Five Tips for Flawless Fall Outdoor Festivities

Fall can be a fabulous time to entertain outdoors. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable, but in most parts of the country, the needle hasn’t dropped quite low enough to send everyone scampering indoors yet. Here are five simple tips to help make the most of your outdoor living space during this time.

1. Decorate for the Season

Many people decorate the front of their homes or their dining rooms to coincide with the season, but never think to take the same concept to the backyard, where everyone gathers. Put away the bright summery throw pillows and exchange them for warmer tones. Place a few pumpkins in a basket to create harvest-themed centerpiece on an outdoor buffet or table. Add little touches of autumn all around your outdoor rooms.

Hardscape lights2. Light Up the Night

Nothing says “festive” like flickering lights. Who says stringed lights are only for Christmas? Now that the sun goes down earlier, you can take the opportunity to add some fun and festive lighting to your backyard. Get creative in how you light up your outdoor rooms. Look for LED lanterns, solar landscape lighting, or flameless candles that can be set on timers to light up as soon as the sun goes down.

3. Get Warm and Cozy

Provide your guests with opportunities to warm themselves on chillier evenings. Options can be as simple as a hot beverage or a comfy throw blanket or can include any variety of outdoor heaters, from permanent overhead installations to portable floor or tabletop butane heaters.

4. Crank Up the Fire

Whether a simple chiminea or a custom outdoor fireplace, guests love to gather around a fire. The crackle and smell of an open fire warms the heart and soul as much as the body. Make the fire an interactive part of your event by roasting marshmallows or hot dogs, or just open a nice bottle of wine and relax.

coppa-ricotta-and-arugula-pizza.201408065. Make it a Tapas Night

Forgo the formal sit-down meal for a casual night of finger foods and small plates. This will keep your guests moving, create an additional fire source, and allow you to showcase your outdoor culinary skills all at the same time. Ideas include kabobs, grilled shrimp, and flatbreads or pizzas — all of which can be prepped ahead of time and ready to go on the grill or into the brick oven once the guests arrive.

The Warmth of a Fire

This custom site-built fireplace is flanked by built-in Celtik® Wall seat walls for additional seating.

One thing that distinguishes an event from an experience is the creation of a lasting memory. Reflecting on our lives, we flip though these memories like the well-worn pages of a favored book, calling to mind the sights, sounds, flavors and textures of the world around us at that particular moment in time.

A fireplace or fire pit can transform a backyard or patio into the family’s favorite gathering spot and become the place where memories are made. In the setting of the dancing lights and earthy aromas of a crackling fire, a cup of coffee becomes a meditative retreat; a backyard gathering becomes a lively marshmallow roast; a glass of wine becomes a romantic interlude; an event becomes an experience.

The rustic Bristol Fireplace and matching wood boxes are part of the Belgard Elements™ Collection of modular outdoor living units.

That’s why fire features have become the hottest growing trend in outdoor living. Over the last few years, the outdoor living room concept has flourished as homeowners yearn to make their outdoor spaces as warm and inviting as the interior of their homes. By doing so, a homeowner can create an outdoor living space that is a true extension of the home and reflects the personality of those who live there.

The Bordeaux Fireplace is the latest in the Belgard Elements series and features a stacked-stone appearance.

The Bordeaux Fireplace is the latest in the Belgard Elements series of modular pieces and features a stacked-stone appearance.

Just as the indoor living room often centers around a fireplace, the outdoor fireplace acts as a striking centerpiece to the visual look of an outdoor living room and goes a step further by becoming the center of outdoor life, as a whole. Young and old alike are drawn to both its figurative and literal warmth. The appeal of fire crosses all strata and knows no age or cultural boundaries. Around the fire, time stands still as stories are told, lives are shared, and experiences become memories.

How to Make a Grand Entrance

JWLDublinCeltic004

This tiered walkway was created using a combination of pavers and wall products. The classic smooth Dublin Cobble® pavers were laid in one pattern and edged with another to provide a subtle contrast. Celtik® Wall was used to build flower boxes and add a European look to the step edging.

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. From the moment guests pull up to your driveway, they begin to get a sense of your personality. The colors, textures, and materials you choose for your landscaping, driveway, and front walk can express as much about you as the architecture of your home.

When it comes to making a grand entrance to your home, there are a number of factors to consider.

Longevity

Pavers are definitely the way to go if you want a look that’s going to last. Concrete and asphalt will crack over time due to pressure and settling. With a paver drive or walkway, the physics are different, and cracking is rare. However, if a single paver does crack, you can replace it without issue. Once a concrete or asphalt driveway cracks, you’re stuck with unsightly blemishes that continue to worsen, even if you patch them, unless you break up and re-pour an entire section — a costly process that is both labor and time-intensive, and still looks out of place.

You should also consider longevity when designing the landscaping for your entrance. Even if you’re the type of person who likes to see new colors and textures in your yard with each season, you will want some perennials, trees, and bushes that will remain constant to give your yard a mature look. Before planting these, make sure to know the typical growth patterns for these plants for your climate and sunlight patterns. Otherwise, you’ll end up having to spend a lot of time digging up and moving plants that grew in an unexpected way.

Creativity

 Pavers can be hand-cut to create serpentine paths or add geometric shapes and designs. A circle of Cambridge Cobble was added to the design of this Old World paver driveway to create a grand entrance that begins at the property gate.

Pavers can be hand-cut to create serpentine paths or add geometric shapes and designs. A circle of Cambridge Cobble® was added to the design of this Old World Paver™ driveway to create a grand entrance that begins at the property gate.

This is the fun part. Whether you prefer a classic look, contemporary lines, or old-world country charm, don’t be afraid to get creative. A popular trend today is the multidimensional garden. Layer your garden with rows of plants that will grow to different heights, with taller bushes to the back and smaller colorful plants towards the front. You can also add dimension with retaining wall block that can be used to create plant boxes, vertical gardens, pillars, and tiered walkways.

Consider the pattern integration of your design, as well. Just as you can integrate patterns into your garden with plant colors and textures, you can also create patterns with your hardscapes. Pattern integration can be simple, such as trimming a walkway with a different color paver, or by alternating paved sections. Or, the pattern can be a complex design of swirls or shapes inside the paved area.

This Subterra permeable paver driveway not only creates a sophisticated entrance to the stately colonial brick home, it quickly drains water ensuring the safety of the steep drive in the heaviest of rainfalls.

This Subterra® Stone permeable paver driveway not only creates a sophisticated entrance to the stately colonial brick home, it quickly drains water, ensuring the safety of the steep drive in the heaviest of rainfalls.

Sustainability

If environmental consciousness is a priority, grand entrances can include a variety of environmental options, including the use of permeable pavers. Permeable pavers come in a array of colors and styles that help reduce pollution and stormwater runoff. A permeable paver system can even be designed to capture stormwater to reuse for garden irrigation.

 

Product Spotlight: Brighton Fireplace Series

Summer is winding down, which means fall is quickly approaching. Crisp leaves, shorter days, and cool nights are on the horizon.

But colder weather doesn’t have to sentence you to an eternity cooped up inside. In fact, there’s no better time to grab the family and lounge next to a warm fire! Our Brighton Fireplace Series is just what you need to make sure your outdoor nights don’t end.

Belgard fire 3

We know money doesn’t grow on trees, so we created the Brighton Series to address the need for a lower-priced fireplace set. Featuring the same 36’’ firebox as the other fireplace collections, the Brighton is a great option for those who want to enjoy an outdoor fire without breaking the bank.

Belgard Fireplace1

The Brighton Fireplace is available in wood-burning, natural gas, and liquid propane configurations, and can come with or without a chimney/top. Measurements vary depending on installation, but you can plan for your fireplace to be approximately 3.3’D X 4.3’W X 8.5’H.

The series also includes beautiful wood boxes sold in units of two that measure approximately 2.3’D X 3’W X 2.9’H. Don’t worry about fetching wood from another storage area when you’re running low—keep it right next to your Brighton fireplace!

Belgard Fire2

When planning for your fireplace, make sure you keep the rest of your hardscape in mind. We have a multitude of brick hues like tan, slate, mist, or haze to match your current outdoor theme. Or, use a variety of shades to give your fireplace added dimension! We have everything you need to be sure your fireplace complements your hardscape.

Fall is on its way, and you don’t want to miss out on those crisp nights next to a warm fire. So, make sure you’re ahead of the game and order your Brighton Fireplace today!

What You Need to Know Before Installing Your Hardscape

So, you’ve decided to install a hardscape. We don’t blame you—they’re great! Hardscapes can add beauty and value to your home, not to mention more enjoyment. They’re versatile, convenient, and fun!

While hardscapes are a great addition to any home, the installation process can be a doozy – especially during the planning phase. With those early first steps in mind, we have some tips for planning your hardscape, as well as some questions you should consider. So take a deep breath… soon you’ll be enjoying your new outdoor living space!

Make a Plan

First things first- you need to have a plan. When designing your hardscape, make sure you plan for the entire area, even if you’re not hardscaping all of it immediately. If you sketch out the whole yard, you’ll have less to do when you want to add on projects.

Planning in full also helps with consistency. Say you’re putting in a pool. Down the road you may want to install a porch. If you don’t plan for this space, you’re going to run into issues… the porch may not be possible with the pool’s location and size, or may look funny if the pool isn’t properly placed.

In your sketch, be sure to mark off major features, like your house or that favorite tree you just can’t live without. Be aware of view lines. Your hardscape isn’t enjoyed only from the outside, but also from the inside! You don’t want to look out your window and be staring at the back of your grill…. so be aware of where you place utilities and other features.

Keep greenery in mind, too. Gardens and yard patches provide a nice balance to hardscapes. Grass gives a respite from hot surfaces in the summer, a place for pets, and a play area for children. Gardens can provide a pop of color and are a good way to implement nature into your hardscape. If you need gardening ideas, check out our gardening tips to beautify your hardscape.

Determine Your Budget

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but sitting down and determining your budget helps you make a lot of decisions about how to proceed with your hardscape. For example, can you build out the whole area? Or, would it be wiser for you to break your hardscape endeavor into smaller projects? Will you do the work yourself, or will you hire a contractor? Budget can also help you determine which materials to use.

Having trouble justifying your budget? Keep in mind that a beautiful hardscape can easily raise the value of your home. Get an appraiser to estimate the value added to your house by installing a hardscape, and you’ll be surprised! You might just find that you want to budget a bit more for that patio than you thought you did.

Choose Your Materials

Budget helps with this decision, but shouldn’t be the only consideration when choosing your materials! You should also consider durability and style. Are you going for a natural look? If so, consider incorporating wood into your design. Be sure to note that wood will require upkeep and is prone to weathering. If you’re looking for a more hands-off approach to your hardscape, you might want to choose a more durable material.

You should also be mindful of your home. Do the pavers you love match your house? Do you want to use brick, stone, or something else? If you’re not hardscaping everything at once, this might not be your only project. Choose materials that compliment your home and can be continued through other hardscaping endeavors.

Remember, hardscapes are a permanent fixture. Take your time in choosing your materials. You want to love your new space, and you want it to last. You also don’t want to break the bank!

Prepare Your Yard

Preparing your land for hardscaping is the biggest part of the installation process. If you don’t feel 100% comfortable doing this on your own, we recommend hiring a professional to help with excavation and installation (find a Belgard Authorized Contractor near you).

Excavation will be dependent on the size of the project. However, there are some general principals to focus on, such as foundation. A good foundation is needed for any hardscape project, and can ensure longevity of your hardscape design. Proper compaction of soil gives your foundation stability, and helps prevent settlement and runoff damage.

Be aware of where utility and plumbing lines are if deeper excavation is necessary. Knowing this before you start digging can help you avoid a massive headache (and a large bill)!

Finally, be sure to consider drainage issues. Planning for runoff early will help avoid a myriad of issues down the road. Runoff should be contained for site use, instead of being allowed to flow all over your concrete or other hard surfaces. Consider building swales (think shallow ditches) to collect surface runoff and provide irrigation for your soil and yard.

Relax

The installation process might not be the most glamorous part of your new hardscape, but with proper preparation, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your backyard paradise!

Have more questions about the installation process, or tips for DIY-ers? Share them in the comments! We’d love to hear from you.

How to Throw the Ultimate Back-to-School Bash

Belgard Aug 13

(image source)

August is upon us once more. For many of us, that means the kids are heading back to school. Doesn’t it seem like June was just kicking off a season of family adventure? Time flies when you’re having fun in the sun!

After months of warm weather and long summer nights, why not take one more chance to celebrate the season and send the kids off in style? Just because school is starting, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the last of summer. Make August your time to throw the ultimate back-to-school bash!

A lot goes into planning a party, but thankfully, we’ve got all you need to make the process easy, quick, and fun! Check out these five steps and have the best back-to-school party on the block.

1. Center on summer

When planning your back-to-school bash, make sure you channel the season. Summer might not be over, but for the kids, heading back to school pretty much marks the end of summer fun. So, make this no ordinary outdoor party… you’re celebrating the end of summer, the kids starting another year of school, and all of the wonderful fun you’ve had together these past few months.

Emphasize the best parts of the season, like the warm weather, long nights and of course, the perfect time to be outside. You know what that means…. get outdoors! Put your yard to use and center the party around your landscape’s best features—whether that be the pool, the patio, or the yard. There’s no better way to say goodbye to summer than making it the focal point of your party. Get everyone out of the house and enjoy the sun!

2. Choose your theme

Every great party starts with a great theme, and back-to-school parties are no different. In order to make decorating easy, choose a theme and stick to it.

Do you want to have a barbeque? Grab some checkered tablecloths and mason jars. Or maybe you’d rather pretend you’re at the beach and have a luau around the pool. In that case, think Hawaii– leis, tiki torches, the whole deal. Don’t really feel like going all out on decorations? No problem! Check out our tips for lighting up your hardscape for an easy way to add some flair to your backyard!

3. Make a menu

It isn’t a party until you break out the food and drinks, so take time developing your menu. Highlight your family’s summer favorites: BBQ chicken, burgers, fruit salad, and more. There’s no need to hide inside while everyone else is enjoying the sun… put your grill to use and cook outdoors with your family and friends!

Make sure you consult the kids about kid-friendly options—it is their last hurrah, after all. Get them involved and come up with “kid-cook” options that they can prepare too. And of course, don’t forget dessert. Need some inspiration? Check out our Salted Caramel Ice Cream recipe, or whip up some s’mores!

4. Plan activities

One of the best parts of summer is the endless list of outdoor activities you can do. Plan some fun summer games for your back-to-school bash. Want to get an expert’s opinion? Ask the kids! They are the masters of fun.

In the mean time, here are a few suggestions for you: If you’re having a pool party, enjoy a game of Marco Polo or set up water races. Winners get a prize, like a piece of candy! If a luau strikes your fancy, do the limbo or have a hula contest. Cornhole (bag toss) is great for barbeques, and water balloons are guaranteed fun for any theme. Be creative, and remember, get outside!

5. Have a blast

Planning and hosting a party can be overwhelming. Make sure to take a deep breath and enjoy your time with your family and friends. After all, that’s what this celebration is all about!

Remember that going back to school marks a big time for the kids. New teachers, new classmates and new subjects can be a lot of exciting changes all at once! So soak in the sun, reminisce with them about your favorite summer memories, and cherish your time together. Summer only comes once a year, and this is it for the kids. Send them off with a bang, and get ready for the fun the school year brings!