My neighbors, Hetty and Brian, live in a classic little Sears-style bungalow dating from the 1920's. They are models of sustainable living having, among other things, converted unused driveway space into a south-facing sustenance garden, driving a car that runs on vegetable oil, and heating their home with a corn stove.
Hetty and Brian have wanted a new walkway to their home for several years now. After removing the old, crumbling walk, they repaired their front porch and stairs setting the stage for a new procession into their home. The task, now, was to create a pleasing new walkway into their home.
Materials: They decided the new walk would be made of hand-made brick salvaged from various parts of their property. After considering several options, we came up the final scheme shown here based on criteria generated from the site itself.
Path: Proceeding from the sidewalk toward the home, one sees that the walk is a simple, straight, 4' wide pathway that widens slightly to meet the full width of the base of the stairs that lead to the front porch. Walks like this are very common, but often poorly detailed or ill-considered. To prevent that here, we relied upon other successful patterns found elsewhere in our area.
Edge: The edge of any walkway needs a border for proper definition. Here we decided that laying bricks as sailors around the perimeter made the most pleasing pattern, and also created an interior field width that would work well with several options of field patterns yielding us some built-in flexibility.
Interior field: We deliberated and mocked-up herringbone, stacked bond, running bond, and basket weave patterns for the interior field. Leaning toward the herringbone pattern, we set those aside for contemplation and consideration, then turned our attention to the landing area at the base of the stairs.
Transition: The landing area is, essentially, a transition space. Here, the walk changes shape as a response to requirements presented by the stairs and the change in width. Other similar situations could involve a change in direction or elevation, but for design purposes consider that the basic design problem remains the same; that is, one of transition. Here, we tried various options that included simply running the edge pattern along the perimeter as we had done in the main approach and a couple other scenarios. We rejected all of them because they created odd cuts and geometric shapes that didn't resolve well. Taking a step back and studying the geometry of the landing space and the main walk, we considered what we would do if the walk did change direction or elevation. Only then did it become obvious that a semi-circular sailor arch would maintain the same edge pattern rules we had already implemented, and also create a desireable boundary between the landing and the main approach; this became the transition.
Terminus: Within the area formed by the arch, we realized that the herringbone pattern didn't work well - it was too much cutting, and would leave us with funky or small brick pieces that would not feel right. After trying the herringbone, running bond, stacked bond, and beasket weave patterns again, we decided that a running bond pattern laid parallel with the stair direction filled the landing field well, was pleasing, and could be made with efficient cuts. Furthermore, it defined the landing space as being different from the approach and complemented the semicircular sailor arch.
The result is that the new walkway has a natural appeal that is very satisfying and pleasing. When completed, it will look as if it were always there - built originally with the home itself. This type of reflection is often a good final test. While it seems a subjective matter, I think it's much more than that. The reality, of course, is that the design was firmly rooted in a natural selection of materials, well-established local patterns, considered response to existing elements, and sound, fundamental implementation of simple decisions. These, in my opinion, were objective decisions leading to a final design solution.
You, too, can plan your walkway by considering and modifying the criteria above while taking into consideration your unique site and circumstances. There are many good resources and patterns for almost every material - check with your local stone and masonry supplier for available materials and study your neighborhood or favorite garden, conservatory, or musuem for patterns that could be applied to your home. Good luck!