Contractor’s Corner: Working with the Southern Living Idea House

Landscape Contractor

Landscape Contractor John Sauders proudly stands in front of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House, which opened to the public on June 25.

John Saunders

John R. Saunders III of Nature’s Edge, LLC.

Belgard Authorized Contractor John Saunders was the natural choice to install all of the landscaping and outdoor living areas of the prestigious 2016 Southern Living Idea House, which was unveiled last month in the Birgmingham community of Mt Laurel, Alabama. A lifelong resident of Birmingham, John has 23 years of experience in the landscaping industry, 15 years as owner of Nature’s Edge, LLC.

“It was exciting as a company to have our name associated with such a high-profile project,” John said. “It was a great opportunity to work with new builders and landscape architects and showcase Belgard products in this way. It’s been a fun project to be involved with.”

Hardscaped areas include a Mega-Lafitt™ paver patio with a Weston Stone fire pit.

Hardscaped outdoor living areas of the 2016 Southern Living Idea House include a Mega-Lafitt™ paver patio with a Weston Stone® fire pit (pictured above), an adjoining dining area, picturesque walkways and a paver driveway. Stay tuned for additional photos to be released in the coming weeks.

A Belgard Authorized Contractor for nearly a decade, John states that his relationship with the Belgard brand helped make the project possible for him. “Belgard recommended me and was very instrumental in helping me get the job done. My rep, Will Dowlen, was quick to respond to any of my needs and made sure we had what needed quickly. It was a very quick turnaround, and we had to make sure the house was ready for viewing and that everything was done correctly to ICPI standards.”

A full-service landscaping company that handles design, installation and maintenance, Nature’s Edge handled installation of all of the Idea House’s softscapes, hardscapes and irrigation. John says that his favorite part of the hardscape design is the Old York™ paver driveway, which was installed in a herringbone pattern with a Lafitt™ paver border.

“Old York was easy to install and gives the driveway that classic cobblestone look from back in the day,” John said. “The Lafitt pavers created a picture-frame type of border that added a modernesque feel, combining the old with the new.” Photos of the driveway — as well additional photos of all of the hardscaped outdoor living areas — will be release on the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog in the coming weeks.

Overall, John states that he’s never disappointed with a Belgard installation. “I absolutely love the product. I have installed every Belgard paver and like them all. Probably 95% of our installations these days are Belgard. Their customer service is bar none, and others just don’t have the product quality and consistency,” he said.

John adds that he also enjoys the perks of being a Belgard Authroized Contractor, including the added credibility — which he says gives him a leg-up on the competition — and access to the Belgard Design Studio, which offers free 3-D design renderings for authorized contractors.

“The Design Studio is awesome,” John said. “It helps the homeowner feel like they’re standing on their own patio. We can visualize things before they happen, but getting the homeowner to visualize it is another story. 2-D drawings are great, but 3-D is better.”

Tips for Keeping Your Cool

With triple-digit heat indexes spanning the lower half of the country, many people are now scurrying indoors to avoid the heat, forced to enjoy their beautiful outdoor living spaces from the comfort of the kitchen window. However, there are a number of design tips and tricks that can alleviate some of the heat and allow you to get more use from your outdoor living spaces during those dog days of summer.

Advantages of Pergolas

A pergola can provide multiple design benefits for an outdoor living space. The open-air aspect allows for unrestricted air movement while still defining the space to visually create the look of an “outdoor room”. Additionally, the structure itself both filters the direct sunlight and can provide the framework for a outdoor-rated ceiling fan. To provide additional shade and add to the visual interest, flowering vines — such as Wisteria or Morning Glory — can be trained to grow atop the pergola.

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Outdoor Living Structures

The benefit of a roofed structure, as opposed to an open-air pergola, is that it provides a little more protection from the elements, including both sun and rain. Although late afternoon sun and driving rain will still creep in, you’ll still have increased shelter, as well as additional opportunities for fans, lighting, audio/visual equipment and appliances.

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Made in the Shade

There are a variety of affordable products available that can help increase the amount of shade in your outdoor living space, particular during that unbearably hot time of the day when the sunlight comes in at just the right angle to make you feel like you can fry an egg right on the patio flooring. Attractive options include indoor/outdoor curtains, retractable solar shades, and colorful sun canopies.

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Permeable Paver Water Features

Particularly in hot climates with lower humidity, water mist can significantly reduce the ambient temperature of a localized outdoor area. An alternate option to a traditional water-misting system is to install a water-recycling permeable pavement system that incorporates a water feature. The paver system can collect and recycle rainwater and provide a fun activity for kids, all while releasing mist into the air that will help alleviate some of the oppressive heat.

Yummy Summer Slider Bar

An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.

An American classic: Beef sliders with American cheese on a sesame seed bun.

Summer is a time for living and entertaining outdoors. Whether it’s the Fourth of July or just an average Monday in July, we Americans tend to spend the day focused on what we are known for: eating. Nothing like celebrating our independence by eating like the free men, women and children that we are. This year, maximize your freedom of food choice by setting up a slider bar. Sliders are smaller than regular burgers, which will allow you to try a few different kinds at once. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Nice Buns
The most underrated part of the burger: the bun. A bun can either make or break your burger. While the sesame seed bun is probably the most iconic bun out there, there are also several other types of buns. From Kaiser rolls to English muffins to croissants, be courageous with your bun choices. An excellent option is King’s Hawaiian sweet rolls, which are the perfect size for sliders and add a little extra sweetness to every bite.

Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and blue cheese on a grilled bun.

Kicking it up a notch: Ground beef and pork with arugula, tomato, caramelized onions and creamy blue cheese on a grilled bun.

To Beef or Not to Beef
Ah, the heart of the burger, the meat. You could go traditional with ground beef, or you could even try chicken, turkey, or pork — or all of the above. When you’re going with a non-traditional slider, you can either grill cuts of meat or ask your butcher to grind the meat. Another option is to make pulled pork by cooking a Boston butt in the crockpot. Simply season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, brown sugar and apple juice, then cook it until the meat pulls apart. Is so easy, yet so good! There are also plenty of vegetarian options. You could try a portobello mushroom cap in lieu of meat, or you could pick up black bean burgers from the frozen food section of the grocery. Who knows, you may even have your meat-lover friends trying to swipe your veggie burger away from you.

It Actually IS Easy Being Cheesy
For those of us who require cheese on our burgers, make sure to have plenty of cheese options for your slider bar. American is always a classic, especially on the Fourth of July. But feel free to experiment a little. Excellent choices include pepper jack, Swiss, feta, blue cheese, goat cheese, and Havarti. If you want to be really adventurous, check out the gourmet cheese section of your grocery store and look for something interesting, like a Melkbus with black truffles. Mmmmm.

Now we're talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.

Now we’re talking gourmet: Pulled pork sliders with zesty kale-slaw on a ciabatta roll.

Veggie Tales
A good burger always has its fair share of veggies on it. Sure you could do the ole lettuce and tomato, but we’re trying to provide freedom of slider choices here. Try also providing an assortment of options like sprouts, arugula, sauteed mushrooms, caramelized onions, and roasted red peppers. Grilled fruits (like pineapple or mango) also make a great addition.

To Top it Off
No burger is complete without that special sauce. Ketchup and mustard are fine, but if you haven’t caught on yet, we’re trying to be a little different. On your sliders, try topping them with sauces such as sriracha, creole mustard, cilantro mayonnaise, hummus, any of the different flavors provided by Tabasco, or just doctor up some “secret sauce” in the kitchen.

Would You Like Some Fries with That?
Finally, we need a side dish or two to round out those slider options. Since a burger bar can be pretty labor-intensive, you may want to try and keep the sides easy. In fact, whatever you can do to prep ahead of time will keep you from spending the day chopping while everyone else is having fun. So keep it simple when it comes to the sides. Grill some corn on the cob, heat up some baked beans, grab a bag of coleslaw, or just throw some frozen fries in the oven. Honestly, no one is going to care about the side dishes because they’ll be filling up on yummy sliders.

Pretty Handy Girl
Backyard Transformation

By guest blogger Brittany Bailey of PrettyHandyGirl.com.

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Anyone who has children and/or dogs knows that muddy pathways around your home are a huge problem for the interior of your house. Muddy footprints (and paw prints) can make keeping your home clean a monumental task. As a mom of two boys and a dog, I can tell you that our yard was a big mess of bare pathways, and frequently that mess was tracked indoors.

Several homeowners before us installed rounded landscape timbers and pea gravel to stop the inflow of mud into the home. Unfortunately as the timbers rotted, the gravel spread outside the frames. In its place, a congregation of weeds sprang up. Frankly, I think the weeds were enjoying themselves more in our backyard than we were. It was embarrassing to invite friends to a weed-filled jungle with rotted timbers dotting the landscape. We longed for a backyard that was devoid of messy pathways, and was a usable space for entertaining. This past Autumn, we decided a plan needed to be implemented to solve our landscape woes.

dublin-cobble-front-walk2Several years ago, we had a Belgard pathway and circular patio installed near our front door. We love the look of those pavers. The Dublin Cobble® has an old world feel, and the color variation between the pavers gives them the look of old tumbled pavers. I watched the landscaping crew install the Universal Circle Kit and was amazed by how quickly and easily the pavers fit together. To us, Belgard has always stood for quality landscaping hardscapes.

After the plans were drawn for our backyard, choosing the brand to use for hardscapes was easy. Deciding on the pavers and wall blocks was more difficult because of the large variety of Belgard products to choose from. In the end, we were able to merge formal and informal areas easily. The hardscapes complement the style of our house and look like they’ve been here for decades.

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BEFORE & AFTER TRANSFORMATION

Now you see them, now you don't! Exposed trashcans now have a new hiding place and cleaner access, thanks to a new pergola and Dublin Cobble® walkway.

Now you see them, now you don’t! Previously exposed trashcans now have a new attractive hiding place and are more accessible, thanks to Brittany’s new pergola and Dublin Cobble® walkway.

Patio before and after

This previously unusable space is now Brittany’s favorite spot. The Mega-Arbel® paver patio created a dining area off of her deck, with a surrounding Keystone® Stonegate® wall to help define the space and add additional seating for company.

Dangerously decayed wooden steps were replaced with Granika steps and trimmed with Keystone Stonegate wall and Tandem Caps to tie in with the patio and seat wall.

Dangerous decayed timber steps were replaced with Granika Step™ units and trimmed with Keystone® Stonegate® wall and Tandem® Caps to tie in with the patio and seat wall, providing a safe and handsome walkway down into the lower yard.

Firepit before and after

Brittany’s rustic firepit area got an updated look with the help of a Mega-Arbel® landing and a custom walkway made of  Keystone® Stonegate® wall caps. The patio is trimmed with Tandem® Caps to coordinate with the upper patio.

To see more dramatic before and after images and take a complete visual tour of Brittany’s new beautiful outdoor living spaces, visit her backyard reveal blog.

It’s Family Tourney Time

It’s that time of year again. That’s right, it’s Dad’s Day. This year, celebrate that special hard-working man with a day just for him, focused on his favorite pastime: sports. Ok, so he’s not LeBron James or Mike Trout, but today he can be the “King of Insignificant Sports”. So, dig a couple of poster boards out of the school supply closet and get ready for a backyard family tournament.

Badminton
Go to your local sporting goods store and grab yourself an affordable badminton set. Just make sure to set it up yourself. We don’t want to start off Father’s Day by putting the ole man in a bad mood. Once it’s all set up, separate the family into teams, set up your “singles” and “doubles” brackets, and then have at it. Have fun with it, and if you’re feeling extra sweet, let Dad win a game or two.

Ping Pong
Ah, ping pong…the game of champions. It’s a game that anyone can play once they get the hang of it. On your way to seeing who the true ping pong master is, however, be careful with how you celebrate your wins. Too much showboating can make any lovely day turn sour really quickly, especially if Dad busts out some celebratory dance move from his college days.

Cornhole Toss Game Board Close-UpCornhole or Washers
There’s just something so peaceful about throwing objects into holes. You can play this game with washers or bean bags. Either way, it’s an easy way to spend the afternoon. It’s also a great game to play for multi-taskers. Unlike other outdoor activities, cornhole doesn’t require you to put your drink down while you are playing, which will surely be good news for Dad.

Ring & Hook
You can guarantee that Dad will be telling stories about his favorite college pub before this game is over. A carport, porch, or even a tree would all be easy places to set this one up. All you need is a string, a metal ring, an eye hook, and a screw hook. Attach the string to a rafter or tree branch with the eye hook, tie the ring to the bottom of the string at a level low enough for the kids to reach, and screw the hook into a wall, post, or tree trunk. Now, you’re ready to play! The person who makes the ring onto the hook in the least amount of swings wins. But be prepared to hear stories about how good Dad was at this game in college, despite his lack of proof.

At the end of the day, assign points to each event for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, tally up the total points, and crown someone in the family as “King (or Queen) of Insignificant Sports”. Now, hopefully it will Dad, since it’s his day, but it all depends on how competitive the family is. They may want him to actually earn the title. In any case, it’s all good fun and will surely be a day to remember. Who knows, it may just become a favorite annual tradition.

Refreshing Watermelon Cocktails

Ah, watermelon…that sweet and refreshing summer fruit. On a hot day, nothing hits the spot like watermelon that has been iced down all day, just waiting to be cut and enjoyed. But if you’re ready to take your watermelon game to the next level, here are some delicious cocktails honoring this vibrant and juicy fruit. For the recipes that call for frozen watermelon, cube the melon, remove all seeds, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet in the freezer for a couple of hours until frozen.

honeysuckle-watermelon-cocktails-sl-x

Photo: Chris M. Rogers; Styling: Lydia Degaris Pursell

Honeysuckle Watermelon Cocktail

Blend or process 8 cups seeded and cubed fresh watermelon until smooth, then pour into a pitcher through a mesh strainer. Add the following ingredients, mix, and serve with garnish of lime slices, watermelon slices, or fresh mint sprigs.

  • 1 cup honeysuckle vodka
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 cups lemon-lime soft drink

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watermelon-bellini-mr-x

Photo: Jennifer Davick; Styling: Lindsey Ellis Beatty

Watermelon Bellini

Rub the rims of champagne glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients.

  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling wine, chilled
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • pinch of salt

Top off with an additional splash of sparkling wine and serve with garnish of a watermelon slice.

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Photo: Southern Living

Photo: Southern Living

Watermelon Mint Margaritas

Rub the rim of cocktail glasses with a lime wedge and dip the rims in coarse sugar to coat. Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint.

  • 4 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1/2 cup tequila*
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated lime rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (about 3 limes)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves

*For a kid-friendly version, substitute tequila with orange juice or apple juice.

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Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Photo: Lee Harrleson; Styling: Virginia Cravens

Slushy Watermelon Mojitos

Blend or process the following ingredients and serve with a garnish of fresh mint sprigs or lime slices.

  • 5 cups frozen watermelon
  • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 3/4 cup white rum
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1 (6-oz) can frozen limeade concentrate, undiluted

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Recipes and photos courtesy of time inc.