By Jill Morgan
Good driveway ideas create a memorable first impression, so it's well worth investing time and money in getting them right. Crisp, weed-free paving, neatly planted borders and beautiful lighting can all work wonders, but there are other things to try too. From intricate block laid surfaces and drive-over planting combos to luxe gates, your driveway can easily be transformed to fit your individual style and complement the exterior of your home.
Of course, as with all landscaping ideas, driveway designs needs to be practical too. After all, nobody wants to deal with tricky car manoeuvres or wet, overhanging branches every day. There are safety considerations too, particularly if you live in an unlit rural area or are lucky enough to have a long, winding drive. We've rounded up the hottest ideas and the best industry tips out there, so you can put them into action and get the approach to your home looking its best.
Driveway ideas: 20 looks for your yard
You'll find plenty of inspiration in our selection of driveway ideas below, plus there are more stunning looks in our front garden ideas feature too.
1. Add an elegant pond
Say goodbye to boring driveways by adding in a pond. No matter its size, it will create a gorgeous focal point, adding a natural vibe amongst all the hard landscaping.
Bring in plenty of pond plants to enhance the look and introduce more greenery to the space. And how about a fountain too, for an extra dose of pizzazz? We love the curved design of this one above, which balances out the smart columns whilst tying in with the red-brick theme.
You can find more garden pond ideas in our guide.
2. Create an enchanting cottage-style entrance
Have you been busy introducing cottage garden ideas to your plot? That relaxed, whimsical look is always a winner – and your driveway can be designed to match.
Rather than hard paving, opt for textural pea gravel for a more informal feel. Then, line with billowing borders filled with a riot of colorful blooms, small trees, and textural foliage. An edge of large, weathered rocks will continue the organic vibe whilst subtly (yet effectively) keeping things in their place.
Bonus points if you train one of the best climbing plants up your home's exterior for that quintessential sense of charm.
3. Mix up the paving
There are all kinds of paving ideas that will add bags of style to a space. But, if you're looking for something that really draws the eye, then a design like this may well be the solution.
The irregular pattern is full of fun, whilst the hardy grass bordering each slab adds verdant color and enhances the naturalistic tone. Stained wooden garage doors complement the look well, and wall lights will always give a warm welcome when you return home after dark.
4. Surround with stone walls
With clever levelling and hardscaping, even the steepest of slopes can be transformed into a stable, chic, and simple-to-use driveway. This gorgeous modern home is a case in point.
It showcases rustic front garden wall ideas that safely border the drop to the left whilst retaining the mass of earth to the right. Plus, the material used beautifully complements the exterior of the home.
Plenty of ferns along the higher wall help the build to effortlessly blend into the woodland surroundings. We like the strip of planting by the front door too, which adds a refreshing contrast against the stone backdrop.
5. Get the paving color right
The secret to choosing paving that will perfectly complement your home is to pick a color or shade for your driveway that's already present in its exterior. Warm Cotswold stone, rich toned brickwork or, in this case, picking out the cool gray used for the window frames, can all inspire beautiful driveway schemes that will create a cohesive look and a stylish impression.
Different materials and the way they are laid will create a huge variety of effects, each lending their own charm and personality to your landscaping ideas for the front of your house. Stick to a single tone and simple arrangement – such as this dark gray block paving – for a crisp, contemporary look, or combine slightly different shade blocks or stone chippings for a gently mottled and more informal feel.
6. Lay permeable paving
As well as providing easy parking and access, driveways also need to allow rainwater to drain quickly and efficiently. Not just to keep homeowners and guests happy and dry, but also to avoid large amounts of rainwater running off on to surrounding roads and contributing to localized flooding.
In fact, since 2008 in the UK, it is essential that any front driveway or paved area larger than 5 sqm must be permeable or porous or you will require planning permission. As a result, most manufacturers offer a wide range of permeable paving products. Block products are usually shaped or laid to allow water to drain, while aggregates such as resin or gravel naturally let rain soak through.
7. Add chic rain garden features
If you want to go a step further when it comes to dealing with rainwater, then perhaps this set-up will inspire. As we become more aware of climate change, rain gardens are becoming increasingly popular features for our backyards. And there's good reason for it – they help to deal with flash floods, plus they filter out toxins from rainwater before it enters storm drains.
But the clever features involved aren't solely reserved for the back of the house. As this garden designed by Wendy Allen shows, you can work them into your driveway ideas, too. Firstly, this scene features a living roof – a great way to soak up rainwater. A series of chains and planters are then used to funnel water run-off down towards a permeable rain bed below, which is filled with eye-catching plants. Tracks keep the vehicle sturdily elevated above the foliage. The result is a showstopper of a space.
8. Replan your borders
Elevate a new or revamped driveway with our guide to garden borders. Just one or two well-planned, large planting areas are enough to soften hard paving and by introducing a tactile mix of foliage and flowers you can enjoy interest all year round.
The shape and size of the drive will dictate the shape and scale of each flowerbed, but try to go for sweeping shapes if you can. Factor in some movement within the planting to soften the overall impression too. By learning how to grow ornamental grasses, bamboo and tall, airy plants such as fennel, verbena bonariensis and delicate gaura, you'll have plants that will all sway in the breeze. If room allows add in a statement tree or two – the sense of scale will help add height and character and balance out meters of paving.
9. Vary block size for a rustic feel
Create a driveway full of character and rural charm by going for rounded, cobble-style blocks. Choose a single finish that comes in several sizes and create a gently undulating surface. Tightly packed together, the gaps between blocks will vary slightly, softening the effect of any grid-like joins.
Perfect for rural or older properties, the finished effect complements older brickwork and weathered garden gates and doorways.
10. Make a statement with grand gates
True, if you're looking for small front garden ideas, this probably won't be the solution for you. But if you're lucky enough to have a long driveway, it's a surefire way to make a grand entrance.
How you frame the entrance to the drive can speak volumes about the property beyond. Simple brickwork pillars and a sturdy gate – from handcrafted timber or decorative ironwork – is a practical combo that will provide a warm welcome and security too.
The design and finish of the gate and pillars can ooze personality, so have fun and consider what's best for you. Play with intricate shapes, unexpected colors or contrast striking materials to create stunning effects, or if you fancy something a little grander, how about adding some elegant piers and finials for a statement look?
11. Up your security levels
Security and garden privacy ideas are top of most houseowner's lists, particularly if you live in a larger property or a rural location. Your choice of garden gate can play a big part in how your home is perceived and can provide peace of mind for those inside too.
Solid panel designs offer ultimate privacy but, if you choose wisely, can also look super smart too. Plain or decorative panels are usually set in lightweight but durable aluminium frames so they are still robust but also light enough to move easily either manually or automatically. Choose from swing or slide openings depending on the space available.
12. Plant amongst the paving
A paved and practical driveway doesn't mean that it has to be boring. Leaving pockets for low-growing plants is a great way to soften the overall look, add some color and interest and attract insects and wildlife too. In fact, it's something the Royal Horticultural Society has been encouraging homeowners to do for the last decade or so.
Choosing the right plants is key to making it work though and there are a few star varieties that are well worth a try, particularly in a sun-baked position. Thyme, sedum and New Zealand burr all form dense, compact, flowering mats that will handle being crushed occasionally and re-root easily in gravel. For bolder blooms try Californian poppies, miniature cranesbill and dreamy but tough forget-me-nots.
- Looking for more wildlife garden ideas? You'll find plenty in our feature.
13. Light the way
Guide friends and family safely by adding practical outdoor lighting ideas to your driveway. Not only will it create a warm and reassuring welcome but will also help your guests avoid any unfortunate surprises en route.
There are many different lighting options on offer, including flush-fitting paving lights that are tough enough to be driven over, but we particularly love the pools of light cast by downlighters. Alternatively, look for wall-mounted designs that can be neatly recessed – perfect for low or vast retaining garden wall ideas. Or, try elegant post lights dotted along the drive like the ones shown above.
14. Design decorative borders
Personalize the driveway space outside your front door with decorative borders and contrasting materials. Create interlocking shapes, outline key areas or simply guide guests to the front door with narrow bands of standout paving for your garden path ideas.
Setts – square or rectangular – raised kerb stones or even moulded relief tiles can all work beautifully alongside large paving slabs. Besides varying the color, combine different textures too. Be aware though that the more complex the design, the higher the installation costs.
15. Go for the perfect kerb
Kerbstones are the ideal way to edge any driveway. A raised line that flows around the paving not only looks neat and super chic but is also great for protecting borders and lawns from being flattened by straying wheels.
Go for a design that coordinates with the main paving material and think about the different profiles available. Angular, squared-off designs look super contemporary while bullnose or angled splayed shapes give a much softer look. Kerbs are also a great way to keep gravel contained and from spreading.
There are lots more garden edging ideas in our dedicated feature.
16. Consider no-fuss gravel
There's something reassuring about the crunch of gravel underfoot but while it looks great – particularly outside period properties like this gorgeous house – it can be seen as a high-maintenance choice.
Thankfully, the days of gravel and stone chippings being walked into the house are over, due to clever interlocking pocket systems that hold the stones in place. Pretty inexpensive to install, they are strong enough to be driven over, help prevent the shingle from compressing and don't require painstaking levelling before being laid. There are various configurations available, designed to withstand different loads and the plastic also comes in a range of colors to suit your choice of aggregate. When it comes to choosing the stones go for a larger size – between 0.5–0.8in (14mm to 20mm) – as they are hardwearing and too large to be popular with cats, dogs and foxes that love to dig.
Want more ways to create a garden that's easy to look after? Our low-maintenance garden ideas feature has lots of inspiration.
17. Install a combination gate
If your front gate is a long way from your property or you want more control over who comes and goes, then opt for a combination gate. Made up of a large double gate with a smaller side gate, you can grant access to pedestrians while restricting larger vehicles or vice versa.
These products tend to be bespoke and can be fitted with remote and automated opening systems.
18. Pop in a focal point
Make an expansive, empty space more inviting by introducing a focal point to your driveway ideas. Planters are perfect for this – go big for a fuss-free look and maximum impact. Choose from a host of different shapes, materials, styles and colors to reflect your home's character and your sense of style.
Cube and rectangular containers in galvanized steel, powder-coated aluminium and rusty Corten steel instantly add a crisp, contemporary vibe that works perfectly for modern gardens. Tactile terracotta and French-style wooden planters offer a more traditional and modern-country feel.
Be bold when it comes to choosing plants, but pick something that is size appropriate if you're short on space. If you like the idea of including trees in your design, as pictured above, our guide to the best trees to grow in pots will come in handy.
19. Try a grass protector
Fancy looking out on to a sea of lush grass rather than hard paving? Well, you can – thanks to the latest grow-through driveway products.
Designed for occasional rather than everyday use, these ground-strengthening systems can be easily fitted over a vast area. Consisting of a rigid plastic mesh with large pockets, it is laid on to a well-prepared, free-draining surface before being filled with compost and hardwearing grass seed.
The secret to these systems lays in meticulous preparation and timing the project to fall within either spring or early autumn, as this will allow the grass to germinate and have time to establish.
20. Trim back shrubs and trees
Show off your driveway and keep the way clear by cutting back any overhanging branches. Not only will it avoid vehicles suffering scratches and damaging trees and shrubs, but it will also prevent soggy leaves from falling on to the paving and, if left for a long time, from staining the surface.
Use a pair of the best loppers or a sharp wood saw to remove woody growth and cut at a slight downward angle to help prevent infection or from rain pooling. Our guide to pruning shrubs has more advice.
What is the cheapest type of driveway?
'Factoring in the costs of materials and labor, gravel is usually the cheapest type of driveway,' says Lee Dunderdale, Product Manager at Bradstone. 'However, it doesn't necessarily have the best kerb appeal for your home.
'Block paving comes in more expensive than gravel but is cheaper than the likes of resin and setts – whilst still providing great frontage to your house, with various options of color and style.'
Another option is to go for poured concrete. It tends to be less expensive than pavers and is incredibly durable, however it's fuss-free appearance is not for everyone.
You can find more cheap garden ideas in our guide to help you make your budget go further.
What should you consider when planning your driveway?
'You need to consider both functionality and style when planning your driveway,' advises Lee Dunderdale, Product Manager at Bradstone.
'First, check whether planning permission is required. If your new drive is more than 5m2 and doesn't include a permeable surface or an area for surface water to run off and soak away, you'll need to get planning permission first,' (at least in the UK). A permeable block paving solution makes good sense if surface water is a concern, Lee explains. 'When rainfall hits your drive, it simply drains away between the blocks and prevents water collecting on the surface.'
'Once you've ticked the functionality box, it's time to look at the style of your driveway,' Lee continues. As our selection of driveway ideas above demonstrate, there is a wide range of colors and finishes to choose from, so you can make your space one that's truly personal to you. 'Due to the vast array of finishes available, it's easy to find a design that adheres to your vision, complements the existing architecture of your home, and fits within your budget,' Lee says.
'You will also need to seek out a landscaper to bring your dream driveway to life,' he adds. When it comes to block paving, it’s always best to bring in a professional landscaper, who will ensure a high standard and create kerb appeal.' Wondering how much to budget? Our guide on how much does landscaping cost has lots of useful info.
Jill puts her love of plants and all things garden related down to the hours spent pottering around with her Nan and Grandad when she was little. There was never a moment at their house when they weren’t weeding, pruning, planting or harvesting cucumbers or dahlias from the lean-to greenhouse. Her Grandad’s shed was a place of wonder, and she can still recall the musky smell. Today she is lucky enough to have a garden of her own in Surrey and spends much of her time writing about them too. A typical long-thin town garden it features favourite flowers along with the odd veg plant and the usual assortment of toys, bikes and… oh a couple of guinea pigs too.
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