Using Walls to Create Intimacy

Whether working with a large open space or a diminutive courtyard, creating a sense of intimacy in outdoor design can often be illusive due to the inherent openness of the outdoors. However, through the use of dimensional design elements, such as Belgard retaining and freestanding walls, an intimate outdoor nook can be merely a garden wall away.

Belair Wall® was used as a retaining wall for erosion control on this sloping landscape, but also provided an element of privacy and a backdrop for a cozy outdoor living room. Wall sconces were affixed to the wall in a random pattern to soften the look of the stone and awash the conversation area in candlelight.

Create a Feeling of Closeness

Adding walls to an outdoor design, whether an 18 inch seat wall or an 8 foot retaining wall, will help to develop a feeling of closeness, which is the first step to creating an intimate nook. It works well to design with walls around 18-20 inches in height. This size wall offers multiple uses and can define an area without creating a boxed-in feel, while at the same time offering additional seating for large gatherings.

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Celtik® Wall provides the structure for this sunken kitchen that was installed below the water table of the adjacent in-ground swimming pool. The wooden arbor adds an organic feel, affording both shade for the sitting area and open venting for the fireplace and grill.

The Organic Rule of Thumb

If an outdoor space looks cold and uninviting, odds are there are not enough organic materials mixed into the design. Elements like wooden arbors or various levels of vegetation can add texture, provide shade, soften the space, and add to the feeling of closeness. Wood, either painted or natural, makes a space more inviting. Stone adds richness, but organic materials add comfort.

The ultimate in organic design includes incorporating the elements of water or fire. There’s nothing more intimate than a fire pit. It touches people of all ages. Place a 6-year-old girl, a teenage boy, and a 70-year-old man around a fire pit, and they’ll sit and tell stories to each other for hours. And in the summer, you can add a plastic liner, fill the pit with ice, and use it as a drink station. No matter what time of year, it will be everyone’s favorite spot.

Use Elevation and Dimension to Your Advantage

A sloping landscape, although attractive, can typically be unusable space. Belgard products can be used to create a terracing effect. By combining steps, pavers, planters, and retaining walls, you can create a series of planes at various elevations that now become areas of usable space with walls that can be used as a backdrop for an intimate nook. And, you can do all of this without concrete footers, which eliminates a lot of the costs, code issues, and headaches of masonry.

Even consider how pattern integration in your paver design can complete the look. By varying color, texture, or pattern, pavers can further define the perimeter of the nook or create a rug-like design to add to the cozy feel.

By adding a Brighton Elements outdoor fireplace with water features to this bare wall, a nondescript patio became an intimate outdoor living room. Laying the Bergerac® and Urbana Stone® pavers in a rug configuration added to the cozy feel of the room.

Lighting is Key

Whether your intimate nook is next to the back door or at a destination location across the property, proper lighting is a key component to completing the design. Lighting should be bright enough to allow for visual comfort in the darkness without overpowering the space and ruining the mood.

Texture creates intimacy, and proper lighting will enhance texture at night. If you uplight a stone wall, the texture is incredible. It gives a warm feel and draws you out into the space. But, even some low voltage lighting can be too intense if placed improperly. You want to bathe the space in gentle light without blowing it out.

By enclosing this exposed firepit with a Weston Stone wall,

Enclosing the exposed firepit with a Weston Stone® wall created a sense of intimacy for this remote space. Low voltage hardscape and landscape lighting adds ambiance and safely leads guests to the fire nook.

Product Highlight: Belgard Walls for Fire Pits and Beyond

Not that long ago, it seemed like fire pits were primarily seen on campgrounds and were mostly enjoyed by scouts and rugged outdoor enthusiasts. Today, however, fire pits are one of the fastest growing trends in residential outdoor living and come in all sorts of shapes and types. Homeowners who don’t have one, likely want one. Let’s face it, fire pits are hot.

Belgard walls offer an excellent opportunity to build a gorgeous fire pit that not only serves as a favorite gathering spot, but is also a cohesive and permanent part of the overall outdoor living design. Not only can Belgard walls be used to construct the fire pit itself, but also coordinating design elements, such as steps, columns, and garden or seat walls.

Below are some ideas on how to use Belgard walls to construct fire pits that are not merely functional, but seamlessly integrate into the landscape to become the focal point of a cohesive outdoor living design.

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For this first design, Celtik® Wall was use for a variety of coordinating elements, including the fire pit, steps, seat walls, flower box, and retaining wall.

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The home below used Celtik® Wall to convert a severely sloped yard into an amphitheater. The graduated retaining wall doubles as seating for the coordinating fire pit.

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For the next design, a destination area was created overlooking the lake by using Weston Stone® for the fire pit, columns, and protective parapet wall.

4D Schusters Belgard Photography 2009. •  •  •

Weston Stone® was used in this design to create the fascia for step of the sunken fire pit, as well as for the fire pit itself, accent columns, and surrounding garden walls. In the area surrounding the fire pit, the garden wall also serves as a backrest for the seat wall.

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Wall products can also be used in combination to create an interesting look. For the gas fire pit below, the majority of the pit was constructed with Belair Wall®, which mimics the texture of the home’s masonry veneer. Weston Stone® was used for the base and as decorative accents.

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How to Create a Cozy Outdoor Room

In order to create a cozy outdoor room, you first have to answer the question, “What makes a room cozy?” The answer will invariably include two basic components: comfort and intimacy.

Fire features reinforce the "room" concept and set a warm and inviting tone.

Fire features reinforce the “room” concept and set a warm and inviting tone.

Comfortable Outdoor Living

The elements needed for outdoor comfort will vary depending on the season. During hotter months, finding a way to keep cool is often a priority. During this time of year, keeping warm becomes more of an issue. In order to enjoy your outdoor rooms further into the fall and winter seasons, it’s imperative to have heat sources, such as butane heaters, comfy blankets, and fire features like a fire table, outdoor fireplace, or fire pit. Lining the perimeter of an overhang or porch with retractable ceiling-to-floor solar screens can also provide a dual purpose, by blocking the sun during the summer and providing a wind screen during the winter.

Face furniture towards each other to create "conversation areas".

Face furniture pieces towards each other to create intimate “conversation areas”.

Furniture selection can also be a big part of the equation. Many people tend to choose form over function in order to create the look they desire. When selecting outdoor furniture, choose pieces that are both comfortable and can be grouped together to create intimate conversation areas. Also keep comfort in mind when selecting accessories like throw pillows, which can sometimes be attractive but stiff. Stools and ottomans can also add to the comfort level by offering an opportunity to prop feet up into a more relaxed position.

Seat walls help define the space and provide additional seating.

Seat walls help define the space and provide additional seating.

Creating Intimacy

Creating intimacy can be a challenge in an open space. One way to do so is to group furniture into smaller conversation areas. Another option is to partition outdoor areas into specific rooms with walls. This can be done with virtual walls, such as with a folded screen or a shelved container garden, or actual walls can be built by using retaining wall block to create freestanding divider walls or seat walls.

Seat walls actually serve a dual purpose by defining or dividing rooms while simultaneously providing extra seating. In fact, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects, built-in seating is actually one of the hottest emerging trends in outdoor design today.

Decorative items add character and charm to an outdoor room.

Decorative items add character and charm to an outdoor room.

Finishing Touches

In order to create a truly comfortable outdoor room, decorate it as though it is an indoor room. Choose elements that reflect your personality. Ideas include container gardens, weatherproof clocks and vases, lanterns, bird houses, and baskets. If your outdoor room includes walls, you can also decorate the walls with various items that will reinforce the concept of bringing the indoors out. Lighting can also enhance the mood of the room.

For lighting ideas, read our previous blog on lighting your hardscapes.

Decorate outdoor walls similarly to how you might decorate an indoor wall.

Decorate outdoor walls similarly to how you might decorate an indoor wall.

Product Spotlight: Mega-Tandem Wall

Part of our transitional collection, Mega-Tandem is designed to give the timeless appearance of chiseled stone to complement any hardscape. It’s a recent addition to our products that’s only been around since last spring. Mega-Tandem is one of our more versatile walls because it has such a natural appearance, making it perfect for anyone who wants a subtle addition to their home or business.

The texture of Mega-Tandem feels like natural stone, so if you’re looking for a hardscape wall that blends naturally into your surroundings, you’ve found it. It’s great for homes as well as commercial use, as its earthy appearance has the perfect balance of aestheticism and functionality without being ostentatious. It looks so much like it belongs there that you’ll find yourself wondering if it’s actually been there all along.

Mega-Tandem can be used to create curved or straight retaining and freestanding walls. If you’re looking for a stately look, try a straight retaining or freestanding wall…

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…but if you’re in the market for something less austere and more inviting, go for a curved wall:

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Belgard is the only hardscape manufacturer to be granted the Good Housekeeping Seal, so you can rest assured that you’re getting the best and will be taken care of should you have any concerns. Our products are designed with sustainability, beauty and functionality in mind because you deserve a product that’s eye-catching as well as enduring – not to mention something eco-friendly that you can feel good about.

If you are interested in putting up a retaining or freestanding wall for your home or business, let us know! We are happy to help you assess your aesthetic and practical needs to ensure that you end up with the best hardscape possible.

Product Spotlight: Country Manor Wall

The castle estate aesthetic isn’t just for nobility and royalty anymore. If you’ve ever wished to live in a regal manor on the rolling hills of the English countryside, we have a solution that will meet you where are.

Country Manor is one of our eight styles of retaining wall stone that comes in a wide range of shapes and colors. It’s perfect for freestanding landscape walls, columns and moderately tall reinforced retaining walls. Country Manor stone makes a stunning addition as a fireplace…

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…an enclosure for an outdoor dining area…

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…or a walkway fit for royalty.

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Country Manor uses patented pin technology, giving your fireplace or column extra strength – and it’s easy to install, too! If you have a vision for your home, we can make it a reality without any hassle.

The possibilities are endless. Be sure to scan through the Belgard Idea Books tailored to your region and check out the combinations of Country Manor and pavers like Dublin or London Cobble. Once you find something you want, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help you figure out how to give your home some rustic old world flavor.

Product Spotlight: Weston Stone

Retaining walls are critical in helping to avoid sinkholes, flooding and erosion in your yard, but they can also be beautiful additions that make your outdoor living space feel like a luxury getaway. Belgard Weston Stone walls are a terrific option for both functionality and aesthetics.

The flexibility of Weston Stone is unmatched. Its natural stone appearance allows for a wide range of applications and design options, with increased installation efficiency and easy customization. This double-sided wall boasts a cleaner, more sculpted look and is the ideal choice for garden walls, pillars, outdoor kitchens and planters.

Take a look at how Belgard West Stone can transform your outdoor space:

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