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

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

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The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is undeniable. In many areas of the country, kitchens are becoming a standard element of the home design in new construction, particularly in median level homes and above, and can range from a simple built-in grill to full-scale gourmet kitchens that rival in quality and scale to the indoor kitchen. In fact, it’s not unusual in today’s outdoor living culture to spend more money on the construction of the outdoor kitchen than the indoor kitchen, considering that all of the building materials and appliances need to be sturdy enough to survive outdoor conditions, including moisture, harsh sunlight, and a wide range of critters.

In the continued evolution of this developing phenomenon, here are a few of today’s hottest outdoor kitchen trends:

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Outdoor entertaining is optimal for large groups because the very nature of the open setting allows for large numbers of people to gather without feeling crowded. However, entertaining large groups requires large amounts of food, which makes multiple cooking surfaces a must. Options can include both charcoal and gas grills, standard cooking burners, fryer burners, brick ovens, and even standard ovens. Many don’t consider including a brick oven due to the mistaken belief that brick ovens are only useful for cooking bread or pizza, however brick oven owners know that anything can be cooked in a brick oven that can be cooked in a standard oven. For brick oven recipe ideas, click here.

imageCreate Functional Zones

Outdoor kitchens with different functional zones allow for multiple cooking, prep, and entertaining activities to occur simultaneously. Today’s outdoor kitchens incorporate lots of counter space for food prep and serving, in addition to extra counter space for creating a communal environment so that the guests can visit with the hosts during food prep and cooking. One popular trend is to incorporate a multi-level counter top, with one level functioning as the prep area, and the higher level functioning as the serving surface or bar area.

imageLight the Way

In any kitchen, proper lighting is key to functionality. However, the modern outdoor kitchen needs to function as both a kitchen and an entertainment space. Popular lighting options include outdoor rated pendants, uplighting into the rafters, and under cabinet lights. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter lighting during cooking and lower ambient light when the cooking is done. Also, low voltage lights installed directly onto the exterior of the cabinetry is a popular way to provide additional ambiance. Other trending lighting options include nearby fire features like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables. For other outdoor lighting ideas, click here.

imageCreature Comforts

The modern family is accustomed to being constantly plugged in. Naturally, this trend has moved outdoors. The trendy outdoor kitchen is fully equipped with all of the comforts of the home’s interior, including comfortable furniture, outdoor rated audio speakers, televisions, fans, gas heaters, wi-fi, and retractable solar screens for shielding guest during sunnier times of day. Specialty outdoor appliances are also rising in popularity, like kegerators, wine refrigerators, and bar style roll-top beverage coolers.

Father’s Day Gourmet BBQ Ideas

It’s that time of year again where we set aside a day to say, “Thank you,” to that hard working man in our lives: Dad. The only problem with Father’s Day is that many of our fathers are humble guys who often say that they don’t want anything special. This year, tell Dad “Tough luck,” and do something special for him anyway. Here are a few ideas you can do for the “old man” this Father’s Day that will surely bring a smile to his face.

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Gourmet burgers topped with caramelized onions, blue cheese mayo, tomato, and arugula. (Photo credit: Oxmoor House, Time Inc.)

Gourmet Burger Bar

Sure, Pop probably barbeques burgers regularly. However, ketchup, mustard, lettuce and tomato can get boring. This Father’s Day, stock up on new ingredients to add to your burgers and setup a gourmet burger bar. Here is a quick list of items to get you started. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other toppings that are not listed here. The idea is to just try something new.

Have fun experimenting with any sort of possible topping. Examples included avocados, over-easy style eggs, sprouts, various greens, caramelized onions and mushrooms, and literally any pepper that comes to mind. While the grill is hot, try grilling some fruit toppings, like pineapple or peaches.

Next up, the cheese layer. Sure, you’ll need standards like American, cheddar, and swiss, but don’t be afraid to mix it up a little with something like pepper jack, gouda, havarti, blue cheese, and goat cheese.

Then the coup-de-grace, the sauces. Here’s where you really get to have a little fun. Options include wasabi mayo, humus, honey mustard, Boursin sauce, garlic aioli, and (don’t laugh until you’ve tried it) peanut butter and jelly.

And, what shall all of these delicious toppings rest upon? Try different types of buns: onion, poppy seed, rosemary focaccia, or brioche would all be excellent options. Check out your local gourmet grocery or bakery for more ideas. The point is to try something different. Dad may find his new favorite burger after all is said and done.

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo credit: Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey - Time Inc.)

Bacon-wrapped stuffed peppers, ready for the grill. (Photo: William Dickey; Styling: Lisa Powell Bailey – Time Inc.)

On the Side, Dad Style

Whether we like it or not, most dads are starch fans, so be prepared to starch it up with some dad-friendly side items. Dishes like potato salad, baked macaroni, and loaded baked potatoes come to mind. But, you can also get dad to step outside of his norm a bit by adding some grilled vegetables to the table. One idea is to stuff peppers with gourmet cheeses from your burger bar and grill them. To make it a little more dad-friendly, you can always add bacon. For other grilled fruit and veggie ideas, check out our “Garden to Grill Ideas” blog.

Microbrew Tasting

What is simpler than burgers and beer? Both cooking burgers and drinking beers are two of the favorite pastimes for many American men. While your father may have his beer of choice, most likely something he learned to love in college, it may be time to broaden his horizons.

Make it festive and set up a microbrew tasting table. Visit your local specialty liquor store and get a variety of samples from around the country. Many specialty stores will have a wide variety of single beers for sale or will allow you to break a six-pack for the purpose of doing a sampling. If not, plan ahead and order from an online distributor. It also will be helpful if you have small drinking glasses or shot glasses at your BBQ for beer sampling.

Beer tasting

Old Fashioned Mother’s Day Backyard Picnic

Summer Vacation Picnic SceneMother’s Day is fast approaching and families are trying to find the perfect way to say “Thank You” to Mom. What better way to do that than an old-fashioned picnic? You don’t even need to go anywhere to do it. Simply grab your picnic basket and head to the backyard. This is a super easy and endearing way to show your appreciation for that one woman who has always been there for you. Unsure of what to pack in your basket? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Her Favorite Things

Keep it simple. Think finger foods. Possibilities include tea sandwiches, antipasto plates, or whatever quick meal you know your mom will enjoy. This shouldn’t be hard; after all, think of all the times you came home from school and had a homemade snack from Mom waiting for you. Does your mom have a strong affinity for Chinese food? If so, go to the nearest Chinese restaurant and grab some of her favorites, like egg rolls or potstickers. Maybe she’s more into salads. Salads are quick and painless to make, and even quicker to find ready-made at your local health foods store. The point is that you will be spending a special afternoon with your mother.

Fun and Games

Pack a fun little game with you, such as a deck of cards or a travel-sized chess board. If your mother enjoys being active, plan on some fun yard games like badminton, croquet, or cornhole toss. These activities will be especially fun if you and your mom love to compete with each other, and they work well for both intimate and large gatherings. When in doubt, pick any fun activity that your mom loves to do and bring the necessary materials.

Special Jams

Are you a musician? Bring a guitar with you and play some songs for your mom. Maybe even write her a song. Any mother who says she wouldn’t like a song made just for her is either extremely humble or a liar, or both. Not musically inclined? That’s fine, too. Make a playlist with some of your mom’s favorite tunes and play them on a portable speaker.

Treasured Memories

No matter how you decide to plan your picnic, make it something that your mom will always remember. You should know your mother better than most people. Make it a unique experience for her. Fill it with items that you know your mother enjoys. Also, don’t forget to pack chocolate and flowers. But, that should go without saying.

The Rising Trend of
Vertical Gardens

The country is going green, in more ways than one! Everywhere you look, people are finding new and interesting ways to garden. One of the more recent trends is the rise of the what is called “vertical gardening”. Entire websites and companies are devoted to the trend. For those looking to add a little more dimension to their lives, vertical gardening is the way to go.

What exactly is a vertical garden?

A vertical garden can take any number of forms and is basically any vegetation that exists on a plane other than a flat horizontal surface. It can be as simple as a tier of stacked planters or as intricate as a high-rise wall completely covered in vegetation. Classic forms of vertical gardens include those created with trellises and arbors, but today’s modern vertical gardens have grown to incorporate a variety of ideas, techniques, and materials.

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A vertical garden like this could be constructed with curtain rods, t-shirts, and a glue gun.

How do I get started?

Wherever there is a blank wall or a bare fence, there is the potential for a vertical garden. There are companies that sell pre-made pockets and planters that are specifically designed to attach to walls or fence boards. However, the ideas are virtually endless for creating homemade versions. Unique ideas include converting rain gutters into vertical rows of horizontal planters, or constructing planter pockets out of heavy-duty fabrics.

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This sloped yard was terraced to create a meandering walkway with a tailored vertical garden.

What if my yard is sloped?

Well then, you have the perfect natural setting to create a vertical garden. Any gardening you do will already be multidimensional. But if you want to create something more structured and permanent, consider terracing the slope with pavers and retaining walls to create layers of built-in planters, which will define the garden areas and, at the same time, make the space more usable.

Stepping Up to the Next Level

One of the popular trends in today’s outdoor living design is the multi-level patio or poolscape. Often, a multi-level design is simply the solution to elevation grade issues. However, adding dimension to an outdoor living space can also be a personal choice, and quite often is.

When planning a multi-level outdoor living design, there is one element of the design that requires thought, but is often overlooked…the step. There are a lot of different ways of designing steps, and here are just a few ideas to help you step up to the next level.

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Many people like the look of large natural stone steps. An economical alternative is Granika Step, which offers the look of unpolished granite in a large-format step.

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This step design used Bullnose Coping, which provides a softer edge and can coordinate with existing pool coping. For additional personalized flare, a mosaic stone design was added to the fascia of each step.

Colorful ceramic tiles were used as accent pieces on the fascia of these steps. The steps themselves were left simple, with no additional edging, keeping the focus on the tiles.

Colorful ceramic tiles were used as accent pieces on the fascia of these steps. The steps themselves were left simple and clean, with no ledge or additional edging to the Mega-Lafitt patio pavers, creating a more natural look. Notice that the paver field was left untrimmed on the sides of the patio, as well, which adds to the natural effect.

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Sweeping arches of tumbled Weston Stone that mimic the shape and look of the fire pit were used to create the steps and walls of this multi-level design. Under-ledge hardscape lights were added to the steps and fire pit seat wall to help create ambiance and enhance visibility.

Belgard ~ Georgia Masonry Supply 2010

Rough-hewn Celtik Wall provides a contrasting texture and shape to the Mega-Arbel pavers in this design. Using the same wall product for the pillars, steps, and water feature ties the whole design together.

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Anglia Edger, used for curbs and garden edging, can also be used to form natural steps into sloped terrain (as illustrated above) to create picturesque earthen paths.

For more ideas, visit our Pinterest “Step It Up” inspiration board.