Outdoor Design Tips: Accenting with Columns

Since ancient times, the column has long been an architectural element used for both decorative and structural purposes. Usage of this ancient design technique continues to evolve in the world of modern outdoor living design. Whether a freestanding or a structural element, columns of varying sizes, textures and designs can add a dimensional aspect or a finished look to an outdoor living space.

Freestanding columns

Freestanding columns are a distinctive way to indicate the entrance to a terrace, porch, walkway or driveway. They can also mark the transition from one outdoor room to the next. By incorporating lights on the tops or sides of columns, you can add both ambiance and a safety element.

Arbors, pavilions and outdoor kitchens

Masonry columns make an excellent decorative structural element to support a pavilion or the covering for an outdoor kitchen. When utilizing a masonry column to support a post, using the same masonry material to construct the outdoor kitchen will create a cohesive look, as well as a durable outdoor living space that can withstand the elements.

wall endcaps

Using a column for an endcap adds a finished look to a retaining wall, landscape wall or seat wall. Finishing touches can include a light fixture, low voltage hardscape lighting, or a built-in planter.

Porches

Columns can enhance the look of a porch and add curb appeal to a home. Retaining wall block or other masonry materials can even be used to wrap existing posts to create the look of an architectural column or coordinate with other hardscape design elements.

sTEPS AND STAIRS

Whether simple or elaborate, columns can add an elegant touch to steps and stairways. Options can include placing the columns at the top, the base, or both.

Fences and gates

Columns make an attractive addition to fences and gates and can work either as a structural or decorative element with masonry, wooden or iron fencing.

Creative Touches

Columns can be used to define an outdoor space or as integrated elements of an outdoor living feature. The masonry column’s use as a decorative element is only limited by the imagination.

Multi-Dimensional Fire Pit Patios That Add Flare to Outdoor Living

Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and with good reason. They add a fun and relaxing element to any outdoor space. The latest fire pit trends involve incorporating multi-dimensional patio design to create the ultimate backyard haven. Below are 10 dimensional fire pit patio designs that would instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot in your backyard.

1. practical elegance

According to a recent national survey of landscape architects, built-in seating is one of the top trends in outdoor living. This fire pit patio incorporates built-in seat walls, yet also leaves room for optional patio furniture. The design also incorporates permeable pavers on both the patio flooring and the seat ledges, ensuring that rainwater instantly infiltrates into the hardscapes.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit/walls) and Urbana® Stone (pavers/seats).
2. Room with a View

This terraced patio incorporates both manufactured stone and natural stone to create a rustic look that coordinates well with the picturesque mountainside view.

Products: Mega-Lafitt® (pavers) and Country Manor® Fire Pit with Tandem® Wall Cap (fire pit trim).
3. Carved out of nature

This design takes the natural look a step further by not only using natural stone as a landscape accent, but as a integrated element of the walls and fire pit. The surrounding landscape wall functions as a way to define the outdoor room, but also provides a ledge for additional seating.

Products: Tandem® Wall (fire pit and landscape wall), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field), Old World Paver™ (inlaid border), Urbana® Stone (border).
4. Sunken Outdoor Living Room

By terracing off a sloped yard with retaining walls, this homeowner was able to emulate the effect of a sunken living room off of the pool deck, creating an intimate fireside gathering spot.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit, steps and walls) and Lafitt® Rustic Slab (patio).
5. Destination Spot

This terraced fire pit patio offers built-in enclosed seating on three sides, but leaves the fourth wall completely open for foot traffic. The angular design adds a formal touch to balance the rough-hewn textures of the hardscapes.

Products: Celtik® Wall (steps, fire pit and walls) and Mega-Arbel® (pavers).
6. Private Retreat

Natural greenery creates a virtual wall to block the wind and create an intimate atmosphere for this terraced fire pit patio. A retaining wall adds a finished look and provides a ledge for additional built-in seating.

Products: Weston Stone® (fire pit and seat wall) and Mega-Lafitt® (patio pavers and steps).
7. Intimate Nook

The low profile of the fire pit makes the seat wall the focal point of this design. The elegant arched wall is flanked with columns to create a striking look. The sunken level surrounding the fire pit creates a ledge that’s the perfect height for small children to sit and enjoy the fire.

Products: Weston Stone® (fire pit and seat wall) and Urbana® Stone (pavers).
8. Mediterranean flare

The decorative wall surrounding this fire pit uses Mediterranean design influences to help define the perimeter of the patio. The multi-level terraced design adds to the stylish look.

Products: Weston Stone® (wall/columns), Belair Wall® (fire pit/stairs), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field), Old World Paver™ (inlaid paver border) and Urbana® Stone (paver border).
9. Integrated Design

Sweeping arches define the separate “rooms” of this multi-dimensional outdoor living space, tying everything together into one cohesive and flowing design. Built-in low-voltage hardscape lighting adds ambience and adds a safety factor for each of the level changes.

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit, steps, seat walls, columns), Mega-Arbel® (fire pit patio pavers) and Lafitt® (pool deck).
10. Kitchen adjacent

This fire pit patio connects to the outdoor kitchen and provides an excellent place for family and guests to gather while the outdoor chef prepares dinner. Paver designs help define the transition from one outdoor “room” to the next.

Products: Weston Stone® (seat walls, columns, kitchen), Lafitt® Rustic Slab (transition, borders), Bullnose Paver (step), Old World Paver™ (inlaid paver border), Mega-Arbel® (primary paver field).

 

DIY Project:
How to Build a Block Column

TOOL LIST:

  • Hand tamper
  • Level
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tape measure
  • Caulk gun
  • Spade shovel
  • Stiff metal rake (for leveling gravel)
  • Yard stick or 2×4 board (for screeding sand)

MATERIALS LIST:

  • Wall blocks (quantity depends on height, will need 4 rectangular blocks per layer)
  • 20″ wall cap (if desired) or 6 additional wall blocks for cap
  • Crushed gravel
  • Bedding sand
  • Masonry adhesive

STEP 1: Prepare Base

  • Remove 6 inches of top soil (approximately 2’x2′ section)
  • Fill with 5 inches gravel, level with a rake and compact with a hand tamper
  • Top with 1 inch of sand, screed to level

STEP 2: Column Construction

  • Lay base blocks
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • Lay next layer of blocks and adjust placement with a rubber mallet, as needed
  • Apply a layer of adhesive
  • NOTE: Use a staggered pattern to increase column strength (see video)

STEP 3: Add Layers

  • Repeat STEP 2 until you reach desired height (maximum height 42 inches)
  • Add final layer of adhesive to the top of the stack

STEP 4: Column Cap

  • Option1: Position 6 blocks horizontally as a cap
  • Option 2: Top with a single 20″ square wall cap

New Exclusive Belgard Line to Launch Nationally at Lowe’s

For more than 20 years, the Belgard name has been synonymous with stunning, durable pavers and retaining walls that professional landscapers and designers can trust. Now, Belgard has partnered with Lowe’s® Home Improvement stores to make beautiful outdoor living even more accessible to homeowners by bringing these professional grade products to over 1,100 locations nationwide with a new do-it-yourself collection sold exclusively at Lowe’s.

The new product line includes three featured paver systems and a wall system that are all a reflection of the premium Belgard offerings that have historically only been available to contractors and dealers.

Providence™ Paver

The three-piece Providence™ Paver system offers the antiqued, rustic look of tumbled stone.
The three-piece Providence™ Paver system offers the antiqued, rustic look of tumbled stone. In the installation above, all three pieces were laid in an ashlar pattern to create a random look. The square piece was used alone to create a border.

Trinity™ Paver

The modular three-piece Trinity™ Paver system boasts clean, modern lines and a smooth surface.
The modular three-piece Trinity™ Paver system boasts clean, modern lines and a smooth surface with larger scale pieces to create a contemporary look.

Portland™ Stone

Portland™ Stone is a single unit that incorporates false-joint technology to simulate the look and feel of random flagstone.

Palmer™ Wall

The two-piece Palmer™ Wall system features crunch technology™ and has the textured look and feel of natural quarried stone. Constructed walls can be topped with Palmer™ Wall Cap to add a finished look, as pictured in the above installation.

The above featured lines will be in-stock items available nationwide*. In addition to these featured product lines, there will also be a variety of special-order Belgard pavers and wall products available online for in-store pickup. Each of the featured and special-order product lines come in multiple color options that will vary by location due to localized manufacturing, which utilizes local aggregates.

For more information on the partnership between Belgard and Lowe’s, visit www.lowes.com/belgard.

*Stores that are unable to stock the featured product lines will offer in-store pickup for online orders.

 

Outdoor Living Trends in New Home Construction

For over a decade, the gradual trend has been for homeowners to transform the formerly open backyards of existing homes into definable “outdoor living” spaces. In new home construction, however, this phenomenon has grown exponentially in more recent years to the point that outdoor living has becoming a standard feature at just about any price level. Although upgraded outdoor living spaces are more common at higher price levels, new construction home buyers at all levels want to know that they’ll be able to live in and enjoy their outdoor spaces. According to builders, realtors and landscape architects, some definable trends have emerged as being “highly desirable” to potential buyers.

Indoor/Outdoor Convergence: For several years, the trend has been to create outdoor living areas that mimic indoor living. This has evolved in a way that with many new home designs, there is no distinct separation between the indoor and outdoor spaces, but more of a fluid separation between the two areas. These types of designs might incorporate floor-to-ceiling retractable glass walls, stackable doors or floor materials that contribute to that sense of flow. For example, Belgard Porcelain Pavers were designed for outdoor use, but coordinate with a line of interior porcelain tile, which allows for the same flooring aesthetic to be used both inside and outside of the home.

Superlite_RES_BEL2015_24x24_Mirage_Quartziti_Ardesie_6_preview
Multiple floor-to-ceiling glass doors and Ardesie porcelain pavers make this porch feel like a continuation of the home’s interior living spaces.

•   •   •

Fully Functioning Kitchens: Although this trend is more typically seen in higher priced homes, smaller homes are jumping on the outdoor kitchen bandwagon, even if on a smaller scale — like with a simple built-in grill. But for mid-level homes and above, buyers want an outdoor kitchen with all the conveniences of an indoor kitchen, and then some. In luxury homes, the outdoor kitchen often costs more than the indoor kitchen, with amenities that incorporate everything from dishwashers to brick ovens. In many cases, the outdoor kitchen also functions as an outdoor bar and includes items like roll-top beverage coolers, kegerators and wine refrigerators.

This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.
This well-appointed outdoor kitchen and bar includes seating, outdoor refrigerator, kegerator, Bristol Brick Oven, built-in grill, sink and storage.

•   •   •

Integrated Audio/Visual and Lighting: New homes of every price range are incorporating outdoor televisions and sound systems, even if on the smaller scale of an outdoor-rated bluetooth speaker system. Mid-level homes and above are taking the trend to the next level with outdoor sound systems that are integrated with the interior of the home so that the same music can be played inside the home as outside, which follows the indoor/outdoor convergence trend. With the rapid advance of smart phone technology, this can be taken to an even higher level with systems that can operate off of a mobile app to control every electronic aspect of the outdoor living space, including TVs, sound systems, lighting, fire features and pool equipment.

Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner's mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.
Every electronic aspect of this outdoor living area is controlled by the homeowner’s mobile app, including the fan, lighting, TV and the gas starter on the fireplace.

•   •   •

Intimate Outdoor Spaces: Home buyers are interested in having a relaxing outdoor living area where they can socialize and unwind, creating a trend towards more cozy seating areas, often incorporating a fireplace or fire pit. Some experts relate this trend to the fact that there’s typically a TV in every room of the house, so a cozy outdoor space away from a TV can be a place to escape. Unlike expansive outdoor kitchen spaces, which may be limited to luxury homes, an “outdoor retreat” can be created on a smaller budget and appeals to buyers at all levels. In fact, a cozy outdoor space can easily be created by adding a freestanding wall or two. With the help of a few staged furnishing, potential buyers can get a feel for how they would live in the outdoor space.

The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot.
The Bristol Fireplace serves as focal point for this intimate gathering spot. This same sense of intimacy can also be created with the use of a freestanding wall, which can help define the space and create the illusion of an interior room.

•   •   •

Sustainable Design: According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, this year’s top trends in landscape design include both rainwater harvesting and the use of permeable pavers. Although a standard permeable paver installation simply allows water to filter through the paver joints into the ground below, a permeable paver system can be designed to also harvest and recycle rainwater, converging these two trends into one and allowing the reclaimed water to be used for garden irrigation and other uses. Current top landscape trends also include native plants and low-maintenance landscaping.

A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.
A permeable paver system, like this Subterra Stone® patio, can be designed to include a collection cistern and a pump to harvest water for reuse with water features, irrigation or other greywater uses.

Belgard Provides Charm, Improved Function and Cost Savings for Playground

Every play element of the new Chastain Park playground is designed for group play, from multi-person swings to “racing” slides and harmony stations. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

What happens when kids get involved in the design of a playground? Amazing things! Just ask the community surrounding Atlanta’s Chastain Park. The only public playground serving the 85,000 school-age children within a 5-mile radius, the park’s playground had not been renovated since 2000 and was in dire need of an upgrade. The existing playground had a lot of deficiencies, primarily in that it really only appealed to a small demographic (ages 5-12). The majority of the play structures were too dangerous for smaller children, yet not challenging enough for older children.

A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park's harmony stations. (Photo: Carson Matthews)
A Mega-Tandem™ retaining wall provides an acoustic backdrop for one of the park’s harmony stations. (photo: Carson Matthews)

Enter play specialist consultant Cynthia Gentry, an expert in childhood development who met with school children from the surrounding community to begin the design concepts. Kids were asked to imagine what they’d like to see on the playground and put that imagery into drawings, which became the inspiration for the all of the designs.

Gentry then enlisted the help of another consultant, Robin Moore, who specializes in nature-based play, currently a strong movement in childhood development circles. Together, Gentry and Moore conducted a charrette, or meeting of the minds, with representatives from the private school located inside the park’s grounds, local public schools and pre-schools, civic associations, the Parks Commission, and various members of the community. At the charrette, the group reviewed all of the children’s drawings and synthesized them into rough design concepts. A second charrette was held at NC State to compound all of the concepts into one overall design.

Landscape Architect Bill Caldwell took the ball from there, handling permits and turning the master plan into design documents for drainage, utilities, elevation, landscaping, hardscaping, and construction of the restroom pavilion. Caldwell contracted renown water resources engineer consultant, Bill Jorden, to develop the stormwater management plan to meet all of Atlanta’s ordinances for stormwater runoff quality and quantity.

Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing water runoff and reducing pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)
Urbana Stone® permeable pavers throughout the playground manage stormwater, reducing both stormwater runoff and pollution. (photo: Chastain Park Conservancy)

“Our goal was to not create a detention pond on a beautiful site of rolling hills and historic oak trees. I also didn’t want to have to convert the flat spaces currently used for open play. Belgard products helped us to avoid these traditional stormwater management strategies,” Caldwell said.

With the help of Belgard Urbana Stone® permeable pavers and Mega-Tandem™ Mass Segmental Retaining Wall™, the team was able to conserve land, meet the stormwater requirements, and save a significant amount of money in the process.

“Because the playground was being built into a hillside, the project required substantial retaining walls, which initially called for poured concrete. We got two Mega-Tandem Walls for the price of one poured concrete wall. Also, using the Mega-Tandem allowed us to value-engineer the pavilion and reduce the amount of poured concrete needed for the foundation. Overall, we saved over $200,000 on the project, factoring the cost savings on the pavilion and the site walls,” Caldwell said.

In addition, the 9,000 square feet of permeable paver walkways controls the amount of rainwater runoff that rolls downhill, which alleviates erosion problems. “An impervious system would have caused a concentration of water flow to the lower elevations, which would have generated more runoff than the original site,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell also notes that the Belgard permable pavers and retaining walls allowed him to create the playground out of what was formerly unusable space. “I love the fact that we took a hillside with a 12-15 degree slope that was basically non-functional and turned it into a 1-acre parkland that is a highly functional and usable space and has become a high-value component of the park,” he said. “We created something out of nothing.”

And what Caldwell considers the best part…this playgound was designed by kids for kids, regardless of age or abilities. The entire playground is ADA compliant, with multiple handicap accessible play elements. “Even the texture of the permeable paver walkway adds a sensory element for children with sensory disabilities, which is not something they would get with a smooth poured concrete sidewalk. Addressing disabilities of multiple spectrums was always part of the discussion from the beginning,” Caldwell said.

Photos courtesy Carson MattHews and the Chastain Park Conservancy.