Natural brick, made by firing clay in a kiln, provides a handsome surface that blends with nearly any architectural style and seems at home in almost any setting.
It is more expensive than concrete pavers, but many people find its natural beauty well worth the extra cost.
If you live in an area with freezing winters, be sure to buy bricks made specifically for paving (often labeled "MX"). Common bricks with two or three holes, and other bricks that are made for walls rather than patios (often rated "SX") may crack or flake during freeze-thaw cycles.
If you do use wall bricks for paving, apply a coat of acrylic sealer every year or two so they don't soak up water.
Bricks that are often exposed to moisture may develop a white-colored stain called efflorescence. Some people appreciate the rustic look of this imperfection, but if you do not, it can be washed away with a detergent or with a pressure-washer.
Bricks that are laid in very moist, heavily shaded areas can become slick with algae-like growth, which can be cleaned away with a mild bleach solution; treat mold the same way.
"Clinkers" have irregularities and dark spots produced by overburning in the kiln, and provide a rough, cobblestone appearance.
"Face bricks" are usually used for walls because of their hard, smooth surface; they are suitable only for accents or edgings on the patio.
"Frogged" bricks have old-fashioned indentations bearing the name of the manufacturer; they make for interesting accents.
Faux "used" bricks are often actually concrete pavers made to look like old common bricks -- complete with fake efflorescence.
Tip: When combining several types of bricks in a single patio, first check that all the bricks are exactly the same size.
A brick patio can harmonize with almost any design style, thanks in large part to the range of patterns in which the bricks can be laid.
A simple pattern such as running bond (shown here) has a timeless, understated look.
Pinwheel (top) also creates an interesting, more detailed pattern.
A basketweave pattern (bottom) can actually be easier to install than running bond, because you may not have to cut any bricks.