Remarkably versatile, plank paving deserves its special place in garden design. Find out how to make the most of its space-manipulating capabilities.

Beige sandstone plank paving laid in wide path with gravel in fenced garden with dry planting
The Beige Sawn Sandstone linear paving, with its staggered outline, interrupted by planting, encourages the visitor to slow down, while making the space feel wider. Design by GDRN.

Directional laying

Lines are important. In garden design they lead the eye, gently signalling where to look and where to wander. Plank paving, whether as porcelain planks or natural stone, has a strongly linear outline and subtly manipulates space and energy.  It is, therefore, a very useful addition to your paving design options.

Create space

The long, thin shape of plank paving is a clever way to disguise proportions. Laid across a space, it emphasises width; laid parallel to the length of an area, it underlines depth. Playing with direction can help disguise a long, narrow space, or lengthen a short one to give the illusion of greater space. 

Dark grey granite planks point to shed with terracotta pots, with wide gravel joints.
Dark Grey Granite plank paving is given wide gravel joints which reduces the rush of energy towards the shed, while still leading the eye on Pithoi and Pots 5-star award-winning trade stand, designed by The Outdoor Room for RHS Chelsea 2022.

Create energy flow

Choosing how to lay plank paving is important to the feel of the space. Positioned so that planks point directly towards a feature, it hurries your attention, speeding you towards the goal.

This flow can be tempered by the interruption of wide joints. More than any other shape, plank paving slabs are paired with matching or contrasting gravel. The contrast in the material's size and texture makes a real feature of the linear paving.

Black granite planks set into grass, leading to paved area in large garden. Design by Emelie Bausager.
Black Granite plank paving creates a staggered path, making an interesting edge to the adjacent bed and lawn, and encouraging a meandering progress. Designed by Emelie Bausager and built by Natural Spaces.

Slow it down

But what if you'd like a more leisurely feel? Laying paving planks across the path is the answer. The narrow format creates parallel joint lines that are closer together - this encourages you to walk more slowly. At the same time, those lines draw the eye to the plants and features on either side of the path. Persuading people to dwell on detail is a designer trick to creating a space that takes longer to take in, and therefore feels larger. 

For an even stronger effect, stagger the planks, as in the picture above. This creates interesting patterns along the edge of the path to draw the attention. In this way, a smaller space can be made to feel bigger as it encourages you to dwell on small details.

Dog sits on large patio of Ash Beige slabs and Platinum Grey porcelain planks
The double lines of Platinum Grey porcelain planks add proportion to this large Ash Beige porcelain patio and slow the eye's progress to the fence. Design by S Smith Landscapes, Kent.

Add proportion 

Planks offer way to break up larger areas of paving. Decorative banding, where planks are laid in stripes, can help add proportion to an area, so that it feels more intimate. And, again, banding will distract the eye as it takes in the space. Using linear plank paving is a very contemporary way to do this. Of course, straight lines are the only option here. Consider porcelain setts for curved designs.

Light Grey and Steel Grey porcelain planks edge paved areas, linked by staggered path.
Light Grey and Steel Grey porcelain planks provide link the two paved areas with framing detail, in this design by JA Dodds Landscapes.


Plank paving slabs are perfect for framing. Whether you have patio, graveled area or lawn, it's ideal for adding a clear edge, anchoring it within the design. It's also a great way to introduce contrasting colour and texture. In the case of a lawn, for example, the smooth, light colouring of Beige Sandstone plank paving contrasts with the grass, while also providing a useful mowing strip.

If you use a contrasting colour to edge a step, it’s not just decorative but a useful safety feature, subtly using a design feature to draw attention to the level change.

Playing with shape

Plank paving, because of its narrow width and length, allows you to play with shape in a completely different way from more conventional sizes of paving slab. By the edge of planted beds, stagger slabs to create an interesting geometrical outline in contrast to softer planting.

4 Steel grey porcelain planks meet with mitred joints, separating 4 areas of gravel, lawn and paving.
The mitred joints of these Steel Grey porcelain plank paving creates design detail, while the different surfaces are anchored in position by the planks' contrasting frame in this design by Aspen Landscape Design and Build, Glasgow.

Frame different areas of contrasting materials and mitre the corners for a crisp finish. Or create a relaxed feel with small planting pockets that won’t get in the way but provide a softer feel to a pathway.

Plank paving is also a great way to blend paving with plants in a way that creates a natural-feeling mix of the two. Check out Rae Wilkinson's 2015 show garden for a great example.

For more inspiration

Linear paving is not the only option for creating a completely different feel. You might also like to think about where and how to use paving setts

However, paving planks are, without doubt, an ideal way to change-up your paving scheme, moving away from the standard formats to a completely different feel. Find more pictures to inspire your design on our porcelain planks pages, as well as sandstone and granite plank paving pages.


Post updated: November 2022