Gravel Patios and Landscaping

One of the most dramatic changes we have made to our “new” house was removing about 20 trees from the property.  While we didn’t want to remove that many, some were diseased, another was so close to the house that it was causing the roof to rot, and overall the lot was very wooded and we were seeking a greenscape for our kids to play.  Next week the whole yard will be re-graded and seeded.  We will definitely need some kind of patio down the line for our firepit, something we really enjoy sitting around with family and friends in the warmer months.
Between the tree removals, the loam that we’re bringing in, the regrading and the seed, we’re at the end of our 2011 budget for landscaping, so I’ve been looking into economical ideas for a patio and have fallen in love with a surprising material: 
Look at these lovely gardens – aren’t they just lovely?  Who knew gravel could be so sophisticated?
Ron Herman Landscape Architect traditional landscape
Kate Michels Landscape Design mediterranean landscape
Less Lawn More Garden eclectic landscape
Gradinger Residence modern landscape
debora carl landscape design contemporary landscape
via Debora Carl Landscape Design,  San Diego/Houzz
a country house mediterranean landscape
via  Nurit Geffen-Batim Studio/Houzz
via Garden Studio Design, before patio makeover
via Cottage Living
Landscape Design - Build contemporary landscape
 via Mostatabi & Associates/Houzz
I think this border, set in mortar, would be beautiful around a gravel patio.
source unknown
I’m thinking laying weed-preventative material and gravel with bluestones would be a great solution for our firepit area.

What do you think?