Proper Lighting Makes for Better Outdoor Living

Lighting is an important aspect of the outdoor living experience. Not long ago, the basic outdoor lighting plan was to add flood lights to the corners of the house and call it a day. Maybe a wall sconce or two. If you wanted to get really fancy, you might add a lighting kit to a ceiling fan. Now that outdoor living has become more of a way of life, an integrated lighting plan is crucial to getting the most out of your outdoor living spaces.

Setting the RIGHT mood

Think soft lighting with subtle shadows. Outdoor lighting can be festive, as long as it’s not overpowering. Don’t overlight your space with high wattage lighting unless it’s dimmable. It’s not a bad idea to have a brighter light where you park or over a meal prep space, but sitting areas should have more of an intimate atmosphere.

Safety concerns

Proper outdoor lighting also adds to the safety of your outdoor spaces by helping people avoid injury. Landscape or hardscape lights along walkways, stairs and landscape walls will help people avoid tripping. Lighting on or near fire features will help you can see well enough to start a fire. Lighting over a grill island or meal prep counter will help the grillmaster avoid burns or cuts. Adequate lighting around parking areas and doorways will also decrease the likelihood of criminal activity.

considering the options

When planning an outdoor living space, it’s important to make lighting decisions early in the process. That way, the needed electrical lines or outlets can be run and installed without have to retrofit the space later, which can be quite costly. If you’re planning on phasing out a large outdoor living project, be sure to run the needed lines for your future improvements so that everything is ready when the time comes.

  • String Lights: String lights are currently a popular way to add a festive quality to an outdoor space. Just be sure to buy shatterproof bulbs if you plan to string them over hardscaped areas. For new construction, include electrical outlets in porch ceilings to avoid having to run extension cords. It creates a much cleaner look.
  • Overhead Lighting: Under porches, you can include recessed lights or hanging light fixtures. Pendant lights and chandeliers, in particular, help reinforce the “outdoor room” concept. You may want to consider making any overhead lights dimmable so that you can adjust the level as needed to create the appropriate mood.
  • Candlelight: Candles are an excellent way to add to the ambiance of an outdoor living space. When using traditional candles, be sure to keep fire safety in mind. Battery-operated candles are often the better choice. You can also get remote-controlled candles that allow you to easily turn them on or off or even set a timer to automatically go off after a certain time period. Just be sure to keep battery-operated candles under covered areas because moisture will cause the batteries to corrode.
  • Landscape Lighting: Path lights and landscape accent lights add an ethereal quality to outdoor spaces, especially in areas where the light filters through tree limbs or garden foliage.
  • Flood Lights: These safety lights do still have their place, especially for illuminating driveways or the dark side of a house. Motion-sensing flood lights are particularly helpful in conserving energy for areas that don’t need to stay illuminated for extended periods. However, police often recommend keeping carports and entrance doorways illuminated for crime prevention.
  • Fire Features: Fire bowls, fire tables, outdoor fireplaces and fire pits will help illuminate your space with a welcoming glow when lit. You can also often incorporate low-voltage lighting to the outside of many fire features to help boost lighting as needed.
  • Pools and Water Features: Lighting can add a graceful aesthetic to pools, fountains and water features, creating a shimmering effect as it reflects off of moving water. Lighting can be installed underwater or directed at the water, depending upon the effect you’d like to create.
  • Hardscape Lighting: There are multiple types of hardscape lighting that can be integrated into a hardscape design, including wall lights, step lights, pillar sconces and paver lights. It’s extremely important to plan hardscape lighting prior to installation.
The Belgard Design Studio can help you plan any hardscape lighting during the design phase to avoid costly retrofitting.

Now is the Time to Plan Spring Outdoor Living Projects

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow this year, meaning spring is predicted to come early. Although America’s most famous weather-forecasting rodent is often wrong, one thing is sure… If you want to update or augment your outdoor living spaces in time for that first beautiful weekend, now is the time to get started.

Top 5 Project Planning Tips

  1. Develop a clear vision of your project goals: Before you get started, it’s important to consider how you will use the space. Why do you want to do this project? Are you looking to resolving a problem, add functionality or improve aesthetics? Be sure to communicate this information to your contractor so you’re both on the same page.
  2. Determine your budget: For larger projects, you may want to consider building in phases or talking to a Belgard Authorized Contractor about financing options. If you do decide to build in phases, be sure to plan the entire project upfront so that you can place footings or run utility lines for future phases.
  3. Prioritize: In order to stay within budget, decide which items you’re willing to compromise on and which are the most important to achieving your project goals. Plan your dream scenario and then trim back where needed.
  4. Research code restrictions: Your municipality or HOA may have rules that prohibit certain items. It’s important to know guidelines and approval requirements upfront to avoid costly mistakes. Don’t assume your contractor will have the information.
  5. Get inspiration: Check out the Spring Outdoor Living Project Ideas section below. You can also visit the Belgard Inspiration Gallery and Pinterest boards for more ideas.
For more planning tips, including tips on choosing a contractor, download our comprehensive Project Guide.

Spring Outdoor Living Project Ideas

Landscape Accent Walls

Landscape accent walls add definition, dimension and visual interest to your outdoor living spaces. Whether edging a patio, lining a walkway or simply adding a freestanding landscape element, accent walls can be purely aesthetic or can also function as additional seating, depending upon the design. For a tailored look, include landscape columns as an end cap or accent along the wall. You can also incorporate lighting into the column for both aesthetics and functionality.

Driveway and Driveway Overlays

Nothing brings new life to the front of your home like a new paver driveway. If your existing concrete is sound enough, you can overlay a cracked driveway with thin overlay pavers. An overlay saves a great deal of time and money from having to demolish and remove existing concrete.

stone Edgers and curbing

Dress up your existing hardscapes and landscapes with stone edgers or curbing, which can add a finished look to walkways, driveways and patios. They can also be used alone to add a touch of elegance and definition to gardens and flower beds.

Stone Grill Islands

On that first gorgeous spring day, who wants to cook indoors? Just drive through your neighborhood with the windows down, and you’ll smell that everyone is outside grilling. This year, it’s time to ditch the portable grill and build something that will last. A custom build will allow you to create exactly the dimensions and configuration that you want. Belgard also has a line of prebuilt stone grill islands that save on installation time and costs.

Stone Outdoor Kitchens

When a simple grill island won’t satisfy the calling of your inner outdoor chef, it’s time to plan a full-blown outdoor kitchen. For more ideas, check out our blog on 5 Tips for Better Outdoor Kitchen Designs.

Patios and SunDecks

Ah, to see the sun again, bask in its rays and soak up some much-needed vitamin D. Spring evenings can still be a bit chilly, so if plan to include a fire pit, be sure to read 5 Tips for Designing a Patio around a Fire Pit. And, if you have little ones, check out our blog on Family-Friendly Patio Design Ideas.

Built-in Planters and Raised Flower Beds

Big box stores and plant nurseries are about to start beefing up their inventory of flowering plants and vegetation. Be ready for that first planting by constructing your built-in planters now. Planters and raised beds add dimension and organic warmth to patios and walkways. They can also add to the curb appeal of your home and create a more welcoming entrance.

seating walls

Permanent seating has been one of the leading trends in outdoor living design in recent years. Seat walls can help define the perimeter of an outdoor room and are particular effective in a dining area or adjacent to a fire feature. You can either build a freestanding seating wall or add functionality to a retaining wall with the addition of a seat ledge.


Improve access to an area of your yard or add character to the front of your home with a picturesque walkway. When building a large paver patio, a faux walkway paver pattern within the patio design can be an excellent way to visually define the transition from one outdoor room to the next.

Stone Water Features

The look and sound of running water adds a natural relaxing aesthetic to an outdoor living space. For tips on designing a stone water feature, read our blog on The Latest Trends in Water Features.

Behind the Build with the Hardscape Contractor of the HGTV® Dream Home 2020

In this fifth year of being the exclusive hardscapes sponsor of the HGTV Dream Home program, Belgard relies heavily on local sales team members near each HGTV Dream Home location. They help facilitate the build of each hardscaped outdoor living space by working in tandem with the HGTV team, the home’s designers, the Belgard Design Studio, and local dealers and contractors. Part of the role of the local sales team is to recommend the right contractor to properly bring each dream outdoor living vision to life.

The South Carolina Belgard sales team worked closely with contractor Wesley Shaw throughout the planning and hardscape installations of the HGTV Dream Home 2020. Pictured are Kyle Rogalski , Matt Bennett, Wesley Shaw, Scott Robinson and Brian Koellner.

When Hilton Head Island was selected as the location for the HGTV Dream Home 2020 location, South Carolina Belgard sales representative Brian Koellner knew that he had the perfect candidate in mind. Wesley Shaw of ELP Landscape Inc. had been installing hardscapes in Savannah and the surrounding area for over 20 years and had been working closely with Brian for several years as a Belgard Authorized Contractor.

“We wanted to have a local Belgard Authorized Contractor to ensure familiarity with the local materials and Belgard programs. Wesley is talented, reliable and reputable within the community and is a great representative of our contractor program,” Brian said.

In fact, Brian had also recommended Wesley for the hardscape installations of another high-profile Idea House in 2018 in the nearby waterfront community of Habersham, South Carolina. The outdoor spaces of that home included a permeable paver driveway, stepping-stone walkway, fire pit patio, and paver terrace with a built-in grill. The success of that project led Brian to wholeheartedly recommend Wesley to the HGTV team.

For the project at hand, Brian noted that it also helped to have a Belgard Authorized Dealer on the island. “Having Courtyard Landscape Supply so close by facilitated easy delivery of the materials. They’re also great to work with and were a tremendous help on the project,” he said.

Overcoming Site Challenges
Since synthetic turf is not porous, ELP Landscape adjusted the grade and slope of the design and added a micro-drain along the planter wall for drainage. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

Wesley proved immediately that he was the right choice for the job. Upon first inspection of the initial design, he noticed a potential drainage issue due to the use of synthetic turf on the stepping-stone patio. With the uptick in use of synthetic turf installations in the area, he was familiar with the challenges and believed the original design could result in a buildup of algae and mildew.

“The slope and grade of the design was more ideal for a standard paver installation and would take too long to drain,” Wesley explained. He suggested a slight change to the slope and grade and the addition of a micro-drain along the planter wall to facilitate proper drainage.

Wesley also noticed a potential complication with the original driveway design. “The location of the trees on the property would have eventually caused issues with the root systems and their sustainability, so we had to move the whole driveway,” he explained.

2020 HGTV Dream Home Driveway Pavers
By changing the placement of the driveway, ELP Landscape was able to protect tree root systems and create an eye-catching diagonal layout of the plank pavers for contemporary curb appeal. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

The resulting driveway design also allowed for a more visually interesting lay of the Melville™ Plank pavers. The pavers were still laid in a single direction in a standard running bond pattern, per the original design. However, the new curve of the driveway allowed for the pavers to lay parallel with the home for the parking pad, with a striking diagonal lay at the driveway’s entrance from the street, adding to the home’s curb appeal.

The fact that the project was incorporated into television programing also added to the difficulty level of the installation. “Things had to be installed in a different order for filming purposes,” Wesley explained. “I usually do vertical elements first, then horizontal. We had to do the opposite, which made the grades a little more challenging.”

CONTRACTOR’S Behind-the-Design Insights

Although Wesley was given some freedom in suggesting design changes as needed, the majority of the outdoor living design was done through a collaboration of the HGTV Dream Home 2020 design team and the Belgard Design Studio.

With any high-profile project like this, designers often choose newer trend-forward materials, and this outdoor living project was no exception.

Overhead image of the multi-level backyard outdoor living area. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

The multi-level stepping-stone patio is a combination of Turin Porcelain Pavers and laser-cut synthetic turf. With pre-cut turf and very few paver cuts to the design, the installation was quick and simple, despite the learning curve of working with porcelain for the first time. “I’m about to renovate my own backyard and will likely choose to go with the porcelain,” Wesley said, who was impressed with the upscale look and low-maintenance aspect of the porcelain product.

HGTV Dream Home 2020 Outdoor Living Space Built-in Planter Walls
Built-in planter walls helped define the seating areas and soften the overall look. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

The row of built-in planters along the edge of the patio’s top level was a familiar design technique for Wesley, who often includes the biophilic design elements of greenery and stone textures into his outdoor living designs. “It adds dimension and texture and softens the look,” he explained. “It also created a nice backdrop for the poolside seating area.”

HGTV Dream Home Outdoor Living Space Pool Pavers & Coping
The mixed-materials design of the multi-level pool deck includes Turin Porcelain Pavers, synthetic turf, Turin Unico Coping, Landings™ Step units and Melville™ Plank pavers. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

The multi-level mixed-materials pool deck added a level of difficulty to the installation, but not one that was unfamiliar to Wesley’s team. “We do numerous patios with different levels, textures and layouts to dress up the design. It adds nice contrast,” he said.

Abutting the planter wall, the grill island provides ample space for meal prep, dining and serving. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

The oversized L-shaped grill island was designed using the Tandem® Modular Grid system for the structure. The Modular Grid wall system is unique in that a wooden frame is constructed to act as a base for attaching a wire grid. Stone veneer is then clipped to the grid to create the finished look. “I’ve used the Modular Grid product on quite a few projects, but not to this scale. It’s much larger than most grill islands,” Wesley said.

Once the base structure of the island was completed, the countertop was constructed of Turin porcelain pavers and matching Unico coping to mirror the poolscape. “Installing the countertop was a bit of a challenge, getting everything to line up correctly. But I’m pleased with how it came out,” he continued.

The larger piece system and smooth face of Melville™ Tandem® Wall allowed the fire pit to stand out from the other walls within the design, yet used the same color blend to maintain an overall cohesive feel. Photo: © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC.

Both the fire pit and built-in planters were constructed with the Tandem® Wall System. The only difference was that the fire pit used the Melville™ face, which features a smooth and linear look, and the planters (and adjacent kitchen island) were designed with the Ashlar face, which has a modular chiseled-stone look. Wesley liked the contrast of using different faces for the different outdoor rooms. “I’ve used the Ashlar Tandem on several projects but personally prefer the Melville,” Wesley said. “The ends are all square, so the corners come together real tight and provide a pristine look. It also worked better with the smooth pavers and was far enough away from the other walls to provide contrast without making it look out of place.”

Reaping the Rewards

Although working with film crews on site added to the complexity, Wesley says he is grateful for the opportunity to work on such a prestigious project, noting that the rewards are multifaceted.

“We get to work more closely with the Belgard team members on projects like this. I like working closely with my vendors. They see everyone’s projects, and getting that feedback is helpful in terms of how others are doing things. I can take that info and improve my own work,” Wesley said. He added, “Working on something that gets a lot of attention definitely adds credibility with future customers. I don’t like to boast to them, but the casual mention makes a difference. I also enjoyed working with the HGTV folks. They were easy-going and open-minded about design changes.”

. . .

HGTV, HGTV Dream Home, HGTV Dream Home Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC. Photos © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC. Used with permission; all rights reserved.

Take a Virtual Walk Through the HGTV® Dream Home 2020 Outdoor Spaces

Nestled amidst the stately oaks and sleepy marshes of South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, the HGTV Dream Home 2020 was designed with relaxation in mind. Sprawling porches open to an expansive backyard poolscape that’s equally ideal for both large and intimate gatherings. As the exclusive hardscapes sponsor of the HGTV Dream Home 2020, we’re excited to offer this exclusive in-depth look at each of the home’s outdoor spaces, from a welcoming paver driveway to an outdoor entertainment space with spectacular marshfront views. Get design tips and insights on how you can recreate some of these looks for your own dream outdoor living spaces, then enter for your chance to win this amazing home.

Enter Now for Your Chance to Win

. . .

HGTV, HGTV Dream Home, HGTV Dream Home Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the U.S., age 21 or older. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes ends at 5 p.m. ET on 2/19/20. Odds of winning depend on number of entries received. For full official rules, prize disclosures, and to enter, visit Main Sponsor: Scripps Networks, LLC d/b/a Home & Garden Television 9721 Sherrill Boulevard, Knoxville, Tennessee 37932. Photos © 2019 Scripps Networks, LLC. Used with permission; all rights reserved.

Learn more about the Belgard backyards from our five years of sponsoring the dream:

2020 Outdoor Design Colors of the Year

Tranquility. The sense evoked by this word is often lost in today’s fast-paced world. When life gets too hectic, it’s something we crave — a calm and peaceful moment to stop, take a deep breath and slowly exhale. This is exactly why outdoor living has become essential to the human spirit. And it’s why this year’s outdoor living colors of the year are centered on creating a tranquil space to unwind and reconnect with one another and with the natural world.

Belgard Pantone Color of the Year Terrarium Classic Blue

Both Belgard and the Pantone® Color Institute individually released their colors of the year for 2020. It’s no coincidence that these two color tones complement each other, or that they were both chosen for their connection with nature and a sense of tranquility.

Known throughout the world for their expertise in the realm of color, Pantone annually announces the Pantone Color of the Year, which influences purchasing and design decisions in multiple industries — fashion, home furnishings, product packaging, brand identity and more. Their selection comes after careful analysis of global factors that impact color trends including the arts, entertainment, popular travel destinations and evolving lifestyle.

Outdoor Living Fire Pit Kit

In the same respect, Belgard has long been the leader in the hardscapes industry with a definite influence on outdoor living design trends. Belgard also keeps a careful watch on architectural and lifestyle trends to anticipate the needs of the marketplace. With that in mind, the Terrarium color was selected and named for its biophilic ability to connect the built environment with the natural world. A rejuvenating hue found throughout nature, Terrarium complements the full range of colorations in the Belgard catalog and signifies growth, vitality and renewal.

Terrarium coordinates effortlessly with Pantone’s Classic Blue, which Pantone notes is suggestive of the sky at dusk and chosen for its ability to instill calm and bring a sense of peace and tranquility to the human spirit. Together, these two colors are perfect for ushering in a new decade, one that’s sure to be full of technological advances that continue to pull us away from that elusive state of tranquility.

Pantone Color of the Year Classic Blue Outdoor Living Design

“We are living in a time that requires trust and faith,” said Leatrice Eiseman, Executive Director of the Pantone Color Institute. “A boundless blue evocative of the vast and infinite evening sky, Classic Blue encourages us to look beyond the obvious to expand our thinking; challenging us to think more deeply, increase our perspective and open the flow of communication.”

In that same line of thought, Terrarium reminds us that no matter how much we evolve, we are still part of the natural world. As technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colors that allow us to create an outdoor living refuge where we can slow down for a moment and embrace our humanity. After all, outdoor living is not just about building or decorating a patio, it’s about living in your outdoor space.

Driveway Pavers: Best Paving Stones, Patterns & Designs for Driveways

© HGTV 2019. Used with permission. Pavers: Melville Plank™

A paver driveway will boost your curb appeal and improve the value of your home. But as with any other home-improvement project, there are multiple considerations including the style and color of your driveway pavers, as well as laying pattern and overall design. The ultimate goal, of course, is to create a beautiful entrance to your home that is durable enough to withstand the burden of vehicular use without shifting or cracking.

Driveway Paver Styles

Aqualine™ Series Permeable Driveway Pavers
Aqualine™ Series permeable pavers.

The first choice is to decide whether the driveway will be permeable or impervious. A traditional paver driveway would be impervious, but there are multiple benefits to installing a permeable paver driveway. Water will never pool on the surface and a heating system can even be installed beneath the pavers to keep snow from accumulating. Also, some states and municipalities offer grants or tax incentives for installing permeable driveway pavers because the system reduces the burden on local stormwater collection systems and helps remove pollutants to improve local water quality.

Several driveway pavers from Belgard can be installed as either permeable or impervious, including Urbana Stone®, Mega-Lafitt®, Mega-Arbel® and Bergerac®. Belgard also offers multiple permeable pavers that were designed specifically for permeable installations.

The second choice when planning your driveway paver project is whether to go with a traditional, contemporary or stone-textured look. Belgard offers multiple paver styles in each category. Porcelain pavers can also be used to create an ultra-contemporary look, but will require a concrete base to support vehicular loads.

Driveway Paver Laying Pattern Options

The strongest and most traditional option is a herringbone pattern set at a 45-degree angle to the garage. This laying pattern provides the best interlock to prevent the pavers from shifting, especially for higher traffic areas.

Gaining in popularity, an ashlar pattern can also be effective for both residential and heavier traffic and provides a more contemporary look.

A running bond or basketweave pattern can work for standard residential driveways, but it is recommended to avoid these types of long, straight lines for heavier traffic areas, such as commercial driveways or subdivision common areas.

For permeable paver installations, it’s best to stick with ashlar or herringbone patterns due to the larger joints, which create an increased opportunity for shifting when used with running bond or basketweave patterns.

  • Holland Stone Driveway Pavers
  • Urbana Stone Driveway Pavers
  • Old World Pavers Driveway
  • Old York Pavers Driveway
  • Mega-Arbel Driveway Paving Stones

Driveway Paver Thickness and Base

Traditionally, driveways have been constructed using 80mm (3 inch) pavers with a standard 6″ base. However, it is becoming more common practice to use a lighter 60mm (2-3/8 inch) paver with a thicker base. In rainier climates, the required base depth can be up to 12 inches because of absorbent clays that can cause soils to shift when wet. With these types of site conditions, a thin base puts pavers in danger of separating or cracking from soil shifts. A layer of geo-fabric between the soil and the aggregate layer can add extra protection from this type of shifting, but a thicker base is still recommended. In arid climates, 60mm pavers can be successfully used for driveways with only a 4 to 6 inch base, as shifting clays are not a factor.

A sound residential concrete slab driveway without foundation cracks can be overlayed with 30mm thin pavers. In many cases, DriBond™ advanced mudset can be used to facilitate the entire overlay. Another option would be to DriBond the perimeter and sand-set the primary paver field, if there’s a possibility of shifting soils. Keep in mind that an overlay will add 2.5 to 3 inches of elevation to the existing slab, which could affect transitions to the garage, home, street or walkways.

Paver Color and Border Options

Mega-Bergerac Brick Paver Driveway Design
This Mega-Bergerac® driveway ties in with the color tones of the roof. A border was created by using only the large stones of this 4-piece system.

Current trends lean towards choosing driveway paver colors that tie in with the roof color of the home, either in the primary paver field or in a border. Borders can be easily created by using the same paver in either a different color or different laying pattern.

Another option is to choose a contrasting paver shape, texture, color and/or style for the border. You can also create double borders or work with your contractor to develop other creative design ideas.

Paver Driveway Embellishments

As for unique touches to your paver driveway project, focal points can be created using pattern embellishments. Typical focal points include the driveway entrance, the garage apron, or what’s called a “carriage drop,” or the spot where someone would be dropped off adjacent to the home’s formal entrance.

Adding character to paver driveways, a circle kit creates a classic focal point for more traditional driveway. Contemporary focal points can be created using squares or rectangles. For a Romanesque look, circle kits can be used to create a fan or a fishtail design.

  • Roman Euro Brick Paving Stones
  • Rinn Medino Driveway Pavers
  • Urbana Stone Brick Driveway Pavers
  • Eco Dublin Pavers for Driveway
  • Old York Pavers Driveway
  • Bergerac Driveway Brick Pavers

.    .    .

Check Taylor Belgard Driveway Paver Design

Written by Chuck Taylor, Belgard National Hardscapes Advisor, one of the nation’s foremost experts on pavement systems.

. . .