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.

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.

Fall Recipe: Pumpkin Cake Roll

PumpkinRoll

This sweet spiced confection offers a festive twist on a seasonal favorite and can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to serve. Rolling the cake is easy with these step-by-step instructions. The end-result will look and taste so professional, your guests will want to know where you bought it!

Ingredients

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup canned unsweetened pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, divided
  • 2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Garnishes: powdered sugar, chocolate-coated pecan halves

Preparation

  1. Coat bottom and sides of a 15- x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with cooking spray and line with wax paper. Coat wax paper with cooking spray; set aside.
  2. Beat eggs at medium speed with an electric mixer 5 minutes or until thick and lemon-colored; gradually add granulated sugar, beating until well combined. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients. Gradually add to egg mixture, beating well. Combine pumpkin, pecans, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice, and gradually add to mixture, beating well. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan.
  3. Bake at 375° for 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  4. Sift 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a 15- x 10-inch rectangle on a clean, dry dish towel. Run a knife around edges of pan to loosen cake, and turn cake out onto prepared towel. Peel wax paper off cake. Starting at narrow end, roll up cake and towel together; place, seam side down, on a wire rack to cool completely.
  5. Beat cream cheese and butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add remaining 1 cup powdered sugar, beating until smooth. Stir in vanilla and 1 teaspoon lemon juice.
  6. Unroll cake; remove towel. Spread cream cheese mixture on cake, leaving a 1-inch border around edges. Re-roll cake without towel, and place, seam side down, on a serving platter. Cover and chill at least 3 hours. Garnish, if desired.

Image and recipe courtesy of Southern Living.

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.

Product Spotlight: Brick Ovens

design3Nothing beats the flavor of wood-fired cooking. That’s why we’ve partnered with Chicago Brick Oven to offer a full line of brick ovens. Inspired by the ancient Italian wood-burning ovens first used over four thousand years ago, the secret to our ovens is our authentic, low-height dome design. The design creates a unique FlameRoll™, which generates high, even temperatures for balanced cooking and genuine wood-fired taste. Made from high-strength, cast-refractory materials, our ovens ensure long-lasting performance and reliability. All components are built in the USA and have been specifically designed to withstand North American climate extremes. With five different lines available, there’s a Belgard Brick Oven to fit any lifestyle, from compact urban spaces to expansive suburban backyards, and even a new model you take on the road.

Brick-Oven-ElementsBelgard Elements Oven
One of the modular options available in the Belgard Elements Collection, the Elements brick oven is pre-built in a factory and quickly installed on-site to offer the look of a custom installation for less time and expense. The Elements oven is available in three designer styles: Brighton Series, Bristol Series, and Wexford Series.

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Brick-Oven_Countertop_Pyramid_Copper-VeinCounter Top Ovens

With four versions to choose from, the counter top brick oven offers a small footprint and can easily turn any outdoor kitchen into a gourmet cooking space without the time and expense of a full custom installation. The counter top oven is available in copper or silver finish with either a pyramid (shown) or dome roof line.

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Brick-Oven-MobileMobile Oven

The perfect complement to an existing grill and patio, the mobile brick oven is available in two colors and two different styles and comes with a durable steel cart for portability around the backyard. Like the table top, the mobile oven is available with a silver or copper finish in either the dome (shown) or pyramid roof line.

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HybridCBOLandingPg2

The hybrid oven is available in the Elements, table top, and mobile versions.

Hybrid Brick Oven

Our hybrid gas/wood brick oven allows you to cook with either gas, wood, or a combination of both heat sources simultaneously. The hybrid oven includes a two-burner gas system, with an infrared burner under the hearth and an ambient burner at the back of the hearth. Wood can also be burned at the back or side of the oven to provide smoky wood-fired flavor.

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Tailgater Brick Oven

Now, you can take your passion for wood-fired cooking on the road with our new towable Tailgater package, making it possible to take the unmatched experience of wood-fired cooking and entertaining to collegiate and professional football games, motorsport events, music concerts, festivals, and more. The Tailgater is currently available in the wood-burning model and will be available in the hybrid gas/wood model in 2015.

For more information, contact a local dealer or installer or visit the brick oven page on Belgard.com.

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.