Follow a Backyard Transformation – Planning

When you purchase or build a new home, you add special touches to make it your own. When Pierre and Christi Simoneaux bought their new home six years ago in Covington, La., they had renovation plans which included adding hardscapes, gardens, and the piece de resistance, an outdoor entertainment area.

Photos before installation
A transformation is about to occur

“To keep  everything within a budget, the initial plan was to ‘phase out’ the project over years – the patio, then the bar, then a built-in grill,” said Christi Simoneaux. “But Belgard’s Preferred Payment Plan let us spread the payments out over several months with no interest, which allowed us to complete the project all at one time.”

Belgard’s Design Pro 3-D rendering of the new bar area

Using Belgard’s website, the Simoneauxs were able to see various options and make initial decisions that fit their style. They loved the look of the Belgard Elements Collection, as well as a variety of pavers. Loaded with an arsenal of ideas, and having located a local Belgard Authorized Dealer from the “dealer locator” on the website, the next step was to design the space.

The couple submitted some photos of their backyard, along with some rough sketches of ideas. Using Belgard’s Design Studio, Mike Miles, designer with the Belgard Elements Collection and Harmony Outdoor Living, was able to provide a 3-D rendering of their plans.

Outdoor Seating Area by the Pool

“I honestly couldn’t believe how realistic the drawings looked, down to the color of my shutters and the shape of my pool,” said Simoneaux. “We were able to see exactly how the pavers and Elements would look, and even made a number of changes to the design that we wouldn’t have realized were needed if we hadn’t had these renderings. Some of what we pictured in our heads would not have worked well in real life. Thanks to the 3-D drawings, we saved ourselves a lot of potential heartache.”

Once the design was finalized, Jim Stone Co., the local Belgard dealer, recommended two Authorized Belgard Installers to bid on the job. Their chosen contractor, Rod Trahan with La Pavers,  then brought samples to their home to finalize the product selection. “Seeing the product in the environment helped us make final choices,” said Simoneaux. “They took some measurements to plan access and confirm placement of everything, and we were on our way to our new backyard.”

Rendering of the Entry Way

With the finances finalized and the products chosen, the installation is set to begin. The use of Belgard’s Elements reduces the project time-line immensely. It would typically take weeks for a similar installation built from the ground up. By using the Elements Collection, the time-line for the Simoneaux family is reduced to three days. “Belgard Elements are built in modules in the factory and shipped on a pallet, already constructed,” said Trahan. “The first day will be prep work, the second day is installation, and the final day is finishing details.”

Follow the Simoneaux installation on this blog.

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West Palm Beach Red Cross Show Home features Belgard Products

A gentle bay breeze beckoned guests to the 2011 Red Cross Show House Preview Party held January 19th in West Palm Beach, FL. The evening was spectacular, as was the view from the pool looking across the water toward Palm Beach. The home’s beautifully landscaped exterior featured Belgard® pavers in a variety of applications.

 Belgard permeable pavers enhance the pool’s luxurious ambiance.

Today’s creative home designers don’t simply limit their vision to the interior of a home. They’ve turned their talents to creating “outdoor rooms,” backyard gathering places which can be as intimate and stylish as any indoor room, agreed Keith Williams of Mario Nievera Design, Inc., and Daryl McCann of Gregory Lombardi Design.

“You have to form spaces and develop movement through those spaces,” said  McCann, who designed much of the rear patio area. McCann incorporated pathways to separate spaces and varying colors to delineate them.

Recently added to the house are the backyard walkway, garden wall and fire pit. Built with Mega Arbel® pavers Mega Arbel in  a natural-looking “Amaretto” color,  the walkway meanders from the pool area to the secluded fire pit at the water’s edge. Mega Arbel’s scale is similar to that of natural flagstone and installs easily, due to its unique interlocking design. Completing the look is a retaining wall, seat benches, pathway edging, and a large free-standing feature wall constructed with Belgard Highland Stone®.

A garden wall adds drama, incorporating a Highland Stone Free Standing Wall and greenery.
A Mega Arbel walkway paired with a Highland Stone low wall and fire pit.
The home’s entrance drive featuring Belgard pavers

The West Palm Beach home is open through Saturday, February 19th and tickets are available for purchase. Proceeds support the American Red Cross.

Welcome Sign

Recipe of the Month – February

photo by James Carrier

Merlot Pot Roast
with Horseradish
Smashed Potatoes

from Sunset Magazine, Oct. 2000

The winter months call for comfort foods. Coming home to the smell of a cooked roast makes the mouth water, and this recipe is no exception. With the ease of a crock pot, this dinner finds itself ready  when you walk in the door.

Complete the meal with a salad and smashed potatoes. If you don’t have time to smash the potatoes, cut them into chunks, cover with olive oil, salt and pepper (even red pepper for some kick), then set in the broiler until golden brown. Flip for a few more minutes and serve.

Although this recipe calls to brown the meat which adds to its texture, it is not necessary if time does not permit. Just put the raw meat on top of the vegetables. You can substitute mini carrots instead of chopping.

Yield: Makes 6 to 8 servings


  • 1 tied fat-trimmed boned beef chuck roast (3 to 3 1/2 lb.)
  • Fresh-ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
  • 3 carrots (about 1/4 lb. each), rinsed and peeled
  • 1 onion (1/2 lb.), peeled and chopped
  • 2/3 cup chopped celery
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 cup Merlot or other dry red wine
  • 1/3 cup canned tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • Horseradish smashed potatoes (below)
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 to 2 cups watercress sprigs, rinsed and crisped (optional)
  • Salt


1. Rinse beef, pat dry, and sprinkle generously all over with fresh-ground pepper. Melt butter in a 10- to 12-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat. When hot, add beef and brown well on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes total.

2. Meanwhile, cut carrots into sticks about 3/8 inch thick and 2 inches long. In a 4 1/2-quart or larger electric slow-cooker, combine carrots, onion, celery, garlic, thyme, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Set beef on vegetables; add drippings. In a small bowl, mix wine and tomato paste; pour over meat and vegetables.

3. Cover and cook until beef is very tender when pierced, 8 to 9 hours on low, 5 to 6 hours on high. If possible, turn meat over halfway through cooking.

4. With 2 slotted spoons, transfer meat to a platter; keep warm. Skim and discard any fat from cooking liquid. Turn cooker to high. In a small bowl, blend cornstarch with 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water; pour into cooker and stir often until sauce is bubbling, 10 to 15 minutes.

5. With a slotted spoon, lift vegetables from cooker and arrange beside meat. Spoon horseradish smashed potatoes onto platter; sprinkle with parsley. Garnish platter with watercress. Spoon sauce over meat. Slice meat and serve with vegetables, potatoes, and sauce, adding salt to taste.

Horseradish Smashed Potatoes

Add chives for appearances

Yield: Makes 6 to 7 cups (serving size: 6 to 8 servings)


  • 3 to 3 1/2 pounds russet
  • 2 1/2 quarts water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups half-and-half or fat-skimmed chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish


1. Scrub and peel 3 to 3 1/2 pounds russet potatoes; cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Put them in a 4- to 5-quart pan with 2 1/2 quarts water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer until potatoes mash easily when pressed, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. When potatoes are done, heat 1 to 1 1/2 cups half-and-half (light cream) or fat-skimmed chicken broth with 2 tablespoons butter or margarine in a microwave-safe container in a microwave oven at full power (100%) just until steaming (don’t boil), 1 to 3 minutes. Or warm in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart pan over medium heat.

3 .While cream heats, drain potatoes and mash in pan with a mixer or potato masher until almost smooth. Add cream, a portion at a time, and mix until potatoes have the consistency desired. Stir in salt, pepper, and 1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish to taste. Mound beside Merlot pot roast or scrape into a bowl.

Wall Seats and Decor

Seating area overlooking the garden. Belair Wall

A beautiful backyard will naturally draw people to the outdoors. Yet, once they are there, if there is no place to sit and relax, they may turn around and head back inside. The remedy? Outdoor seating. Even the most appealing backyards are incomplete without seating. Creating an permanent seating area will invitingly draw your guests to a particular spot in the garden or to an enjoyable backyard feature, such as a fire pit, fire place, or swimming pool.

Belgard’s diverse range of wall products makes your hardscape seating options practically limitless.  For example, BelAir Wall™ is an ideal solution for residential and light commercial retaining and  free-standing wall construction where pleasing aesthetics are a key consideration. The attractive multi-piece design (= endless pattern options) and blended colors offer an alternative look. The design of this easy-to-use product allows for straight lines, sweeping curves and right angles. Matching caps provide ideal seating areas.

Seating around a water feature using Celtik Wall

Another excellent option is Celtik Wall™. Belgard’s twentieth-century interpretation of ancient wall stone, Celtik Wall offers timeless elegance combined with modern durability and  ease-of-maintenance. Celtik Wall’s design flexibility makes it ideal for any number of uses — encircling greenery, partitioning property, accenting light posts, or simply creating accent walls with rugged, romantic appeal.

Ideas for Seating

    • Retaining walls – build them to seating height. Belgard offers many cap toppers to create a matching, cohesive appearance.
Seat in a wall. Celtik Wall
  • Around a feature – when adding a fire pit or water feature, use a topped wall to allow company to sit and enjoy the elements.
  • Create a new space – use a wall to divide spaces and create a gathering area. The wall can serve double duty by providing seating for both areas.
  • Garden borders – add a wall to border a garden, creating a relaxing seating area to enjoy the flowers.
  • Tall walls – create surface areas that project from higher walls to create additional seating.

More Than Hardscapes

To create even more interest in your outdoor room, add a splash of color and texture by using pillows and cushions. There are many fabrics specially made for the outdoor elements. When selecting items, consider the color of both your hardscapes and surroundings.

Bright colors and lively motifs create fun in a space. Blues and greens can be soothing and coordinate with a pool and nature. Earth tones add a serene feeling when they blend with the surrounding vista. Be sure to coordinate your outdoor colors to compliment those inside if they are being seen through glass doors and windows.

Colorful pillows make an area fun. Celtik Wall

Although outdoor fabrics are durable, you will want to make sure they receive adequate drainage and drying after a rain. Take them in during the freezing of the winter, especially if there is moisture present. If you see stains or mold, remove and treat immediately.

When you are purchasing fabrics, make sure they are fade-free, repel water, mold/mildew resistant, stain repelling, have full color threads (not a pattern printed on the fabric), and of course, soft.

All photos use Belgard products. Belgard offers a variety of natural, smooth-step pavers and rough-hewn  textured wall systems that provide a time-honed appearance reminiscent  of the gardens of Old Europe. However, they’re the product of thoroughly modern manufacturing, engineered with precise dimensional consistency  for easy installation. Visit our website for more ideas.

“Canned” Chicken

Want a great halftime meal without missing the big game? Grab an aluminum can of your favorite malty or sweet beverage and fire up the grill! With this simple recipe that practically cooks itself, you’ll get to spend more time with your guests watching the game (and the commercials). Now, that gives everyone something to cheer about!

5-6 pound chicken (serves 4-6)
Aluminum can half full with any of the following…beer, wine, chicken broth, soda (not diet), fruit juice
Non-stick cooking spray
Olive oil or melted butter
Aluminum pie pan
Your favorite spices or dry rub mixture


  • Make sure the can will fit in the chicken and that the chicken will fit standing up on your grill with the cover down. There are a number of products available to help a larger bird stay upright if you are having a problem.
  • Wrap the can with foil, then coat with non-stick spray for easy removal.
  • Wash the chicken inside and out and remove all excess fat.
  • For even more flavor, add extra ingredients to the canned liquid – such as spices, garlic, onions.
  • Lightly baste the skin with olive oil or melted butter to make it crispy.
  • Gently add your seasoning or dry rub UNDER the skin and on the inside of the bird.
  • Place the can and chicken upright on the aluminum pie pan. The pan will contain the chicken if it falls apart during cooking or removal from the grill.
  • Make a foil packet of veggies and potatoes and add to the grill during the last hour for a complete dinner.

Use indirect heat. If you have heat on both sides, you will not have to turn the bird. If not, carefully rotate it a half turn every 30 minutes. For the barbecue, it is recommended to keep the heat between 300-325 degree. For the smoker, keep the temperature slightly above the boiling point for the liquid – around 250 degrees.

Plan for 2-3 hours for a 5-6 pound bird on the grill. Smoking time may be longer.

It’s not the time but an internal temperature of 170-175 degrees that says, “I’m done!” Check the temperature at the thickest part of the bird, around the thigh, but don’t touch the bone. Once off the grill, let it sit for 10 minutes (the internal temperature will continue to rise). All juices should run clear. You may need tongs to pull out the can. No carving is necessary – the meat should fall off!

Belgard Products Featured in IBS Show Homes


The New American Home
The New American Home in Orlando. Photo by James F. Wilson for NAHB.

Belgard® Environmental Collection permeable pavers are featured in the fabulous Greek Revival style “The New American Home” (TNAH 2011), the official show home of the National Association of Home Builders, open for tours this week to attendees of the International Builder’s Show 2011 (IBS 2011) in Orlando, FL.

Located a short shuttle bus ride from the IBS 2011, the home incorporates over 1,700 square feet of Belgard’s Eco-Holland Slate permeable pavers and 480 square feet of the Eco-Holland Charcoal permeable pavers. Permeable pavers allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground, virtually eliminating destructive run off, potentially removing the need for retention ponds and underground sewer pipes. In addition, they contribute to LEED certification credits.

Eco Holland

Belgard Products Featured in IBS 2011 Homes
Available in a variety of colors, Eco-Holland can be laid out in numerous architectural designs, offering design flexibility and adding value to residential and commercial properties. Eco-Holland permeable pavers benefit the environment and have the strength to withstand both vehicular traffic and harsh weather conditions. Plus, they are ADA Compliant. Visit the Belgard website to learn more information on the entire Environmental Collection.

The New American Home
Featuring the latest in building products and innovative construction technologies, the home will be visited by industry professionals from across the globe. TNAH 2011 was certified by the National Green Building Standard with Emerald Status, the highest of the four levels of achievement in resource efficiency that the NAHB Research Center recognizes. Tours are available through Saturday, 1/15. Visit the show website for a schedule.

The Vision and ReVision Homes
Also in Orlando are the Vision and ReVision Homes, two ultra-energy-efficient homes featuring Belgard products. Shuttles from the IBS to both homes begin at 10am and last departure from the homes: 1/13 departs at 3pm; 1/14 departs at 4pm; 1/15 departs at 1:30pm.