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

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.

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