Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas

Over the last decade, outdoor fireplaces have continued to be a rising trend in outdoor living design. A fireplace provides an elegant focal point that visually transforms a patio into an outdoor living room, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. When planning an outdoor fireplace, there are a number of options to consider.

Custom-Build versus modular units

Custom outdoor fireplaces can be built using a variety of masonry products, including nearly any Belgard retaining wall product. The benefit to a custom-built fireplace is that you have the design flexibility to create any size or style that suits you. Belgard also offers the Belgard Elements™ line of modular fireplaces that are pre-built in a factory setting, shipped in sections and installed with a pallet loader. The benefits are lower installation costs and a shorter construction window.

This custom-built fireplace, constructed with Celtik® Wall, features a raised hearth, symmetrical arched built-in wood boxes, and built-in low-voltage lighting for ambiance. A row of smooth-face block adds a contrasting element to the rough-hewn look of the design.
Belgard Elements™ fireplaces, such as this one from the Bristol™ Series, offer a custom-built look for a fraction of the cost. Custom-built elements, such as the landscape wall and water features in this design, can be added to enhance the custom-built look.
USE interior design principles

To enhance the “outdoor living room” feel, employ interior design techniques when designing your outdoor fireplace and surrounding patio. Examples include accessorizing the room or creating a faux rug in the paver design.

A semi-circular design of Mega-Arbel® pavers creates the look of an inlaid rug in front of this Brighton™ Elements fireplace and Bristol™ Elements wood boxes.
Research Local building codes

Codes will vary by municipality, but in general terms, gas-burning fireplaces have fewer restrictions and can typically be placed anywhere in a design, including directly against another structure. Wood-burning fireplaces typically need to be placed at least 10 feet from another structure. Some building codes require additional safety measures or restrict the use of wood-burning units altogether.

The chimney of this wood-burning fireplace from the Bordeaux™ Elements collection was extended upward to comply with local building codes, due to its proximity to another structure.
Built-in outdoor gas fireplaceS

An economical option that can typically be installed anywhere is a built-in gas fireplace, which can be built on the exterior of the home, on a porch or under a pavilion.

The built-in outdoor gas fireplace on the left was designed to emulate the look of an indoor fireplace using Tandem® Modular Grid. The same wall product was used to build out an adjacent outdoor kitchen. The design on the right used Weston Stone® retaining wall block with accents of Urbana® Stone and Mega-Arbel® pavers to emulate the look of a freestanding Bristol™ Elements fireplace. The same paver and wall products were used throughout the design to tie the look together.
Think outside the box

When creating a custom build, consider how you want to use the space and work with your contractor to come with with creative solutions and ideas.

This custom fire feature is both a fireplace and a brick oven. A built-in overhead light adds a dramatic look to the piece while providing ample light for operating the brick oven in the evenings.
This outdoor living room incorporates dual open-sided European-style gas fireplaces, constructed using Tandem® Wall. The same wall product was used to build seat walls around the perimeter of the patio, as well as columns for the pavilion, tying all of the outdoor rooms together into one cohesive design.
Consider built-in seating

Built-in seating is one of the leading trends in outdoor design and makes an excellent addition to an outdoor fireplace, adding both form and function to an outdoor room.

This custom natural stone fireplace is flanked with two seat walls, constructed with Celtik® Wall. The rough-hewn face of the Celtik® Wall adds a textural element to this eclectic design.

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Next week: If your yard is sloped, come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for ideas on using terraced design to create more usable space.

Seat Wall Design Ideas

According to annual national surveys conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, built-in seating has regularly been among the top 10 trends in outdoor living design in recent years. The reason for this is simple…people are spending a lot more time in their outdoor living spaces, and they’re bringing friends. Plus, there’s only so much you can do with traditional furniture, and it typically needs to be replaced periodically due to exposure to sun, rain and critters. Whereas, built-in seating provides a more permanent solution and can perform multiple roles within the design. In addition to providing a place to sit, a seat wall can act as a functional design element to define the space itself. Whether you need to control the slope of your yard, or are just looking for a way to define the transition from one outdoor room to the next, a seat wall may be the design solution to your seating needs.

Fire pit seating

Seat walls provide an excellent design solution for fire pit patios. The wall itself helps to reflect the heat to provide a cozier environment. In addition, the bench-style seating can accommodate more people than traditional chairs. For additional comfort, add pillows or cushions.

Add definition to an open area with the addition of a seat wall. This design incorporates a curved seat wall to coordinate with the round fire pit and curved patio.
WALL PRODUCT: Castle Manor™ Wall.
A curved seat wall helped to create a cozy alcove adjacent to the porch of this home. Bullnose coping was used to soften the seating edge of the rustic wall. To tie the design together, the same coping was used to cap the fire pit.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall
This fire pit patio incorporates an L-shaped seat wall to coordinate with the square fire pit and angular patio design. Built-in arm rests help provide a finished.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
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ADDING FORM AND FUNCTION

A retaining wall or perimeter wall can easily be embellished and converted into built-in seating to create a more functional space.

The slope of this yard presented a significant grade change, which required a retaining wall in order to build the pool. The designer took advantage of the grade change to create tiered seating around the fire pit, also creating the perfect built-in “movie night” setup.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall
By adding a ledge to this perimeter wall, additional permanent seating was created to provide a conversation area for this patio.
WALL PRODUCT: Tandem® Wall.
This fire pit patio is adjacent to an outdoor bar area. The seat wall extends from the built-in bar to defines the perimeter of the space and provide seating for both the bar and the fire pit, creating a multi-purpose entertainment zone.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
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Incorporating Natural Elements

When using manufactured stone to build seat walls, natural materials can be incorporated into the design to add visual interest.

This seat wall incorporates natural wood into the design, using wooden posts for the seat ledge and back rest. Mitered edges and a stair-stepped design soften the look and create an intimate space.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
This design uses natural stone for the seat ledges and the stair treads leading to the back porch. The designer also took advantage of the terraced design to construct a planter wall for a raised flower bed, creating the feel of a sunken outdoor living room.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
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Terraced Design

Terraced design lends itself well to the addition of seat walls, as a retaining wall is already being used to create the terrace and needs only to be embellished with a seat ledge.

A ledge wall is added to this terrace and continues along the wall of the house to create a curved seating area. The terrace and exterior wall of the home act as built-in back rests. Low-voltage lighting was installed under the seat ledge to provide ambiance during evening gatherings.
WALL PRODUCT: Belair® Wall
A curved ledge wall was added to this terraced retaining wall to create seating for the fire pit. The designer also took advantage of the multiple grade changes to add planters at every level and create a built-in vertical garden.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall

Next week: The holidays are just around the corner! Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for holiday backyard entertaining ideas.

Trends in Landscaping Walls

Landscaping walls add dimension and definition to your outdoor living spaces. Whether utilizing a retaining wall to control the slope of your yard, or simply to add dimensional embellishments to an outdoor living space, landscape wall products represent an important element of contemporary outdoor living design.

Terraced Design

Retaining walls present a way to convert a sloped yard into usable space through the creation of terraces. Terraced design can also be used to create a raised or sunken outdoor room.

Vertical Gardens

A rising trend in outdoor design, vertical gardens take landscaping to new heights and add a tremendous amount of visual interest and dimension to an outdoor living area.

Defining a Room

Landscaping and seating walls can help define an outdoor living area or create a transition from one outdoor room to the next.

Fire & Water Features

Walls can be used to incorporate the elements of fire or water into an outdoor design in a variety of creative ways. These types of features become a visual anchor point and add to the ambiance of a design.

Outdoor Kitchens

Outdoor kitchens are one of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor living industry, and for good reason. An outdoor kitchen exponentially improves the functionality of an outdoor space, as well as the aesthetics.

Embellishments

Landscaping and retaining walls can be used to add any number of coordinating embellishments to an outdoor design — including columns, planters, mailboxes and more — which can help tie an outdoor design together.

Built-In Seating

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, built-in seating has been one of the top 10 trends for the last few years. In addition to providing permanent seating, a seat wall can also help to define an outdoor living space.

Next week:  Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for more seat wall design and placement ideas.

Fire Pit Design Tips & Trends

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Fire pits continue to rise in popularity, and it’s no wonder. There’s just something about gathering around a fire that’s inherently human. A fire pit instantly becomes everyone’s favorite gathering spot. It’s the ideal place to relax, unwind, tell stories, and get to know one another on a deeper level. If you’re thinking of adding a fire pit to your backyard, there are a lot of options to consider before you begin.

Decision 1: Mobile or Built-In

Many people opt for a mobile fire pit that can be moved around to various locations. Movable fire pits are certainly less expensive than a built-in pit, come in a wide variety of designs, and have the added benefit of portability. The primary drawback, however, is that a movable fire pit tends to only last a season or two before the materials begin to deteriorate.

An in-ground fire pit can be a cost-effective option.

Decision 2: In-Ground or Above-Ground

An in-ground fire pit can be cost-effective, however above-ground pits are more common. One trend is to create a “sunken living room” design for an above-ground fire pit. This offers the added benefit of built-in seating. In addition, the surrounding wall can act either as a wind barrier or a heat reflector, creating a warm and cozy room.

Decision 3: Gas, Wood or Hybrid

There are a number of benefits to a gas fire pit. It’s easy to start, there’s no mess, there’s no smoke, and it can be placed closer to the house. For purists, however, burning wood is one of the primal reasons to even have a fire pit. For the best of both worlds, consider a wood-burning fire pit with a gas starter. One popular trend is to install a gas starter with a switch that can be operated either locally, from inside the house, or with a mobile app.

Decision 4: Placement

An above-ground pit becomes a focal point of your outdoor living design. Be sure and place it where it balances with other large design elements. A gas fire pit can be placed just about anywhere, but a wood-burning pit will need to be at least 10 feet away from any structure. Before putting in a permanent fire pit, check for wind patterns that may cause potential smoke issues. Also, remember to leave ample room for seating around the pit.

sunken-room
This sunken fire pit room uses a combination of natural stone and manufactured hardscapes.

Decision 5: Materials and Shape

Above-ground fire pits can be constructed from a variety of materials. The most popular options are brick, natural stone and concrete blocks, such as Belgard retaining wall products. Although design options are endless, most fire pits are either round or square. One reason has to do with the shape of standard fire pit liners. Fire pit liners are highly recommended and may be required by your local municipality. In addition to adding a finished look, a steel liner keeps excessive amounts of heat from absorbing into the surrounding stone. By reflecting the heat up and out, it adds to the life of the stone and creates a safer environment. It also increases the feeling of warmth for those around the fire.

Decision 6: Seating Options

Built-in seating is currently one of the top trends in outdoor living and makes an excellent addition to a fire pit design. Some people like to place seat walls four feet away from the fire pit, which allows for walking room. Others prefer a three-foot distance, which can allow you to prop your feet on the ledge of the pit. If using seat walls, consider leaving one or two sides open. This will allow for the option of furniture placement, which softens the look and adds interest to the design. To add comfort and color to seat walls, use a variety of throws and outdoor pillows.

The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space an accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.
The combination of built-in seat walls and open seating provides ample seating space and accommodates those who want to control their seating distance in relation to the fire.

Fore more fire pit design inspiration, visit our “Fire Pit Ideas” Pinterest board. To discuss your ideas with a Belgard authorized contractor or dealer near you, visit our contractor and dealer locator page.

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.

Utilizing Retaining Walls in Poolscape Design

Dimensional multi-level design is one of the hottest trends in modern poolscapes. Belgard segmental retaining wall products make an outstanding medium for dimensional poolscape design. Here are some inspirational ideas of how segmental retaining walls can be used to enhance a poolscape:

Multi-Level Decks and Sunken Rooms

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Steps and Columns

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Dimensional Gardens and Planters

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Built-in Seating, Water Features and Fire Features

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Adjoining Kitchens and Bars

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Parapet Walls and Fencing