Built-In Planters That Add Dimension to Your Outdoor Living Designs

No matter how beautiful the construction materials, an outdoor living design can look dull and lifeless without pops of color or dimensional design elements. A built-in planter constructed with retaining wall block will provide a permanent receptacle for adding color, texture and dimension to your spaces and can coordinate with your pavers and landscape walls to tie the overall look together.

Add curb appeal

Make a statement as soon as visitors arrive with planters along the driveway or a sidewalk in front of your home.

Highland Stone®Built-in Planters Retaining Wall
Highland Stone®
Create a grand entrance

Planters along walkways and near doorways create a welcoming effect and add architectural interest to the front of your home.

Edge a terrace

Soften the look of an angular wall or add a buffer zone along the terrace edge with planters of various shapes and sizes.

Dress up a retaining wall

Large retaining walls are often necessary, but can be visually boring. Add dimension and visual interest to a large retaining wall with planters at the base or at higher points along the wall.

Create a focal point

Add drama to a patio, walkway or driveway with a large planter that can create a visual focal point for the design.

Belair Wall® Retaining Wall Blocks & Built-in Planters
Belair Wall®
Flank a fire feature

Add pops of color and foliage to soften the look of larger structures and help coordinate the space with the surrounding landscape.

Flank Stairs or Steps

Stair or step planters can take a variety of shapes and styles. Options can include symmetrical tiers, terraced landings, or a singular accent planter.

Emphasize a tree

A tree planter box or wall can add design elements to larger open spaces or provide an area for installing a flower garden.

Add dimension to a patio

Planter gardens are a great way to add dimension and visual interest to an open patio. In addition, locating a planter near an outdoor kitchen can provide an outdoor chef with a space to grow fresh herbs.

Soften the look of a column

Incorporating a planter into the top of a column or pillar softens the look and adds a natural textural design element to your outdoor living structures.

Home is Where the Hearth Is

Products: Belair Wall® (fireplace and seat wall) and Mega-Lafitt® pavers.

The outdoor living room has been one of the fastest growing trends in outdoor design over the last few years. When considering the popularity of this trend, the question arises: What’s the difference between a patio and an outdoor living room? The answer is simple: Livability.

Products: Bristol Elements™ fireplace and Lafitt® Rustic Slab pavers.

An outdoor living room is more than just a grouping of chairs with a coffee table. It’s a cozy and inviting space that evokes a sense of relaxation, a space where people want to spend time both alone and enjoying the company of others. To achieve this effect, it’s important to apply interior design techniques to creating your outdoor space.

With that in mind, what tends to be the centerpiece of most interior living rooms? The answer, of course, is a fireplace. The reason for this is multifaceted. Historically, a fireplace would be added to the living room to heat the home. But as this need diminished in necessity over the years, the popularity of an interior fireplace did not. That is because the warmth that exudes from a fireplace is not only physical in nature, but emotional, as well. Spending time in front of a fire with a loved one often creates a deeper connection with that person on an instinctual or primal level. Fire, good.

That’s why one of the easiest ways to create an emotional sense of warmth in an outdoor living room is to add a fire feature, which has the added benefit of physical warmth during the colder months, allowing you to use your outdoor living room year round. Another benefit to fire features — like fireplaces, fire pits and fire tables — is that they appeal to people of all ages. When multiple generations gather around a fire pit, the generation gap disappears, and they can all relate to one another on a purely human level. It’s no wonder that fire pits have been on the top of the “must haves” list in outdoor design for the last several years.

A fire feature, like this welcoming fire pit at the HGTV® Dream Home 2018, instantly converts a simple patio into an outdoor living room. Products: Belair Wall® 2.0 (fire pit) and Urbana Stone® permeable pavers. (photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)

When adding a fire feature to an outdoor living room, be sure to leave ample space for seating and traffic because it will instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot. If it’s a wood-burning fire feature, it will also need to be an adequate distance from any structures, as a safety precaution. In fact, some municipalities and HOA’s have specific regulations about this, so be sure and do your homework.

To complete your outdoor living room, add other interior design touches — such as tables, accent lighting, pillows, throws and other accessories. But be warned, once you create an inviting outdoor living room, get ready for company!

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For fire feature design ideas, read our blogs on Fire Pit Design Ideas and  Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas For more design inspiration, visit the Belgard Pinterest boards.

NEXT WEEK:  Don’t let the frigid temperatures fool you. If you want your new pool to be ready for swimming season, it’s time to start planning now.

Front and Backyard Transformations of the HGTV® Dream Home 2018

Again this year, Belgard is proud to be a sponsor of the HGTV® Dream Home 2018. Located in Gig Harbor, Washington, this year’s home is a contemporary waterfront retreat overlooking the picturesque Henderson Bay, an inlet of Puget Sound.

As the official hardscapes sponsor, Belgard is excited to walk you through the dramatic transformation of the home’s outdoor living areas, which now includes multiple entertaining zones overlooking the spectacular view.

Front Yard – Before

Front Yard – After

The home received a tremendous upgrade to its curb appeal. The disjointed driveway and entryway landing were demolished and replaced with an an attractive, eco-friendly permeable paver system. Urbana® Stone permeable pavers were laid in a modular ashlar pattern to complement the contemporary architecture. The new permeable paver system will allow rainwater to infiltrate through the joints and percolate through a bed of aggregate and into the ground below. This will not only provide a safer environment by keeping water from pooling on the surface, it will also help remove impurities from any infiltrated water to help reduce pollution to the local receiving waterways. To add even more curb appeal, the driveway was trimmed with a border of Avalon Slate pavers in a contrasting darker color. Both Urbana Stone and Avalon Slate pavers have a natural stone texture, which coordinates well with the surrounding wooded landscape.

Photo: David A. Land

The design team also removed the aging raised planter bed and constructed a new planter bed using Belair Wall® 2.0 retaining wall, which features a rustic chiseled stone texture. Quarziti 2.0 porcelain pavers were used to add an elegant, finished look to the entryway landing to complement the new glass doorway and angular portico.

Photo: Thomas Espinoza Photography
backyard before
Backyard after

The deteriorating retaining walls and wooden deck were demolished and replaced. Belair Wall® 2.0 provided the structure for a low-maintenance vertical garden of native plants, and a new covered composite deck was built, which includes a waterfront dining area and a stairway down to a lower landing on the water’s edge.

Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography

Urbana® Stone walkways now lead from the deck and back patio to a newly constructed fire pit paver patio. The fire pit, as well as a nearby seat wall, were constructed with rustic Belair Wall® 2.0. The paver patio and walkways are trimmed with an Avalon Slate border to provide a cohesive look that ties in with the color of the deck and the look of the driveway, thus creating a continuous design throughout the entirety of the home’s exterior.

Photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography
Back patio before

back patio after

The existing concrete of the back patio was overlaid with Quartziti 2.0 porcelain pavers to coordinate with the entryway and provide an elegant transition from the interior spaces to the outdoor living spaces. Belair Wall® 2.0 provided the structure for a built-in stainless grill.

Photo: David A. Land

For more information on the HGTV Dream Home 2018, including an aerial video of the exterior, design videos, and photos of the interior transformation of the home, click here.

To enter for a chance to win this spectacular home, click here.

The Best of 2017: Residential Hardscape Design Winners

At the 2017 Hardscape North America tradeshow held in Louisville, Kentucky, the U.S. and Canada hardscape industry judged residential and commercial hardscape designs from across North America for the 2017 HNA Awards. These awards are the industry’s top honors for contractors designing and installing projects using concrete pavers, segmental retaining walls, clay brick, porcelain, and combinations of these hardscapes. Belgard was pleased to have products showcased in 12 of the honored designs, placing in 10 of the 16 categories. Homeowners planning an outdoor living makeover in 2018 can pull inspiration from the award-winning and innovative designs from these residential categories. Click on the galleries below to view slideshows of photos from each project.

WHIMSICAL PAVER PATIO

PROJECT CREDITS  Category: Concrete Pavers, less than 3,000 SF (WINNER). Contractor: Paver Designs, LLC. Designer: Justin Hampton. Product: Dublin Cobble®.

Tranquil Backyard Oasis

PROJECT CREDITS  Category: Porcelain Pavers (WINNER). Contractor: Pacific Outdoor Living. Designer: Terry Morrill. Product: Noon Porcelain Pavers

Dramatic Entrance

PROJECT CREDITS  Category: Concrete Pavers, more than 3,000 SF (Honorable Mention). Contractor: Mirror Lake Designs. Designer: Michael Shawn Kelly. Products: Urbana® Stone, Old Word Paver™.

Eclectic FIRE PIT PATIO

PROJECT CREDITS:  Category: Combination of Hardscapes, less than 4,000 SF (Honorable Mention). Contractor: Precision Landscapes. Designer: Jeremy Rose. Products: Urbana® Stone concrete pavers (primary patio), Noon porcelain pavers (fire pit patio), Weston Stone® retaining wall (fire pit, garden walls, seat walls), Arbel® concrete pavers (seat wall backrest).

Eco-Friendly Walkway & Driveway

PROJECT CREDITS  Category: Permeable Pavers (Honorable Mention), Contractor: Dominion Pavers. Designer: Sasser Construction. Product: Aqualine Series™ pavers.

NEXT WEEK:  Despite the cold temperatures, now is the ideal time to start planning a pool installation to have it ready for the spring!

Terraced Design Adds Form and Function to a Sloped Yard

This home originally had a steeply sloped and mostly unusable yard. With the help of a multi-level terraced design, it was converted into a family backyard oasis.

Prior to purchasing this home, an Atlanta family of four saw the potential to create their dream backyard and consulted with a design/build contractor who had a terraced design in place before escrow closed on the home. Construction began immediately after the closing.

The existing backyard included a small terraced section held in place by 6’x6’ timber walls, with the remainder of the mostly unusable yard sloping down to a large wooded pond. The renovation design focused on increasing the functionality of the available space with the help of segmental retaining wall to create four terraced levels: a pool level, a sunken outdoor kitchen pavilion, a secluded fire pit terrace, and a recreational play level for the family’s two children. The project was constructed in four phases.

Phase 1: Structural Walls

Since the design included a pool, the first step of construction was to demolish the timber retaining walls (which weren’t capable of supporting the additional weight), remove a few trees to enlarge the main terraced level, and construct new walls capable of supporting the pool. Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall® was selected for its strength and natural stone appearance and was used to create the structure of the two main terrace levels, as well as coordinating built-in planter boxes. Before the walls were capped, wiring was run for low-voltage hardscape lighting, which would be installed during the final phase.

Planter boxes on the second level were adorned with Azalea bushes. Transitions to each level were constructed with natural stone slab step treads. Hardscape lighting lines all walls to improve evening aesthetics and safety.
Phase 2: Poolscape

The second phase of construction was to dig and form the pool and shoot the gunite pool walls. The design of the kidney-shaped pool includes wedding cake steps, a submerged tanning ledge, swim-up bar stools, a raised eight-person spa, and a vanishing waterfall that overlooks the fire pit terrace below.

The vanishing edge waterfall creates a dramatic backdrop for the cozy fire pit terrace that overlooks the wooded landscape and pond. Wooden posts and handrails for the cable fencing were embedded inside the structure of the retaining walls for stability.

Next came the installation of the paver pool deck, tiered garden walls, and rectangular fire pit. The pool deck extends to walkways that continue around both sides of the home. For these projects, Lafitt® pavers and Tandem® Wall were selected, which both offer a modular ashlar pattern and have a natural stone look that coordinates with the Mega-Tandem retaining walls of the primary structure.

The false-jointed ashlar pattern of the garden walls mimics the look of the paver field. Low-voltage hardscape lighting lines the garden walls for ambiance and safety.
Phase 3: Pavilion
The outdoor kitchen offers multiple cooking spaces and includes an open cabinet under the brick oven for storing wood. The texture of the wall veneer and Lafitt® paver flooring complement the natural stone elements to create a cohesive design.

The next phase was to build the 18’x30’ outdoor kitchen pavilion, which includes an open gabled metal roof, exposed cedar-wrapped beams, and staggered cedar shake siding. The base of each outdoor kitchen counter is constructed with Tandem® Modular Grid and capped with a granite countertop. The Tandem wall units used on Modular Grid incorporate the same face texture and color palette as the Tandem Wall and the Mega-Tandem retaining walls, which allowed all of the walls throughout the outdoor living design to have a cohesive look and feel.

The well-appointed kitchen includes a double sink, double-door refrigerator, kegerator beer dispenser, and multiple cooking surfaces—including a gas grill, Big Green Egg® ceramic grill, and a wood-burning Chicago Brick Oven®. The kitchen also includes ample seating, including a countertop bar that overlooks the pool and faces the swim-up bar, for ultimate pool-side entertaining. Natural stone slab step treads were used to transition to each level—from the house to the pool, down into the outdoor kitchen, to the fire pit terrace, and down to the play structure.

The two-sided bar is capped with a granite countertop and offers dry seating under the pavilion and swim-up seating from inside the pool.
Phase 4: Final Touches & PLay Area

The final phase of the project began with landscaping and trimming out the pool with natural stone coping and pebbled tiling, including the 20-foot-wide vanishing waterfall edge that serves as a dramatic backdrop for the cozy fire pit area and overlooks the picturesque wooded pond. Each of the terraced levels were finished with protective cable fencing, outlined with wooden posts and handrails painted to match the color of the pavilion roof.

Next came the playground installation, which required a fourth level to be terraced. Timber wall was selected to terrace this level to coordinate with the wooden play structure and the surrounding natural wooded landscape.

The final task was to install all of the lighting, including low-voltage hardscape lighting that had been pre-wired during earlier phases, which both added an aesthetic element and improved the safety of the multi-level structure. All electrical elements of entire design—including the hardscape lighting, spa, waterfall, pavilion lighting, and sound system—can all be controlled by an app on the homeowner’s phone.

For a fly-through view of the entire multi-level terraced design, watch the drone video below.

PROJECT TEAM:

Designer: Clint Tucker, PLA
Contractor: Sugar Hill Outdoors, LLC
Engineer: John R. Gehrlich, Jr., PE
Engineering Firm: GeoWerks Engineering, LLC
Pool Construction: Bennett Custom Pool Construction
Play Structure Design/Installation: PlayNation Play Systems, Inc., of Georgia

NEXT WEEK’S BLOG: Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog to get inspired by winning designs from the 2017 Hardscape North America Project Awards.

Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas

Over the last decade, outdoor fireplaces have continued to be a rising trend in outdoor living design. A fireplace provides an elegant focal point that visually transforms a patio into an outdoor living room, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. When planning an outdoor fireplace, there are a number of options to consider.

Custom-Build versus modular units

Custom outdoor fireplaces can be built using a variety of masonry products, including nearly any Belgard retaining wall product. The benefit to a custom-built fireplace is that you have the design flexibility to create any size or style that suits you. Belgard also offers the Belgard Elements™ line of modular fireplaces that are pre-built in a factory setting, shipped in sections and installed with a pallet loader. The benefits are lower installation costs and a shorter construction window.

This custom-built fireplace, constructed with Celtik® Wall, features a raised hearth, symmetrical arched built-in wood boxes, and built-in low-voltage lighting for ambiance. A row of smooth-face block adds a contrasting element to the rough-hewn look of the design.
Belgard Elements™ fireplaces, such as this one from the Bristol™ Series, offer a custom-built look for a fraction of the cost. Custom-built elements, such as the landscape wall and water features in this design, can be added to enhance the custom-built look.
USE interior design principles

To enhance the “outdoor living room” feel, employ interior design techniques when designing your outdoor fireplace and surrounding patio. Examples include accessorizing the room or creating a faux rug in the paver design.

A semi-circular design of Mega-Arbel® pavers creates the look of an inlaid rug in front of this Brighton™ Elements fireplace and Bristol™ Elements wood boxes.
Research Local building codes

Codes will vary by municipality, but in general terms, gas-burning fireplaces have fewer restrictions and can typically be placed anywhere in a design, including directly against another structure. Wood-burning fireplaces typically need to be placed at least 10 feet from another structure. Some building codes require additional safety measures or restrict the use of wood-burning units altogether.

The chimney of this wood-burning fireplace from the Bordeaux™ Elements collection was extended upward to comply with local building codes, due to its proximity to another structure.
Built-in outdoor gas fireplaceS

An economical option that can typically be installed anywhere is a built-in gas fireplace, which can be built on the exterior of the home, on a porch or under a pavilion.

The built-in outdoor gas fireplace on the left was designed to emulate the look of an indoor fireplace using Tandem® Modular Grid. The same wall product was used to build out an adjacent outdoor kitchen. The design on the right used Weston Stone® retaining wall block with accents of Urbana® Stone and Mega-Arbel® pavers to emulate the look of a freestanding Bristol™ Elements fireplace. The same paver and wall products were used throughout the design to tie the look together.
Think outside the box

When creating a custom build, consider how you want to use the space and work with your contractor to come with with creative solutions and ideas.

This custom fire feature is both a fireplace and a brick oven. A built-in overhead light adds a dramatic look to the piece while providing ample light for operating the brick oven in the evenings.
This outdoor living room incorporates dual open-sided European-style gas fireplaces, constructed using Tandem® Wall. The same wall product was used to build seat walls around the perimeter of the patio, as well as columns for the pavilion, tying all of the outdoor rooms together into one cohesive design.
Consider built-in seating

Built-in seating is one of the leading trends in outdoor design and makes an excellent addition to an outdoor fireplace, adding both form and function to an outdoor room.

This custom natural stone fireplace is flanked with two seat walls, constructed with Celtik® Wall. The rough-hewn face of the Celtik® Wall adds a textural element to this eclectic design.

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Next week: If your yard is sloped, come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for ideas on using terraced design to create more usable space.