By Jill Morgan
The right driveway ideas create a memorable first impression of any home – so it’s well worth investing time and money in getting them right. Crisp, weed-free paving, neatly planted borders and beautiful lighting are all something we long for and thankfully, with some of the latest products and simple style ideas, they can become a reality. From intricate block laid surfaces, chic post lights to drive-over planting combos, you are sure to be inspired.
Of course, just as with garden design ideas, the approach to our driveway design 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 the best it can.
You'll find plenty of ideas in our selection of the latest looks for your driveway below, plus there's more inspiration on how to create a great first impression in our front garden ideas feature too.
1. Get the paving colour right
The secret to choosing paving that will perfectly complement your home is to pick a colour 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 grey 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. Stick to a single tone and simple arrangement – such as this dark grey block paving – for a crisp, contemporary look, or combine slightly different shade blocks or stone chippings for a gently mottled and more informal feel.
2. Replan your borders
Showcase 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 ideas 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 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 metres of paving.
3. Vary block size for a rustic feel
Create a driveway full of character and rural charm by going for rounded, cobble-style blocks that would work well alongside cottage garden ideas. 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 perfectly complements older brickwork and weathered garden gate ideas and doorways.
4. Make an entrance
Lucky enough to have a long driveway? 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 too, so have fun and consider what’s best for you. Play with intricate shapes, unexpected colours or contrast striking materials to create stunning effects, or if you fancy something a little grander, how about adding some elegant piers and finals for a statement look?
5. Choose the perfect gate
Security and garden privacy ideas are top of most houseowner’s lists, particularly if you live in larger property or a rural location. Your choice of garden gate ideas can play a large 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.
6. 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 colour 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 a 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.
7. 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 localised 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.
8. Light the way
Guide friends and family safely by adding practical garden lighting ideas to your driveway. Not only will it create a warm and reassuring welcome but will help them avoid any unfortunate surprises en route too. There 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. 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.
9. 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, 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. Head over to our guide to pruning shrubs and trees for more advice.
10. Design decorative borders
Personalise 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 colour, combine different textures too. Be aware though that the more complex the design, the higher the installation costs.
11. 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 great for protecting borders and lawns from being flattened by straying wheels. Go for a design that co-ordinates 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.
12. 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 holds the stones in place. Pretty inexpensive to install, they are strong enough to be driven over, help prevent the shingle from compressing and does not 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 colours to suit your choice of aggregate. When it comes to choosing the stones go for a larger size – between 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? Head over to our low-maintenance garden ideas feature for inspiration.
13. 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.
14. Pop in a focal point
Make an expansive, empty driveway more inviting by introducing a focal point. Planters are perfect for this but do go big for a fuss-free look and maximum impact. Choose from a host of different shapes, materials, styles and colours to reflect your home’s character and your sense of style.
Cube and rectangular containers in galvanised steel, powder-coated aluminium and rusty corten steel instantly add a crisp, contemporary vibe that works perfectly for modern garden ideas. 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, picking one of the best trees for small gardens is a sensible option so that it won't end up taking over your space.
15. 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 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.
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