Backyard Transformation

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With the help of Belgard, the Stolnacke family transformed both their backyard and their lives.

Stolnacke Before

The Stolnacke backyard before Belgard.

Jennifer and Carl Stolnacke lived on five acres of rugged terrain that sloped down to a pond on the back of the property. Their backyard was basically unusable, except for a small concrete patio. With this blank slate, they carved out their own personal backyard oasis. After living in their northern California home for a couple of years with their two dogs, Maverick and Goose, Jennifer and Carl were ready to create a permanent, more useable outdoor living space that fit with their lifestyle. They enjoyed walking the grounds and especially enjoyed looking at the pond, but with the exception of a couple of lawn chairs and a small concrete slab behind the house, their space was not ideal for backyard gatherings

“We love to barbecue with friends, but the dirt and leaves just were not conducive to that. When friends came over, it seemed more like a camp out,” Jennifer explained.

With the help of the experts at The Paver Company, the Stolnackes now have an expansive multi-level outdoor living space that incorporates multiple gathering areas – including a pool, outdoor fireplace, fire pit, and brick oven – that are all tied together with walkways and garden walls that work together to create a harmonious, cohesive look.

Working with the existing elements.

Outdoor enthusiasts, the Stolnackes wanted to keep the pond as the focal point of the yard, without blocking their scenic view, and incorporate natural design elements to keep the setting rustic and earthy. They also wanted to make use of the existing concrete slabs on the back porch and driveway, but desired a way tie everything together without having these elements clash with each other.

The final cohesive design flanked out to the sides with the fireplace and brick oven acting as visual anchors on either side, with a terraced patio that led down to the fire pit and pool in the center, overlooking the pond. The design incorporated natural boulders, as well as Belgard Hardscapes that mimic those natural textures. Patio areas were paved with Mega-Lafitt™ pavers, which offer the look and feel of natural cut flagstone, with Bergerac® pavers adding a hand-cobbled look to the borders and walkways. Garden walls were built with the Tandem™ Wall retaining wall system, which creates the appearance of large blocks of chiseled stone.

“By skirting the existing concrete pads and fire pit with the Bergerac pavers used in the walkway, we were able to tie the whole design together and make everything work,” said installation contractor John Brightenstine of The Paver Company.

How life has changed for the Stolnackes.

Jennifer loves the fact that she can now walk around the perimeter of her backyard barefoot or in slippers. Her favorite pastime is relaxing on the upper patio, just taking in the view. With their wonderful new entertaining space, the couple now regularly holds gatherings of all kinds.

“The multiple patio areas are great for entertaining; we have so many options,” Jennifer said. “We’ll have pizza parties by the brick oven, where everyone makes their own pizza, or we’ll sit around the fire pit or fireplace and roast marshmallows or just catch up and talk. We now use the outside of our house more than the inside of our house.”

To anyone contemplating their own backyard makeover, Jennifer says, “The most important thing is to know your space. Know how you use it now and how you envision using it afterwards.”

Watch the Backyard Transformation Video

Entertaining Ideas for the
End-of-Summer Bash

As the lazy days of summer begin to come to an end, it’s time to plan for the end-of-summer bash. Here are a few of our favorite decorations and accessories for the occasion.

LanternsFestive Lighting

Lanterns add character, ambiance and illumination to outdoor living spaces. These lanterns from Restoration Hardware can either be placed on a flat surface or hung from tree limbs or porch rafters. For safety reasons, consider choosing flameless candles for your lanterns. Just remember not to leave flameless candles where rain can get to them and destroy the electronics.

Outdoor FanKeeping it Cool

This remote controlled oscillating fan provides both an attractive accent piece and additional comfort to summer outdoor living. Built-in lighting enhances the comfort for evening gatherings. The space-saving tower design and quiet motor allows for optimal placement near sitting areas. In addition to cooling things down, the air movement also helps keep bugs away from your party guests.

Mobile Brick OvenNow, That’s Hot!

Turn your outdoor space into a gourmet outdoor kitchen with this powerful, yet economical, brick oven. Available in either domed or pyramid styles in either bronze or silver vein, the mobile version of Belgard’s brick oven offers the flavor of wood-fired cooking with a small footprint and is available in classic wood-burning and hybrid wood/gas models. The movable cart allows you reposition your outdoor kitchen to suit your party’s needs.

Yummy Goodness

Nothing ensures the success of a party like simple and tasty appetizers. This cast iron cheese baking dish from Crate & Barrel allows you to bake brie and other cheeses on the grill, where they can be infused with smoke to add additional flavor. The heavy duty two-piece baker can also accommodate savory or sweet sauces to enhance the decadence.

Teardrop Beverage ContainerElegant Refreshments

What makes a party festive? Why festive drinks, of course. This teardrop shaped beverage dispenser with solid wood pine lid provides an elegant container for your party cocktails and brings distinguished formal beauty to your outdoor space. For ideas on how to fill this 2.5 gallon container with festive liquid refreshment, check out our crisp summer cocktail blog.

Eye-Catching Accessories

If you’re looking for a unique way to serve hors d’oeuvres or dinner rolls, then look no further. This playful ocean-themed Pottery Barn bowl attaches to any patio umbrella pole to provide a serving spot for either a bowl or loose rolls without taking up counter or table space.

Keeping it Cool with
Crisp Summer Cocktails

As the temperature gauge continues to creep up, here are a few simple and refreshing ways to cool down.

mimosas-cl-389743-xHoneydew Mimosas

A traditional breakfast fruit, honeydew melon is used as the base for this frosty brunch cocktail.

  • 1/2 medium honeydew melon (about 4 cups cubed)
  • 1 cup crushed ice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 (750 ml) bottle chilled sparkling wine
  • Garnish: Lime wedges

Preparation

Combine the first three ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Pour mixture into a large pitcher, and add sparkling wine. Pour into glasses and garnish.

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mojitos-sl-1194648-xTequila Mojitos

This recipe uses tequila instead of rum for a new take on a classic mojito.

  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh mint sprigs
  • 2 cups chilled lemon-lime soft drink
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup tequila
  • Garnish: lime slices and additional fresh mint sprigs

Preparation

1. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a medium saucepan, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat; add mint sprigs, and let stand 2 hours or until mixture is completely cool.

2. Pour mixture through a wire-mesh strainer into a pitcher, discarding mint. Stir in lemon-lime soft drink, lime juice, and tequila. Serve over ice and garnish.

•  •  •

sangria-su-523029-xQuick & Easy Sangria

All the flavor and refreshment of traditional sangria without the wait.

  • 1 cup vanilla-flavor syrup
  • 2 oranges, thinly sliced
  • 1 lime, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 bottles (750 ml) dry red wine
  • ice cubes

Preparation

1. In a large pitcher (at least 3-qt. size), combine syrup, orange slices, lime slices and orange juice.

2. Add wine to the pitcher, mix, and pour into ice-filled glasses.

•  •  •

pimms-cup-ck-686196-xPimm’s Cup

A light a refreshing drink made with a gin-based liqueur and garnished with cucumber. To infuse more cucumber flavor, muddle cucumber slices in the bottom of each glass.

  • 3/4 cup Pimm’s No. 1
  • 2 cups chilled ginger ale
  • 1 1/3 chilled cups sparkling water
  • 4 lemon slices
  • 1 medium cucumber, cut into spears

Preparation

Pour 3 tablespoons of Pimm’s into each glass. Pour 1/2 cup ginger ale and 1/3 cup sparkling water into each glass; stir to combine. Garnish with lemon and cucumber and serve immediately.

Images courtesy of time, inc.

Patio Design Trends:
Large-Format Pavers

Over the last few years, one patio design trend that continues to grow in popularity is the increased size of patio pavers. Although the classic styles of smaller cobble and brick pavers still have a strong following, particularly in neighborhoods with more traditional architecture, homeowners with contemporary architecture have a tendency to lean towards the fashionable lines of larger pavers. Some attribute the style shift to the European and Mediterranean design influences that have been infiltrating American architecture and both interior and exterior design for the last couple of decades. Others attribute the shift to the design strategy of using larger pavers to make a smaller outdoor space appear more spacious and less cluttered. Whatever the reasons, large-format pavers have become an undeniable trend in contemporary patio design.

Back to Nature

Likely driven somewhat by the green movement, as well as European design influences, many homeowners are drawn to the look of natural stone. Belgard offers a variety of large format pavers that emulate the look of natural stone, with the added benefits of reduced costs and increased durability. Many Belgard pavers and retaining wall products are created by scanning natural stone with a 3-D scanner and using the dimensional imagery to create molds to produce hardscape products that mimic the look and texture of slate, flagstone, or hand-chiseled rock. But unlike natural stone, pavers can be laid in a pattern that deceptively looks random but installs much more easily.

Mega-Arbel®:  Mega-Arbel offers the texture, shape, and random look of natural flagstone to create outdoor spaces that flow into the surrounding landscape. Each irregularly shaped stone is roughly 15″x21″ and fits together into a cloverleaf pattern that installs more quickly than natural flagstone. False joints create the illusion of randomly-laid multiple sized pieces, including large stones that meet the needs of contemporary design trends.

Mega-Lafitt­™: The most natural-looking texture in a modular paver, Mega-Lafitt offers the look of hand-cut stone in a modular paver. Various modular shapes, including a large piece that is nearly 16″x16″, allow for a great deal of design flexibility that works well with a variety of architectural styles.

Lafitt™ Rustic Slab: With the look of natural slate, Lafitt Rustic Slab offers the modular lines of Mega-Lafitt, but with a less rugged texture and larger pieces, the largest of which is roughly 15″x23″. Lafitt Rustic Slab has the added benefit of the ability to overlay an existing concrete patio, making it ideal for backyard makeovers.

Sleek Contemporary Style

Although some gravitate to the natural stone look, others prefer more of a postmodern or avant-garde style, with sharp or clean lines. Belgard offers two paver lines that coordinate well with this type of design.

Mirage® Porcelain Pavers: Imported from Italy, Mirage Porcelain Pavers are the latest addition to the Belgard paver line and offer the utmost in ultra-contemporary outdoor living design. With over 40 interpretations of stone, concrete and wood (yes, wood) designs, these pavers come in standard sizes up to 24″x24″ — 18″x36″ in some markets — with the option to special order larger pieces.

Lafitt Grana SlabLafitt™ Grana Slab: Laffitt Grana Slab offers the same sizes, shapes, and overlay options as Lafitt Rustic Slab, but with a smooth finish, instead of the textured finish. Without losing the benefit of slip resistance, the sleek, clean lines of Lafitt Grana Slab create outdoor living designs that work well with any contemporary architectural style.

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For more patio design ideas, visit our patio inspiration page. To find a contractor or dealer near you, visit our locator gallery.

Time to Enjoy Your Pool!

Where does your mind go when thinking about summer? Maybe you imagine relaxing on the beach or taking a trip to the nearest water park. Something about spending time outside in the water and sun just screams, “It’s summer!” However, thoughts of beaches and water parks also scream, “Time and money!!” This summer, try using a more convenient method for soaking up rays and hanging out in the water. The idea is very simple: put on your favorite bathing suit and then walk right into your backyard. Remember that giant and expensive hole in your yard that you filled with a large amount of water? Believe it or not, it’s not just a lovely water feature. You’re allowed to use it! Here’s the best part: you can use it whenever you want! Here are a few ideas to help you get the most from your pool this summer.

GAMES FOR THE KIDS

Most kids enjoy playing “Marco Polo” or “Sharks and Minnows” in the pool. While that’s all well and good, how about trying a few different games with the kids this summer. Just remember that all games should be supervised by an adult.

PingPongPing Pong Scramble: This is almost like the pool version of hungry hungry hippos. Have the kids form a large circle and then dump a container of ping balls in the middle of the circle. Kids can use socks, party cups, or even plastic bags to collect the balls. The player with the most balls wins.

WatermelonWatermelon Relay: You may not know this, but watermelons float. Split the group into relay teams. Have each contestant swim across the pool pushing a watermelon, handing it off to the next person in line. The team who finishes first wins. And when the game is over, carve up the “game balls” for a tasty poolside treat!

PaperBoatPaper Boat Races: Making a paper boat is simple, but if you don’t remember how, there are many instructional videos on YouTube. To stretch the time, you can first have the kids decorate their pieces of paper with crayons before folding the paper into boats. Once the boats are built, turn the pool pump on to create a current for racing the boats around the pool. For added fun, kids can create “wind” by blowing on the boats, or they can use their hands to create “waves” to propel the boats. Just remember that if the boats get too wet, they will sink or fall apart. But that’s ok, just make some more for the next race!

FUN WITH FAMILY & FRIENDS

VolleyballWater Volleyball: This activity is usually reserved for larger families or several guests who don’t mind getting a little physical. Pool nets and a volleyball are a relatively inexpensive purchase, and the setup is easy. Just pick your teams and try not to swallow too much water when grandma accidentally takes you out while diving for a loose ball. If you want to get really into it, and have the right amount of people for it, set up a tournament and go out and buy a cheap trophy to give to the winning team. This can easily become your next family or group tradition.

Cocktail CaddyFloating Cocktail Party (21+):  When the kids are away, the adults will play. Invite some friends over for an afternoon or evening of relaxing adult-filled activities. Open a nice bottle of wine, try that new martini recipe you found the other day, or simply bust out a few beers. Most importantly, do it from the comfort of your pool, floating on your favorite flotation device. You can even purchase a floating ice chest or cocktail caddy for your bar-tending convenience. For ambiance at evening gatherings, add some floating lights. For safety reasons, make sure to use only shatterproof glasses while around or in the pool.

Pool lights

Product Highlight:
Permeable Pavers

One of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living, permeable pavers are an attractive way to improve drainage, recycle water, and help the environment. Built over a gradient bed of gravel, permeable pavers allow water to percolate down into the ground below, which not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff, but cleans the water of pollutants in the process. A permeable pavement system can also be constructed to include a water harvesting system to recycle water for irrigation or other uses. Belgard offers a full line of permeable pavers ideal for a variety of outdoor living designs.

Eco Dublin®: With the smooth face of cut stone, Eco Dublin is a three-piece modular paver that supports both foot and vehicular traffic and adds a modular contemporary flair to outdoor living designs.

Subterra®Stone: Subterra Stone might very well be the most attractive, natural-looking permeable paver on the market. Featuring a false joint structure and a textured face, it offers the elegant look of chiseled stone and is ideal for homeowners who desire environmental stewardship without compromising beauty and style.

Aqua-Roc™: Offering the classic look of brick pavers, Aqua-Roc can be laid in a running bond, basket-weave, or herringbone patterns to create attractive and durable driveways, walkways, patios and poolscapes.

Aqua-Bric®: Aqua-Bric incorporates a notched edge to offer a modern twist on the classic brick paver. This versatile paver can be used for numerous applications and complements any architectural style.

Turfstone®:  Turfstone’s eco-friendly design reduces run-off and allows greenery to grow right through it, creating a highly unique hardscape design that works in harmony with nature and helps control and stabilize soil erosion.

Turfstone