Enviable Outdoor Living Room Designs

The difference between a simple patio and an “outdoor living room” is in the details. Think in terms of visually recreating an interior space outdoors. These five unique outdoor living rooms utilize a variety of interior design concepts while taking advantage of the outdoor venue. By incorporating some of these ideas, you can create an enviable outdoor living room that will have the Joneses wanting to keep up with you.

Cozy Retreat

Cozy Outdoor Living Room Designs
Mirroring a classic indoor living room design, the outdoor fireplace serves as the focal point of this outdoor living room and includes a nearby bar for serving guests. Privacy fencing provides a backdrop to make it feel more intimate. Tropical plants, textured pavers, water features and an additional fire feature work together to add an exotic quality.

Villa Veranda

Villa Veranda Outdoor Living Room Designs
This Mediterranean-style home uses a mixed-material design to visually define the living room area of the outdoor space. Vibrant color blocks in the paver design help reinforce this by creating the look of an oversized area rug. The fire pit design incorporates an extra-wide wall cap, allowing it to also function as the coffee table of the furniture grouping.

Entertainment Mecca

Fireplace Outdoor Living Room Designs
A terraced design divides this outdoor living room into separate entertainment zones. The upper level offers an intimate conversation area with furniture facing the fireplace. The lower level features a stunning waterfall fire feature that serves as the base for a weatherproof outdoor TV. The expansive patio area surrounding the fire feature allows for multiple furniture groupings, perfect for movie nights or backyard tailgating.

Light and Airy

Outdoor Back Deck Living Room Designs
Outdoor lighting design plays a major role in this relaxing outdoor living room. An oversized fire pit, uplights, edison-style string lights and lanterns all add to the ambiance. Attractive pendant lights hang over the seating area to add additional illumination and create the aesthetic of an interior room. A faux rug paver design reinforces the living room concept.

Terraced Sitting Rooms

Enviable Outdoor Terrace Living Room Designs
This multi-level terrace design creates the look and functionality of multiple sitting rooms. Utilizing retaining walls to convert a sloped backyard into usable entertainment space, the design incorporates a contemporary paver pattern to mimic the look of interior carpeting. Contrasting paver banding and landscape walls create visual separation between each distinct sitting room. Wall caps mirror the color of the banding to tie the look together.

For more outdoor living room design ideas, visit our Stylish Roomscapes Pinterest board.

Installing Our Own DIY Stone Fire Pit

By Christi Simoneaux, Oldcastle APG copywriter

DIY Stone Fire Pit Installation
Not bad for two novices! If we can put together this Ashland Fire Pit Kit, you can too.

When you work in marketing for Oldcastle APG, you very quickly fall in love with their Belgard product line and want your own Belgard backyard. In fact, I had a Belgard Authorized Contractor help us transform our backyard back in 2011. But after continuing to learn and write about hardscape installations for all these years, I wanted to see whether I could put that theoretical knowledge into action and install a DIY project on my own.

My family owns a fishing camp on a lake in Mississippi, and one of our favorite things to do when we have a group there is to gather around a fire in the evenings with a guitar. Over the years, we’ve tried various incarnations of store-bought fire pits, all of which fall apart after a season or two. The most recent incarnation was a hodge podge of poorly stacked concrete masonry blocks. I really wish I had taken a “before” photo of it because it was an absolute mess — haphazard, weeds growing all through it, several blocks cracked or crumbling. You could hardly even tell it was a fire pit. It just looked like a pile of hurricane debris.

My husband and I decided to stay at the camp for our anniversary weekend, and since it was the season’s first cold snap, I really wanted to be able to build a fire. So the first thing I suggested when we arrived was to go to Lowe’s and buy a Belgard Ashland Fire Pit Kit. Building a fire pit was not my husband’s idea of a relaxing anniversary weekend, so he trudged to the store with me begrudgingly. I assured him that it would be an awesome project for us to do together, despite the fact that neither of us are what you would call “handy.”

Between info from the online installation guide and guidance from the helpful folks at Lowe’s, we left the store with everything we needed to do the installation:

The fire pit kit came packed together on a pallet, and we didn’t have a pickup truck or a trailer (which would have worked better), but the Lowe’s folks helped us disassemble the kit so that we could load it into our SUV. We almost had to make two trips because of the weight, but were able to squeak by with one.

Prepping the Site

First we dug out the nasty old fire pit, keeping a watchful eye for any black widow spiders that might have taken up residence in the structure. They love that type of dark, moist environment — and we did dispose of more than one during the process. We then dug out a circular section of topsoil about 45″ wide and 2″ deep, making sure the spot was level when we finished.

Installing the Base

We filled the excavation with about 1.5″ of paver base, wet it and tamped it down with the hand tamper. I have to admit, I had fun handling the tamper. We then filled in the rest of the base and tamped it down again, making sure everything was level.

Laying the First Layer

As suggested in the installation guide, we placed the ring in the paver base to make an impression to use as a laying guide. The stones in the kit are specially shaped to fit together in a perfect circle, so it’s pretty dummy proof (even for us). But after we laid the first layer, we placed the ring over the layer to make sure that everything was lining up correctly, just in case. We then checked to make sure everything was level and used the mallet to make adjustments as needed.

Laying Additional Layers

For each of the next two layers, we beaded some masonry adhesive on the layer below and laid the stones so that the seams were staggered. We tapped each stone with the mallet to secure the adhesive and checked to make sure everything was level. Before moving on to the third level, we checked to make sure the ring still fit and that we weren’t getting off-course, using the mallet as needed to make adjustments.

Finishing Touches

DIY Fire Pit Installation
We probably should have broken the branches up to fit inside the pit better, but that would have been too much work.

We placed the metal ring atop the inside of the fire pit, which gave it a nice finished look. We then filled the bottom of the interior with a few inches of lava rock. We then took some of the sod we had removed earlier and placed it around the exterior. The only thing left to do was gather some fallen limbs from the nearby woods, open up a nice bottle of bourbon and celebrate the rest of our anniversary by enjoying the fruits of our labor.

CONTRACTOR’S CORNER: Greetings from HNA 2019!

The hardscape industry event of the year is here! Hardscape North America is held annually at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville. Co-located with the Green Industry and Equipment Expo and spanning the interior and exterior grounds of the KEC, the combined trade shows are a mecca of innovations covering every aspect of the hardscape and landscape industries. The event is also the launching point for outdoor living design trends heading into the upcoming year.

As platinum sponsors of the event, Belgard has a prominent presence at the show with an expansive 2-story interior booth of nearly 4,000 square feet in total. This year’s booth showcases the new Collections by Belgard with hardscape installations, 3D lightbox renderings, and interior design displays that illustrate the unique style of each of the five collections: Heritage, Legacy, Metropolitan, Environmental and Porcelain. These Collections group products together in a way to simplify the hardscape design process to more easily coordinate outdoor living spaces with a home’s architectural and interior design style. The booth also incorporates a plethora of biophilic design techniques to illustrate ways to incorporate this rising trend into hardscape designs.

Talk a virtual walk through the Collections by Belgard experience of our HNA indoor booth.

Belgard also has a prominent presence in the outdoor exhibit area of the show with a Belgard demonstration booth plus sponsorships of the HNA Installer Championships and the Hardscape House educational demonstrations.

Get a peek inside the Belgard outdoor booth and Belgard sponsored events in the Hardscape House.

Follow more of the HNA happenings on our Facebook page.

5 Tips for Better Outdoor Kitchen Designs

TIP #1: Shed some light.

Lighting design is a crucial element of any outdoor kitchen. You want enough lighting to be able to see what you’re doing without spoiling the ambiance. To give your outdoor kitchen the feel of an indoor kitchen, think pendants. Low-voltage hardscape lighting attached to masonry walls will add delicate textural light. Lighting inside of cabinets and near cooking surfaces will help with functionality. String lights can add a festive touch and can be put on a circuit that’s controlled by a switch. Commercial grade string lights are often dimmable, so keep that in mind. Rule of thumb: plan all lighting before installing your kitchen so you can run all of the wiring, outlets and switches on the front end instead of having to retrofit. It’s always a good idea to include some overhead outlets in your plan, just in case you want to add string lights seasonally.

TIP #2: Think long-term.

The primary thing to remember about an outdoor kitchen is that everything is exposed to the elements. Be sure to choose durable building materials and outdoor-rated products that are designed to take the abuse. Yes, sometimes that means spending a little extra money on the front end, but the money will go further in the long run when everything lasts longer. It’s also wise to protect your investment by sealing porous surfaces and purchasing covers for exposed appliances.

TIP #3: Sometimes bigger is better, but read the fine print.

Think about how you plan to use the space and plan accordingly. Bar-sized sinks save counter space and will do the trick for washing your hands or rinsing a glass. But if you plan to actually rinse a platter or fill a pitcher, you’d do better to install a standard kitchen sink. When purchasing appliances like grills, refrigerators and ice-makers, read the specs carefully. The dimensions don’t always equate to cubic feet of usable space. Also, you’ll often go through ice quickly, so make sure the unit you buy can keep up with your production needs. If you plan to entertain often, roll-top beverage coolers hold significantly more cans and bottles than a standard counter-height refrigerator. That’s exactly why restaurants and bars use them.

TIP #4: You’ll want more space than you think.

At the the end of the day, you’ll likely wish you had more prep space, more outdoor seating space, more storage space or more cooking space. It’s often hard to conceptualize the finished space in the planning phase. However, if you’re working with a Belgard Authorized Contractor, you can get free virtual reality designs. When you put on the VR goggles, you can immerse yourself in the design and look up, down and all around to make sure you will have all the space you need.

TIP #5: Plan ahead.

First of all, you can never have enough outlets. Someone always wants to plug in something — a blender, a lamp, a charger, a laptop, a streaming device. Some of those outlets should include usb ports, too. Also think about what you might want to add to your kitchen down the line. Even if you don’t plan to use any gas now, it’s not a bad idea to plumb a natural gas line, even if you just cap it for now. You never know when you might want to add a fire feature, outdoor heater or a high intensity burner. Constantly changing out butane tanks is a pain, and retrofitting for natural gas later can be a costly endeavor.

For inspiration and kitchen design ideas, visit the Belgard Outdoor Kitchen Pinterest Board.

Heartwarming Fireside Memories and Mouthwatering S’mores Recipes

Fire Pit S'mores Recipes

Last month, we reached out to our readers for submissions of their favorite fireside memories and s’mores recipes during our annual National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveaway. We were thrilled to receive over 5,800 submissions! As part of our celebration, a random name was chosen to receive a Belgard fire pit for making treasured fireside memories and yummy s’mores in their own backyard. Congratulations to this year’s winner:

TAMRA C. – Fresno, CA

We enjoyed reading through the wonderful stories and recipes that were submitted. Here are a few of our favorites for you to enjoy.

Everything’s Better Around the Fire

Recently we were flooded from our home and were homeless. We went up to my parent’s place back in the country and to cheer my kids up, my grandmother had sent s’mores makings to my mom’s house. We all sat around a fire and had s’mores and had a great time helping to forget the bad things happening to us that night. — B. Bluey / Latrobe, PA

Whenever daddy was deployed and the kids were so sad, I broke out the s’mores stuff. It was amazing. They perked up, and we were able to laugh and talk, and for a moment, even if it was only for that moment, the kids were happy. — K. Backowski / Olathe, KS

Under the towering pines of Colorado, we sat outside around the fire pit…my children’s faces lit up with joy, and starlight…downing s’mores. They each called out how they wanted their own marshmallows …either gooey or crunchy-crusted. We sang and told stories while the fire died down. Chocolate still on their cheeks, they nodded off, grinning, and had to be carried in to bed. — D. Patton / Dallas, TX

First time I ever had a s’more, I didn’t realize it was ok to blacken the marshmallow, so I kept throwing them away. Next thing I knew I used up the entire bag trying to make the perfect s’more. We had to run to the nearest store to buy more marshmallows so everyone else could have a s’more. — O. Chansombat / Oklahoma City, OK

Roasting marshmallows for my s’more at age 11, it caught fire. I shook it instead of blowing it to put it out. It flung off the stick across the fire and landed all melty on my aunt’s lip. Good times. — T. Locke / Jasper, AL

I remember as a teen, my sisters and I would write our wishes on slips of paper. We would toss them into the fire thinking as they burned, our wishes went to our guardian angels. — M. Scott / Joplin, MO

Some of my favorite fireside memories are of fixing lemonade and watching the grandchildren play and run with water guns and bubbles. Just listening to their screams of excitement as they played. We laughed because they did! — J. Burney / Kennesaw, GA

The first time I ever had s’mores was at Girl Scout Camp with my lifelong best friend, Lisa. A few months later, my family and I moved 2,000 miles away. Every summer for the next 4 years I came back and we had s’mores at the lake. We grew up, got married, had kids, lost touch. 20 years later, I made a visit back “home” with my family and showed up at Lisa’s door with a bag of marshmallows, a box of graham crackers and some chocolate bars. It was like we’d never been away from each other. — Anon / Denton, TX

New Versions of Everyone’s Favorite Fireside Treat

We got lots of submission that suggested switching out the standard milk chocolate bar for a favorite candy bar. Some yummy suggestions included using an Almond Joy, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or Ghirardelli Squares. Those ideas all sound pretty darn awesome! Here are some other intriguing recipes submitted by our readers:

Graham crackers, pumpkin flavored marshmallows, Hersey bars and a smear of peanut butter. — R. Walker Conrad / Kingbury, TX

Drizzle caramel sauce over toasted marshmallows before putting chocolate on and sandwich between peanut butter cookies. — Anon / Reno, NV

Adult S’mores: Strain the juice out of a jar of cherries and soak the cherries in rum overnight. Push the cherry into the center of the melty marshmallow before assembling the s’more. — Anon / Eeau Claire, WI

Graham crackers, Nutella, chocolate squares, sliced fruit. Always went to campgrounds every weekend with my whole family. My grandparents always made them like this. We still all get together and have camping nights with s’mores. — C. Black / Marion, OH

Mexican S’mores: Tortilla, chocolate, and marshmallow — deep fried and covered in cinnamon and sugar. — Anon / Gomez, CA

I live for sliced strawberries in between my s’mores. I also recently fell in love with chocolate and toasted marshmallow in between an open Oreo cookie. The more burnt, the better! — A. Church / Rockledge, FL

Key Lime Pie S’mores: Honey graham crackers, key lime marshmallows and white chocolate. We topped them with a little bit of lime zest and voila! The perfect tropical s’more. — R. Dutton / Ashville, NC

Vanilla wafers and starbursts. Soften the starbursts over a fire, then place on top of a vanilla wafer. — M. Fullmer / Logan, UT

Hosting the Ultimate Backyard Tailgate Party

For many people across the nation, the season of Fall is synonymous with football season. And although we don’t always agree on which team to cheer for, we can typically agree that gathering with friends and family is one of the best aspects of the football-watching experience. Whether your next backyard tailgating party is in preparation for a family high school game, or whether it’s a viewing party for your local college or pro team, take your tailgating game to the next level with these backyard tailgating tips.

Setting the Scene

To efficiently host gatherings throughout football season, some upfront planning and organization will go a long way. Set aside a “party box” where you can keep all of your tailgating supplies in one place. That way, you’re not recreating the wheel each week. And since you’ll be getting a lot of use out of everything, splurge on higher quality decorations and color-coordinated serving bowls, trays and utensils. You’ll end up saving money in the long run versus buying throw-away items for each event. Also, go ahead and string festive lighting around the yard that will work just as well for holiday gatherings as it will for tailgating, and you’ll be ahead of the game come December.

Feeding the Masses

Tailgate parties have a tendency to grow…after all, the more the merrier. The best meal plan is one that incorporates a lot of small bites that go a long way. Light the pit, and prepare to keep it going. Brats, of course, are always a good choice. You can also grill a variety of sausages and serve them sliced on a platter with an assortment of dipping sauces. Gilled pizza and sliders are also typical tailgating hits. Consider setting up a  make-your-own slider bar, which can add to the festive atmosphere. To feed large groups, racks of BBQ ribs or smoked brisket work really well and can be partially cooked ahead of time to shorten game-day grill time. (Design tip: 5 Fiery Ideas for Building Your Outdoor Cooking Station.)

Game-Day Drinks

Let’s face it, beer is the standard beverage of choice in most tailgating scenarios but to take your tailgating up a notch, have a little fun with your selections. For example, have everyone bring their favorite six-pack of micro-brewed beer and setup a tasting table. And since game day is all about competition, get a contest going that allows everyone to vote on their favorite. For the non-beer drinkers, Southern Living offers some fun game-day cocktail recipes in quantities that will keep your guests sipping through all four quarters.

Pre-Game Activities

The best tailgate parties include lots of entertaining backyard activities like cornhole and washer pitching games, giant jenga, or a good old-fashioned game of horseshoes. If you have an outdoor fireplace or a fire pit, set up a s’mores bar where everyone can roast marshmallows and make fun and interesting s’mores with ingredients like cookies, ginger snaps, Nutella, peanut butter cups and, of course, graham crackers and chocolate.

Seating Arrangements

 It’s always a great idea to have multiple conversation zones for the pre-game time period. For larger parties, when it comes time for viewing, you may want to consider investing in an outdoor projection screen. Or, you can setup up multiple viewing areas with the help of multiple TVs and a cable splitter or portable streaming device like a Roku stick.  One way to create more viewing space around a single TV or screen is to arrange stadium-style seating by placing chairs in rows according to chair height, with bar stools in the rear row. An additional row can be created in the front by placing pillows on the ground for the kids.