With the right driveway ideas even any home can be improved — not only visually, but on a practical level too. For this reason, it is really important to ensure you have chosen the right material for your driveway — some will be more suitable for certain locations and house styles than others.
One of the golden rules when it comes to how to create kerb appeal is to ensure that the driveway looks smart and fulfils the needs of the property. Whether you're planning a new driveway for a self build – where planning permission frequently requires off-road parking – or updating an existing one, keep in mind that dedicating time and effort to creating a visually-appealing and practical approach to your home will more than pay off as it is used day-to-day.
While driveways can most certainly make or break a good first impression of a home, don't neglect to think through security, Building Regulations and landscaping considerations during the design stage.
Get started by taking look at our selection of brilliant real-home examples and take time to read over some amazing expert advice.
How do I ensure my driveway ideas work practically?
It is all well and good making sure your driveway looks the part, but this is an element of your home that has a primarily practical role.
"Keeping your vehicles off the roadside is perhaps the most literal way to boost kerb appeal, but the driveway tends to be a crucial element of the approach to a house, so you should pay attention to the role it can play in its own right," says Associate Editor and experienced renovator, Natasha Brinsmead.
Modern cars are much wider than they used to be so take this into account when redesigning an existing outdoor space or creating a new one. Allow plenty of room in your driveway design — including space to open car doors on both sides.
Also create an easy route for cars to exit. For homes on quiet roads, reversing straight back on a single line driveway is simple enough, when it comes to main roads a T shape (providing room for the three point turn) or a U shape could serve the household best.
1. Break up a driveway with green space
Huge expanses of paving or gravel can seem a little lack in character which is why, when dealing with a larger driveway, it can be a better idea to use several different materials in combination — and to include some green space too.
"If cars are to be parked on the garden then it’s not game over for living plants," says award-winning landscape designer, Paul Hervey-Brookes. "If possible, don’t be tempted to block pave over the entire front garden — plenty of plants will live with parking, so modern drives can combine parking and green functions."
Here, the driveway has been split into two distinct elements, one for parking and another area to provide visual appeal.
2. Create a clear path from driveway to door
Try not to obstruct the approach for foot-traffic to your home by having your driveway right outside your front door, but positioned to one side of the entryway so there is room for a car door to be opened. This will ensure the home's first impression is unimpeded while still remaining practical.
Equally, if your driveway is situated down the side of the house or a small distance away, as in the example above by Hall and Bednarczyk Architects, ensure a distinct path towards the entryway is clear for first-time visitors and is accessible when residents are burdened with shopping bags and other belongings.
Ingeniously, the architects designed their front garden ideas to have two pathways: one, with delicate stepping stones towards the striking front door for guests and another, shorter access point using the same gravel as the driveway, towards the side entrance.
3. Deal with drainage with a permeable driveway
“Over recent years of climate change we have seen increased flooding," begins Mick Haley of The Gentleman Architect. "Government legislation introduced in 2008 aims to minimise any additional load on the existing sewerage drainage systems already in place.”
The key regulations you need comply with are laid out in SuDS (Sustainable Drainage Systems 2008), but in short, planning permission for driveways is required if any non-porous hard surface covers more than 5m2 between the front of a house and the highway. If a porous or permeable material is used (such as block pavers, as above) planning consent is not required.
If you're set on using a non-permeable surface, you will require adequate drainage, such as incorporating a drain outlet to a soakaway.
“A soakaway is essentially a large underground pit filled with gravel that allows for better drainage. However, it must be positioned well away from the foundations ideally 5m from the house itself and 2.5m from the boundary,” concludes Mick Haley.
4. Up your security levels with a gravel driveway
Security is an essential part of home design and a well-planned driveway certainly plays its part in this. Noisy materials like gravel or tumbled stone are useful in alerting residents of unwanted guests, while outdoor wall lights with sensors are great for deterring intruders from afar.
Gravel is also a cost-effective material, meaning it can aid with keeping your budget down when considering driveway costs.
Here, traditionally-styled automatic gates ensures a safe perimeter arounds the property, while enhancing the aesthetics of the long, sweeping approach to the house.
5. Consider your drive alongside your landscape design
Combining driveway and front garden ideas is a sure-fire way to achieve a well-considered and elegant finish, as well as keeping bio-diversity at the forefront of home design.
As drives are not known for their glamour, elevate the surrounding areas with planted beds, an impressive transition pathway towards the front door, or grasses. This will add a different dimension to the outdoor approach and prevent the design being dull or one-note.
This subterranean extended home in the countryside beautifully blends the yellow hues of the large resin-bound driveway into the pathway's Cotswolds stone edging which lines the carefully curated beds to the right.
6. Try to integrate your driveway with its surroundings
“In most cases the driveway is the entrance to your home so it’s nice to be able to do what you can to brighten them up a bit," explains Chris Bonnett founder of Gardening Express.
The best driveway materials will be available in a range of colour palettes so you can customise your approach to the house style and materials.
“Driveways are often pretty dull so it’s always nice to add some garden borders and this can be done no matter the size of your driveway," Chris continues. "Of course what you incorporate into these will depend on the space you have. Try not to make it too overcrowded, space everything out and go for airy plants like the Verbena Bonariensis.
“If you feel like boarders aren’t an option, planters near the house look smart too — go for minimalist topiary plants like swanky Buxus Pyramids or Lollipop Bay trees in sleek modern plants or perhaps a floral fantasia of colourful bedding plants.”
7. Ensure your drive gives access to the garage
These days, garages are seldom used to store cars due to modern vehicles' ever-expanding sizes but we all know the frustration of a car parked directly in front of a garage door when you want to open it.
If your car will be situated al fresco and your garage design is to maximise storage, try to reduce awkward manoeuvres by ensuring a decent radius in your driveway that doesn't block access.
Further, it was recently announced that from 2022 all new dwellings are legally required to be capable of charging an electric car at home, and even in renovations and extension projects the growing popularity of electric vehicles might change the way we utilise garages and driveways altogether.
Take potential changing infrastructure into consideration before installing a new driveway as new wiring may have to be channelled underground to the chosen charging point or garage.
8. Give a nod to the form of your home
For your driveway to sit well alongside the style of your house and to actively enhance its features and architectural form, you need to consider the two together. Sometimes this can mean using driveway materials that mirror those used to clad your home, while on other occasions it can work better to ensure that the shape of the drive reflects that of the property it fronts.
Here, the same very contemporary, crisp lines of the house have been used within the driveway design to ensure that the whole look is one that is minimalist and fuss free.
9. Keep it low-maintenance with a resin driveway
The resin bound driveway of this self build beautifully complements the sleek, traditional appearance of the home.
A benefit of this material is a fast installation time, which is useful when dealing with a large area, such as this one which also functions as parking for the homeowners business which is run from the top floor of the garage.
10. Keep a small driveway looking pretty
Take care not to let the driveway become the only feature in front of a home and ruin kerb appeal. While it is tempting where space is limited to pave over the entire front area to make way for more cars, allowing greenery to establish itself, especially in a city environment, is a responsibility we all must consider.
“The front of your house should be treated just as thoughtfully as the rest. Consider planting to soften the space and give you some privacy. Mix your materials so the space is more interesting and think about storage for the mundane everyday things like bins, which are space hungry and generally quite ugly," says Odie Green of Odie Green Garden Design.
This subterranean self build was built on the site of a former garage and neatly divides the compact front garden into two. The gently sloping driveway smartly complements the grey cladding of the house, while a manicured front lawn sits proudly to the side.
11. Add statement gates to a driveway entrance
The first interaction a visitor has with your property makes a large impact, so ensuring driveway gates are well-considered and functional is essential.
You will need to evaluate if foot traffic will exit the same way as vehicles and requires a separate gate, if investing in opening automation is worthwhile, and how the gates will influence the home's exterior appearance (ie. will solid timber contrast with a classic brick or is a picket-style gate a more fitting choice?).
This traditional sweeping driveway also features a rumble strip after the steel-gated entrance so when cars exit any rogue gravel or stones drop off and can be swept back to the drive. The overall entrance design is undeniably sophisticated despite all elements being very cost-effective.
12. Illuminate any dark spots with driveway lighting
Lighting up an outdoor area like a driveway is paramount for security, safety and, of course, aesthetic reasons.
Consider installing garden solar lights with motion sensors so they will illuminate your homecoming and create a welcome to visitors. LED strip lighting is also invaluable driveway lighting idea to prevent rogue tire marks on lawns from guests unfamiliar with the layout.
If you're undergoing new driveway as part of a larger renovation or extension project, try to factor this in when talking with your electrician from the start of your lighting design. It will be quicker and simpler to provide an overall quote and plan the requirements for the entire circuit accordingly.
13. Reflect cladding materials in your driveway design
Great entrance design ideas are all about ensuring the house and driveway work in harmony together.
"One of the most important aspects of driveway design will be materials," says award-winning architectural designer Pete Tonks. "By its very nature, your driveway will be a key element both in terms of visual appeal and proportions. You will want to use the best driveway materials that complement and enhance those incorporated into your build or conversion."
Here, the unusual pale brick cladding of the house and the light grey shade used for the garage door have been picked up on through the sandy block paving that makes up the driveway.
14. Factor in visibility splays for new driveways
Visibility splays may be required for safety reasons if drivers need to see clearly one or both ways when exiting a driveway. This could impact the design and layout of the drive's entrance and the landscaping either side (high hedges or fences may have to be dropped or removed).
While this driveway is compact, the homeowners found a place to add a raised bed to plant shrubbery and a new tree while to the left low hedges demarcate their plot from their neighbour's without reducing visibility.
Adding greenery like this in a front garden design is essential for modern housing where front gardens are disappearing — plus, they can be used to hide a soakaway to reduce the risk of surface water.
15. Think about accessibility in the design
“One factor that needs to be considered at the design stage is who is going to be using the driveway — will there be a need for access for wheelchair users or people with limited mobility? Is the surface flatness useable for them?" advises Jamie Gledhill, engineering technical manager at Brett Landscaping.
"Typically, once a gradient is 1:10 or steeper, it becomes difficult for someone to be pushed in a wheelchair."
Self builders will also need to adhere to Building Regulations Part M when building a new home; this sets out the requirements for accessibility, which includes the entrance to a home.
When designing their self built lifetime home, the homeowners behind the house shown, opted to add various solutions to their plans that could make life easier as they grew older. This included a low-maintenance permeable tarmac driveway up their sloping site.
Under the cantilevered box that houses the living spaces, a carport access either the sheltered staircase or the internal lift.
16. Keep it classic with a gravel driveway
Cost-effective and simple to install, gravel can be a fantastic option for period, country or traditional-style homes, where matching materials and established hardscaping is a priority.
“[Gravel] is more forgiving in terms of looking natural and is readily available for any required maintenance,” says Odie Green.
When converting this barn in Cornwall to become a holiday let, a new gravel driveway was installed using the same coloured local stone as the granite external walls. When paired with the soft hue of the new windows and doors the rural finish is utterly welcoming for guests.
17. Aim to keep driveways simple for family homes
Where a small driveway has to contend with more than one car, keeping a driveway simple is often the best way forward.
Permeable block pavers were chosen to create the driveway for this self built family home. Spanning the full width of the house, the driveway can hold many cars while blending seamlessly into the suburban setting.
18. Incorporate a turning bay for busy driveways
If the space can be found, turning bays are inherently useful things when designing new driveway ideas. Even small ones can be a practical addition and they can be a simple as a grassy mound for drivers to navigate around or as considered as a hardscaped raised bed.
Here, a double-width turning circle means that even if a car have been parked up, another can easily move past without causing any issues.
When planning a slightly smaller space than this, also consider the turning circumference abilities of a mid-sized car so there's no awkward back-and-forthing to manoeuvre.
19. Invest in a mechanical turntable on small driveways
For narrow driveways which can't offer a convenient place to turn around, turntables are an incredible invention. Drivers simply park on the circle and either a motorised or manual turntable turns the car 180º so they can be simply driven off without a second thought.
With space at a premium in the current market and roads getting every busier for backing-out onto, turntables can be a great driveway idea, but be sure to talk with your electrician and groundworkers before making any decisions as the motorised mechanism will have to be wired in, buried and installed correctly.
The materials can be matched to most styles of driveway, be that permeable tarmac or block paving, for a sleek and convenient addition.
20. Consider whether a sunken driveway makes sense
In order to camouflage this stunning self build, the homeowners chose the submerge the lower floor of the building into the landscape, along with the driveway and garage.
Not only is the effect incredibly dramatic on the approach, but also means that from afar, only the back box structure housing the bedroom is visible. Plus, the undulation on the natural hillside is countered by a smooth, level resin bound drive.
21. Zone a front garden driveway
If your garden also doubles as a parking space, a great front garden driveway idea is to use the theory of open-plan living and zone different areas for various purposes, whether that is by differentiating spaces with materials, landscaping or textured hardscaping.
A delicate, but deliberate gate down the middle of this driveway demarcates clearly the spaces for cars (parking, carport and storage area) and the areas for relaxation (a small patio table and lawn to the left of shot).
Also, a more rustic timber gate (right of shot) leads to the back garden and although secures the property from the road, offers a glimpse into this space.
22. Create a carport driveway on a tight site
Carports are an effective way of keeping 'everything in its place' when there is little room for a garage on a driveway. No matter if you're updating an existing car port or building from scratch, try to choose long-lasting and low-maintenance materials (avoiding perspex of times gone by).
Although compact, this driveway maximises space by utilising the space under the house's overhang to create a small carport.
Careful consideration was made so the homeowner can either walk directly to the back garden through the gate, or use the shallow, accessible ramp to the front entrance, hidden by delicate evergreen shrubbery to bring colour to the otherwise monochromatic homes.
23. Consider access from the road
When building a new home on a plot with access issues, or rearranging the orientation of an existing outdoor area, a major consideration to make is the access from the highway to your drive.
Asking the council about dropped kerbs is a fairly straightforward and allows the path over your land to be direct.
This home was built on the plot of a former village hall, so the homeowners needed to apply to drop the kerb (right of shot) for access to their integrated garage.
24. Recycle building waste below a driveway
A fantastic way of reducing waste on a building site is it reuse rubble in hardscaping where possible — including as a permeable sub-base for driveways.
Homes journalist and expert Rebecca Foster advises: "If opting for a porous surface treatment, you’ll also need to incorporate a permeable sub-base. The depth of this layer depends on the size and load of the vehicles that will be using it — typically, a depth of 150mm is adequate for most residential projects.
"The most common material is MOT Type 1, which is a mixture of crushed rock particles measuring between 40mm at the largest, mixed with smaller particles that have been ground down to a finer form, right down to dust."
When building their wrap around extension, the homeowners of this remodelled estate house needed to underpin the single-storey section. There was already a small open section which the original builder hadn't fully filled so they took the decision to create a new basement garage.
What is the cheapest type of driveway?
"The price of your driveway tends to be dependent on the overall size of the area as labour time will need to be considered as well as the materials," advises Joni Withers, head of global and trade marketing at Sureset.
"The most cost-effective solution would be a standard asphalt or concrete surface; these are durable and will serve a purpose but won’t necessarily enhance the kerb appeal and appearance of your property as much as something ‘prettier’."
When calculating, don't forget to factor in the installation and maintenance costs. Gravel is a low-cost material (sometimes as little as £4/m2) and can be installed on a DIY basis, while resin bound driveways can reach up to £50 - £75/m2, including installation costs.
“We advise following the 80:20 rule [for block pavers], which means out of the full cost of the installation job, 20% would be materials and 80% would be the cost of the groundwork, sub-base and labour. Of course, this will vary between installers,” explains Heather Foo, regional sales manager at Bradstone.
What will be the most suitable driveway for you?
"The best surface for a driveway depends on the homeowners individual requirements," explains Joni Withers of Sureset. "There are many options to choose from such as, concrete, asphalt, block paving, loose gravel, resin bound paving, resin bonded paving or slabs.
"Each have their own benefits from budget to characteristics or colour options. It is best to do your research on not only the materials but the companies selling and installing them as quite often that can affect the quality of the overall project as much as the paving itself," she concludes.
What are the best cheap driveway ideas?
"There are many ways you can add to the aesthetics of your driveway. From simply cleaning the area to a complete overhaul, whatever your budget there will be plenty of options," comments Joni Withers.
"Adding greenery to the surrounding pathways will give some colour and interest, if you have a front garden alongside your driveway, maintaining this can immediately enhance the overall appearance and make your driveway look tidier.
"If you are looking to really make a change, an overlay or overhaul of the existing paving material can be tailored to your own taste and be colour matched with the property to complement the home."
How can I improve the kerb appeal of my driveway?
To quickly improve the appearance of an existing driveway there are some simple steps to follow, including keeping up with maintenance and cleaning, as well as quick and wins to brighten an entrance:
- First, begin by clearing the driveway of potted plants and cars and cleaning leaves, debris and detritus from the road (use the best power washer to clean away moss, lichen and dirt) to create a 'clean slate' front approach. This simple job in itself should provide decent results and begin to make a driveway look cared for.
- Repair any broken slabs or fill in patches of gravel with a rake (or matching stones).
- Repot plants and weed surrounding garden areas — perhaps add a new raised planter with lighting if there's space or some new hanging baskets for colour.
- Evaluate fixtures and fittings: do your front door furniture ideas need modernising in this space (separate post boxes, house numbers etc.)?
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Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.