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.

Patio Design Ideas

The primary benefit of installing a hardscape patio is the lasting beauty. But precisely because it’s going to be there for a very long time, it’s important that you put a good bit of thought into the design. You want to make sure that the space will reflect your personality, as well as suit your functional needs. Below are some inspirational ideas for fabulous hardscape patios using Belgard pavers and wall products to reflect a wide variety of personal styles.

Cozy Rooms

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Fun & Funky Paver Patterns

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Fire Pit Patios

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Sleek & Contemporary

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Permeable Patios

For more patio design ideas, visit our Perfect Patios Pinterest Board.

Fire Pit Design Ideas

Fire pits appeal to people of all generations and backgrounds. There’s just something about sitting around a fire that brings people together. Get ready to create your family’s favorite gathering spot with these fire pit design ideas.

Coordinated Design

Squared angles and textured stone create a coordinated look for this rustic fire pit. Using the same retaining wall product to build the fire pit, seat walls, retaining walls and steps creates a cohesive look and blends various elements of the design together.

Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Celtik Wall

Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Celtik® Wall

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Room for All

This extra large fire pit and surrounding open patio area includes plenty of space for seating and standing and is the perfect setting for large family gatherings. The only thing missing is a guitar.

Outdoor living space located in Coeur d'alene, Idaho designed by Gibson Landscaping, includes multiple Patios, Firepit and Driveway. The project utilized the following Belgard products manufactured by Sierra Building Materials of Stockton, CA Mega Arbel - Coeur d'alene Blend (custom color)

Product: Mega-Arbel® pavers

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Secluded Getaway

The curved retaining wall creates an element of privacy, turning the area surrounding this sunken fire pit into an intimate nook for sipping coffee with the sunrise or enjoying an evening glass of wine.

Belgard 2010 ~ Northfield Chicago

Products: Mega-Arbel® pavers, Anchor Highland Stone® wall

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Maximizing Small Spaces

A rectangular fire pit is an excellent option for a narrow patio and allows space for larger furniture pieces without sacrificing walking area. Gas-burning pits are a better choice for placement less than ten feet from the home.

Products: Belair Wall, ???

Products: Belair Wall® (fire pit wall), Weston Stone® (fire pit base), Mega-Lafitt™ pavers

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Elements of Nature

This design combines the natural elements of stone, wood, fire and water to create an attractive gathering spot that complements the surrounding wooded landscape.

Products: ???, ???

Products: Weston Stone® wall, Bergerac® pavers

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Bold & Beautiful

Vibrant reds pull this design together, with red brick used for the fire pit, bar, columns and porch fascia that coordinates with the red tones of the patio’s eco-friendly permeable pavers.

Product: Subterra permeable pavers

Product: Subterra® Stone permeable pavers

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Destination Spot

By placing this fire pit and surrounding seat wall at the far end of the property, this area becomes as destination spot for intimate gatherings. Hardscape and landscape lighting provides additional ambiance and visibility.

4D Schusters Belgard Photography 2009.

Products: Bergerac® pavers, Weston Stone® wall

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For more fire pit ideas,visit the Belgard Fire Pit Pinterest Board or visit our contractor gallery to locate a Belgard Authorized Contractor near you.

Our Outdoor Room Wish List

Our Outdoor Room Wish List

Homeowners are moving out – outside that is – turning their plain patios into outdoor rooms with all the conveniences of the indoors, extending their home’s square footage. So what would be on your outdoor room wish list? Ours would look a little like this:

Big Screen TV

You can’t throw a tailgate without the game and that’s why our wish list includes a permanent outdoor television. For those who can’t get enough of the action, add multiple screens so you can keep up with all the scores in real time. Extra points for built-in surround sound!

Outdoor Kitchen

The most important – OK, the second most important – part of tailgating is the food. Create the ultimate outdoor kitchen with all of the equipment needed to pull off the winning game day menu, such as a built-in grill and ice maker.

Comfortable Seating

With Thursday Night Football, NCAA Saturdays, Sunday Night Football, and Monday Night Football – that’s a whole lot of football. Not to mention all the other sports you’ll be watching in your outdoor room. Design a room with seating that is comfortable enough to last four quarters and then some. Deep cushion seating makes the outdoors feel like the comfort of inside.

Fire Pit/Fireplace

As playoffs get closer and the season is warming up, the temperatures outside are cooling down. Stay warm and toasty during your tailgate with a fire pit or fireplace. Pre-built modular pieces like those from the Belgard Elements Collection are quick and easy to install, allowing for minimal disruption to the football season.

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.

BergeracCeltikSunkenKitchen

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.

Backyard Transformation

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With the help of Belgard, the Stolnacke family transformed both their backyard and their lives.

Stolnacke Before

The Stolnacke backyard before Belgard.

Jennifer and Carl Stolnacke lived on five acres of rugged terrain that sloped down to a pond on the back of the property. Their backyard was basically unusable, except for a small concrete patio. With this blank slate, they carved out their own personal backyard oasis. After living in their northern California home for a couple of years with their two dogs, Maverick and Goose, Jennifer and Carl were ready to create a permanent, more useable outdoor living space that fit with their lifestyle. They enjoyed walking the grounds and especially enjoyed looking at the pond, but with the exception of a couple of lawn chairs and a small concrete slab behind the house, their space was not ideal for backyard gatherings

“We love to barbecue with friends, but the dirt and leaves just were not conducive to that. When friends came over, it seemed more like a camp out,” Jennifer explained.

With the help of the experts at The Paver Company, the Stolnackes now have an expansive multi-level outdoor living space that incorporates multiple gathering areas – including a pool, outdoor fireplace, fire pit, and brick oven – that are all tied together with walkways and garden walls that work together to create a harmonious, cohesive look.

Working with the existing elements.

Outdoor enthusiasts, the Stolnackes wanted to keep the pond as the focal point of the yard, without blocking their scenic view, and incorporate natural design elements to keep the setting rustic and earthy. They also wanted to make use of the existing concrete slabs on the back porch and driveway, but desired a way tie everything together without having these elements clash with each other.

The final cohesive design flanked out to the sides with the fireplace and brick oven acting as visual anchors on either side, with a terraced patio that led down to the fire pit and pool in the center, overlooking the pond. The design incorporated natural boulders, as well as Belgard Hardscapes that mimic those natural textures. Patio areas were paved with Mega-Lafitt™ pavers, which offer the look and feel of natural cut flagstone, with Bergerac® pavers adding a hand-cobbled look to the borders and walkways. Garden walls were built with the Tandem™ Wall retaining wall system, which creates the appearance of large blocks of chiseled stone.

“By skirting the existing concrete pads and fire pit with the Bergerac pavers used in the walkway, we were able to tie the whole design together and make everything work,” said installation contractor John Brightenstine of The Paver Company.

How life has changed for the Stolnackes.

Jennifer loves the fact that she can now walk around the perimeter of her backyard barefoot or in slippers. Her favorite pastime is relaxing on the upper patio, just taking in the view. With their wonderful new entertaining space, the couple now regularly holds gatherings of all kinds.

“The multiple patio areas are great for entertaining; we have so many options,” Jennifer said. “We’ll have pizza parties by the brick oven, where everyone makes their own pizza, or we’ll sit around the fire pit or fireplace and roast marshmallows or just catch up and talk. We now use the outside of our house more than the inside of our house.”

To anyone contemplating their own backyard makeover, Jennifer says, “The most important thing is to know your space. Know how you use it now and how you envision using it afterwards.”

Watch the Backyard Transformation Video