appeal (sorry, we had to). Read on to learn about border foliage ideas, pattern designs, garage door styles, subsurface functionality, and alternative top layer materials.
The Style Guide: Concrete driveways love oil stains, so if you host a lot and love the look of green gardens, make your drive up entry look like a valet-ready country club with permeable stone pavers. This beautiful driveway by Hollander Design is all the convincing we need.
The Practical Need-to-Know: Permeable stone pavers are a drivable surface with stormwater drainage and, best of all, grassy green good looks. Because they're great for drainage, think about putting them wherever water tends to collect.
The Style Guide: Mark D. Sikes designed the custom gate to the driveway of his 1920s West Hollywood house. We love the look of the ivy crawling up the column bordering the iron-wrought gate, which adds to the charm of the brick paver driveway.
The Practical Need-to-Know: Brick driveway pavers are a great option for a more traditional, romantic, and lived-in look. They're more stain-resistant than concrete is and also more abrasive, which makes them less slippery. But you want to make sure you choose brick pavers instead of traditional clay bricks, which can't handle as much weight. There are also specific codes depending on your region's environmental challenges (looking at you, earthquakes).
The Style Guide: We're digging the geometric design of these permeable concrete pavers in front of a home designed by Studio Lifestyle. The seamless transition from the driveway to the walkway also creates such a nice cohesive facade, while those awnings also soften the front of the house.
The Practical Need-to-Know: Meet permeable pavers's cousin: Grass-jointed pavers. These are also great at preventing flood damage, as they allow rainwater to infiltrate the ground. "Within driveways, we often use block pavers with a significant material thickness. The added thickness is essential for areas trafficked by cars and trucks. These blocks can be made of granite Belgian block cobbles or a prefabricated concrete aggregate block," explains landscape designer Douglas Clark.
The Style Guide: These multi-hued stone tiles reflect the charming exterior of this classic home, from the shutters to the carport. Then add greenery in the surrounding area for an overall quaint, charming, and classic aesthetic.
The Practical Need-to-Know: We get it... Permeable pavers can be a big commitment. But if you know you want something a little more natural-looking than concrete and a little less difficult to manage than gravel, consider laying stone tiles. Cobblestone is actually more durable than both concrete and brick pavers.
The Style Guide: In this country home designed by Hollander Designs, the gravel ground is broken up by a strip of greenery. Though simple, it brings the driveway to life.
The Practical Need-to-Know: A center grass strip accommodates a little garden or small amount of grass. Instead of sprinkling on grass seeds, Ed Hollander suggests planting cut-to-fit sod in the strip between the gravel: “Sod will establish more quickly and prevent any weeds from taking root,” he explains.
The Style Guide: In a street level city home, the driveway takes up a major portion of the narrow lot, and thus, has a big role in the perception of your house. But instead of trying to make it disappear, you can make it pop even more for a drivable garden. The modern frosted glass garage door pattern really draws the eye in, thanks to the gorgeous drivable garden.
The Practical Need-to-Know: In this home, Bay Area designer Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens combined succulents and herbs for this low-to-the-ground garden tucked into a permeable-paver driveway. The trick to making it work? It can't grow too tall, especially in a high-traffic zone where cars run over it consistently.
The Style Guide: There's no shame in a classic concrete driveway. In fact, concrete can be the perfect fit for a modern home, like this one designed by Robson Rak. If you have an automatic garage door, which most modern homes do, opt of hardware for clean, sleek exterior. It completely complements the style of the home, blending in nicely rather than dominating the view.
The Practical Need-to-Know: You can use concrete pavers or pour concrete, which will be different in both form and function. Pavers won't require a curing period, they have more traction, it has super high PSI, meaning it can withstand a ton of pressure (that's one of the reasons it's so common). The key to keeping it from looking dirty is maintenance and diligence (though tree roots and other natural causes can create cracks).
The Style Guide: Take inspiration from back country roads when looking for ways to design a long driveway. There's really no better place to look. Case in point? This tunnel of trees in Point Reyes, California. It leads you right up to the building in the distance and the canopy effect makes you feel like you're traveling to another fairytale dimension, not just your average house.
The Practical Need-to-Know: Asphalt is another durable material for your driveway, and disguised with the right landscaping design, can be quite beautiful. It's super low-cost to maintain, can carry a ton of weight, and is quick and easy to install.
The Style Guide: Match the color of your driveway with the roof or window trimmings for a consistent yet interesting look. Detached garages can be super charming, like this one designed by John Wooden—thanks to the stucco shingled A-frame, manual hatch doos, and lantern light.
The Practical Need-to-Know: Loose materials like gravel and paving stones are the most cost-effective options and they have a charming, rustic sensibility. They're also pretty easy to maintain, you'll just need to make sure the subsurface is optimized for drainage, you'll wan to sweep regularly to keep the gravel from cluttering bordering greenery.
The Style Guide: Customize a permeable grass paver in a curvilinear drive for a grand entrance, as done in this Southern California home designed by Studio Lifestyle. It frames the drive nicely but it's not so delicate that it can't withstand cars when you host large parties and need extra parking.
The Practical Need-to-Know: When using permeable grass pavers in a driveway, Hollander also says "you have to use them in areas that don’t get a huge amount of automated traffic, like occasional country drives, as the turning of tires will tear out grass and you can end up with mud rather than grass in the joints."
The Style Guide: Planters will create a nice symmetry and also add a touch of greenery to the driveway without taking up a ton of space. Installing pretty sconces will also contribute to that calming sense of symmetry (also good for safety reasons).
The Practical Need-to-Know: It's well advised to add a channel drain in front of your driveway to prevent flooding. This is especially true if you're not building yours with permeable pavers.
The Style Guide: How pretty is this blush pink painted garage door? Draped by a canopy of bougainvillea, the street-front driveway is instantly beautified. Take advantage of your vertical space when there's not much you can do about the material used in front of your garage. Although, if you look closely, you can see the row of terracotta tiles adding a touch of style and personality.
The Practical Need-to-Know: There are quite a few variations in municipal regulations for curbside redesign, so you'll definitely need to look into details before getting your heart set on any one style in particular.
The Style Guide: Having grass-jointed pavers can be great for flood prevention, and they're also environmentally friendly. We love how this grass-jointed pavement situation is bordered by low hedges to separate the driveway from the walkway and entrance area. It's also a subtle but transformative difference when you lay stone slabs instead of cement ones (like the aforementioned grass-jointed paver example).
The Practical Need-to-Know: With the same practical value as the grass-jointed pavers, "pervious pavement allows stormwater to infiltrate the ground, rather than sheeting off your property, and carrying away any pollutants and debris it encounters along with it," Clark tells us. Just make sure you work with a professional installer to set up proper drainage for optimal results.