Patio Design Trends:
Large-Format Pavers

Over the last few years, one patio design trend that continues to grow in popularity is the increased size of patio pavers. Although the classic styles of smaller cobble and brick pavers still have a strong following, particularly in neighborhoods with more traditional architecture, homeowners with contemporary architecture have a tendency to lean towards the fashionable lines of larger pavers. Some attribute the style shift to the European and Mediterranean design influences that have been infiltrating American architecture and both interior and exterior design for the last couple of decades. Others attribute the shift to the design strategy of using larger pavers to make a smaller outdoor space appear more spacious and less cluttered. Whatever the reasons, large-format pavers have become an undeniable trend in contemporary patio design.

Back to Nature

Likely driven somewhat by the green movement, as well as European design influences, many homeowners are drawn to the look of natural stone. Belgard offers a variety of large format pavers that emulate the look of natural stone, with the added benefits of reduced costs and increased durability. Many Belgard pavers and retaining wall products are created by scanning natural stone with a 3-D scanner and using the dimensional imagery to create molds to produce hardscape products that mimic the look and texture of slate, flagstone, or hand-chiseled rock. But unlike natural stone, pavers can be laid in a pattern that deceptively looks random but installs much more easily.

Mega-Arbel®:  Mega-Arbel offers the texture, shape, and random look of natural flagstone to create outdoor spaces that flow into the surrounding landscape. Each irregularly shaped stone is roughly 15″x21″ and fits together into a cloverleaf pattern that installs more quickly than natural flagstone. False joints create the illusion of randomly-laid multiple sized pieces, including large stones that meet the needs of contemporary design trends.

Mega-Lafitt­™: The most natural-looking texture in a modular paver, Mega-Lafitt offers the look of hand-cut stone in a modular paver. Various modular shapes, including a large piece that is nearly 16″x16″, allow for a great deal of design flexibility that works well with a variety of architectural styles.

Lafitt™ Rustic Slab: With the look of natural slate, Lafitt Rustic Slab offers the modular lines of Mega-Lafitt, but with a less rugged texture and larger pieces, the largest of which is roughly 15″x23″. Lafitt Rustic Slab has the added benefit of the ability to overlay an existing concrete patio, making it ideal for backyard makeovers.

Sleek Contemporary Style

Although some gravitate to the natural stone look, others prefer more of a postmodern or avant-garde style, with sharp or clean lines. Belgard offers two paver lines that coordinate well with this type of design.

Mirage® Porcelain Pavers: Imported from Italy, Mirage Porcelain Pavers are the latest addition to the Belgard paver line and offer the utmost in ultra-contemporary outdoor living design. With over 40 interpretations of stone, concrete and wood (yes, wood) designs, these pavers come in standard sizes up to 24″x24″ — 18″x36″ in some markets — with the option to special order larger pieces.

Lafitt Grana SlabLafitt™ Grana Slab: Laffitt Grana Slab offers the same sizes, shapes, and overlay options as Lafitt Rustic Slab, but with a smooth finish, instead of the textured finish. Without losing the benefit of slip resistance, the sleek, clean lines of Lafitt Grana Slab create outdoor living designs that work well with any contemporary architectural style.



For more patio design ideas, visit our patio inspiration page. To find a contractor or dealer near you, visit our locator gallery.

Time to Enjoy Your Pool!

Where does your mind go when thinking about summer? Maybe you imagine relaxing on the beach or taking a trip to the nearest water park. Something about spending time outside in the water and sun just screams, “It’s summer!” However, thoughts of beaches and water parks also scream, “Time and money!!” This summer, try using a more convenient method for soaking up rays and hanging out in the water. The idea is very simple: put on your favorite bathing suit and then walk right into your backyard. Remember that giant and expensive hole in your yard that you filled with a large amount of water? Believe it or not, it’s not just a lovely water feature. You’re allowed to use it! Here’s the best part: you can use it whenever you want! Here are a few ideas to help you get the most from your pool this summer.


Most kids enjoy playing “Marco Polo” or “Sharks and Minnows” in the pool. While that’s all well and good, how about trying a few different games with the kids this summer. Just remember that all games should be supervised by an adult.

PingPongPing Pong Scramble: This is almost like the pool version of hungry hungry hippos. Have the kids form a large circle and then dump a container of ping balls in the middle of the circle. Kids can use socks, party cups, or even plastic bags to collect the balls. The player with the most balls wins.

WatermelonWatermelon Relay: You may not know this, but watermelons float. Split the group into relay teams. Have each contestant swim across the pool pushing a watermelon, handing it off to the next person in line. The team who finishes first wins. And when the game is over, carve up the “game balls” for a tasty poolside treat!

PaperBoatPaper Boat Races: Making a paper boat is simple, but if you don’t remember how, there are many instructional videos on YouTube. To stretch the time, you can first have the kids decorate their pieces of paper with crayons before folding the paper into boats. Once the boats are built, turn the pool pump on to create a current for racing the boats around the pool. For added fun, kids can create “wind” by blowing on the boats, or they can use their hands to create “waves” to propel the boats. Just remember that if the boats get too wet, they will sink or fall apart. But that’s ok, just make some more for the next race!


VolleyballWater Volleyball: This activity is usually reserved for larger families or several guests who don’t mind getting a little physical. Pool nets and a volleyball are a relatively inexpensive purchase, and the setup is easy. Just pick your teams and try not to swallow too much water when grandma accidentally takes you out while diving for a loose ball. If you want to get really into it, and have the right amount of people for it, set up a tournament and go out and buy a cheap trophy to give to the winning team. This can easily become your next family or group tradition.

Cocktail CaddyFloating Cocktail Party (21+):  When the kids are away, the adults will play. Invite some friends over for an afternoon or evening of relaxing adult-filled activities. Open a nice bottle of wine, try that new martini recipe you found the other day, or simply bust out a few beers. Most importantly, do it from the comfort of your pool, floating on your favorite flotation device. You can even purchase a floating ice chest or cocktail caddy for your bar-tending convenience. For ambiance at evening gatherings, add some floating lights. For safety reasons, make sure to use only shatterproof glasses while around or in the pool.

Pool lights

Product Highlight:
Permeable Pavers

One of the fastest growing trends in outdoor living, permeable pavers are an attractive way to improve drainage, recycle water, and help the environment. Built over a gradient bed of gravel, permeable pavers allow water to percolate down into the ground below, which not only reduces the amount of stormwater runoff, but cleans the water of pollutants in the process. A permeable pavement system can also be constructed to include a water harvesting system to recycle water for irrigation or other uses. Belgard offers a full line of permeable pavers ideal for a variety of outdoor living designs.

Eco Dublin®: With the smooth face of cut stone, Eco Dublin is a three-piece modular paver that supports both foot and vehicular traffic and adds a modular contemporary flair to outdoor living designs.

Subterra®Stone: Subterra Stone might very well be the most attractive, natural-looking permeable paver on the market. Featuring a false joint structure and a textured face, it offers the elegant look of chiseled stone and is ideal for homeowners who desire environmental stewardship without compromising beauty and style.

Aqua-Roc™: Offering the classic look of brick pavers, Aqua-Roc can be laid in a running bond, basket-weave, or herringbone patterns to create attractive and durable driveways, walkways, patios and poolscapes.

Aqua-Bric®: Aqua-Bric incorporates a notched edge to offer a modern twist on the classic brick paver. This versatile paver can be used for numerous applications and complements any architectural style.

Turfstone®:  Turfstone’s eco-friendly design reduces run-off and allows greenery to grow right through it, creating a highly unique hardscape design that works in harmony with nature and helps control and stabilize soil erosion.


Green Movement Drives 2015 Outdoor Design Trends


This outdoor living space incorporates many of this year’s top 10 design trends, including Subterra® Stone permeable pavers, a centrally placed fire pit, downturned low-voltage hardscape and landscape lighting, and low-maintenance landscaping. 

The results of the annual nationwide survey conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) indicated that concern for the environment appears to be driving the design trends of 2015, with eco-friendly or sustainable practices dominating the top 10 trends in this year’s survey. Here are the top 10 design trends reported by the survey, in order of popularity.

1. Native plants: Back in the 70s and 80s, it was typical to see lush green lawns and tropical plants in the gardens of dryer climates. Today’s homeowners, however, are choosing plants that more easily thrive in local conditions, without having to overtax the municipal water supply.

2. Drought-tolerant plants: Even in wetter climates, homeowners are choosing plants that require less water.

2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)

2015 garden trends center on conservation and sustainability. (photos courtesy Time Inc.)

3. Edible gardens: With an edible garden, a homeowner can grow more of their own food, requiring the purchase of fewer food items at the grocery, and thus requiring less use of natural resources to get those foods to market.

4. Fire pits/fireplaces: Although not necessarily an avenue to help improve the environment, fire pits and fireplaces do offer a gathering spot where people can spend time together enjoying their outdoor environment.

Although fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth highest in overall outdoor living trends, they rank number one in popular design elements.

Fire pits and fireplaces rank as the fourth most popular in overall outdoor living trends, but rank number one in terms of most popular design elements.

5. Low-maintenance landscapes: Today’s homeowners want to spend less time mowing, weeding, and watering their yards and more time enjoying them.

6. Permeable paving: Permeable pavers offer an attractive way to reduce flooding and improve the quality of local waterways by allowing stormwater to percolate through a graduated bed of aggregates into the ground below, removing pollutants in the process.

With permeable pavers, water soaks into the pavement system instead of running off.

With permeable pavers, water infiltrates into the pavement system instead of running off.

7. Water-efficient irrigation: Multiple technologies exist that automatically sense the amount of water needed and help avoid unnecessary over-watering, thus conserving water use.

8. Rain gardens: Rain gardens offer an attractive, natural way to reduce the burden on urban and suburban sewer systems caused by stormwater runoff.

9. Lighting: Many of today’s outdoor lighting options include energy saving features, such as solar power, low-voltage output, or timers. The light fixtures themselves often incorporate design elements intended to reduce resulting light pollution.

10. Rainwater/graywater harvesting: Many municipalities now offer rain barrel programs to conserve outdoor water use. In addition, a permeable paver system can be designed to harvest and reuse rainwater for irrigation and graywater purposes.


A permeable interlocking concrete pavement (PICP) system can be designed to incorporate water harvesting and recycling.

Outdoor Kitchen Trends

Belgard Hardscapes - GMS

The popularity of the outdoor kitchen is undeniable. In many areas of the country, kitchens are becoming a standard element of the home design in new construction, particularly in median level homes and above, and can range from a simple built-in grill to full-scale gourmet kitchens that rival in quality and scale to the indoor kitchen. In fact, it’s not unusual in today’s outdoor living culture to spend more money on the construction of the outdoor kitchen than the indoor kitchen, considering that all of the building materials and appliances need to be sturdy enough to survive outdoor conditions, including moisture, harsh sunlight, and a wide range of critters.

In the continued evolution of this developing phenomenon, here are a few of today’s hottest outdoor kitchen trends:

Cooking SurfacesMultiple Cooking Surfaces

Outdoor entertaining is optimal for large groups because the very nature of the open setting allows for large numbers of people to gather without feeling crowded. However, entertaining large groups requires large amounts of food, which makes multiple cooking surfaces a must. Options can include both charcoal and gas grills, standard cooking burners, fryer burners, brick ovens, and even standard ovens. Many don’t consider including a brick oven due to the mistaken belief that brick ovens are only useful for cooking bread or pizza, however brick oven owners know that anything can be cooked in a brick oven that can be cooked in a standard oven. For brick oven recipe ideas, click here.

imageCreate Functional Zones

Outdoor kitchens with different functional zones allow for multiple cooking, prep, and entertaining activities to occur simultaneously. Today’s outdoor kitchens incorporate lots of counter space for food prep and serving, in addition to extra counter space for creating a communal environment so that the guests can visit with the hosts during food prep and cooking. One popular trend is to incorporate a multi-level counter top, with one level functioning as the prep area, and the higher level functioning as the serving surface or bar area.

imageLight the Way

In any kitchen, proper lighting is key to functionality. However, the modern outdoor kitchen needs to function as both a kitchen and an entertainment space. Popular lighting options include outdoor rated pendants, uplighting into the rafters, and under cabinet lights. Installing dimmer switches allows for brighter lighting during cooking and lower ambient light when the cooking is done. Also, low voltage lights installed directly onto the exterior of the cabinetry is a popular way to provide additional ambiance. Other trending lighting options include nearby fire features like outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables. For other outdoor lighting ideas, click here.

imageCreature Comforts

The modern family is accustomed to being constantly plugged in. Naturally, this trend has moved outdoors. The trendy outdoor kitchen is fully equipped with all of the comforts of the home’s interior, including comfortable furniture, outdoor rated audio speakers, televisions, fans, gas heaters, wi-fi, and retractable solar screens for shielding guest during sunnier times of day. Specialty outdoor appliances are also rising in popularity, like kegerators, wine refrigerators, and bar style roll-top beverage coolers.

Summer Recipe:
Cedar-Planked Salmon with Mango Kiwi Salsa

cedar-planked-salmon-ck-xGrilling salmon on a cedar plank is a simple and elegant way to prepare a light yet full-flavored summer dish. The salmon stays incredibly tender and moist, while picking up smoky flavors from the grill and woodsy flavors from the cedar, along with whatever was used to soak the planks. With this recipe, the smoky Cedar Plank-Grilled Salmon stands up nicely to the spicy sweetness of the tropical Mango Kiwi Salsa. Prepare the salsa before the salmon, or even the day before, so the flavors have time to meld.


1 large cedar plank
1 cup finely diced peeled ripe mango
1/2 cup diced peeled kiwifruit
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
1 serrano chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 for salsa, 1/4 for salmon)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (1/4 for salsa, 1/4 for salmon)
4 (6-ounce) skinless salmon fillets


1. Soak plank in water for 25 minutes. (For additional flavor, try soaking the plank in wine, cider, or sake.)

2. Combine mango and next 5 ingredients (through chile). Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; set aside.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

4. Sprinkle salmon with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place plank on grill rack (without salmon); grill 3 minutes or until lightly charred. Turn plank over; place fish on charred side. Cover; grill 8 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Place each fillet on a plate; top each with 1/3 cup mango salsa.

Photo: Johnny Autry; Styling: Mary Clayton Carl (Courtesy Time, Inc.)