Family Outdoor and Backyard Activities

May is time filled with family gatherings — that time of year when everyone comes together to celebrate mothers, new beginnings, and those who have given their lives for our freedoms. Whether you’re hosting the family on your patio or bringing “everyone and their mother” to the beach house, May is the ideal month to take advantage of the long-awaited spring weather! The following assortment of activities is a great way to keep everyone entertained while enjoying your outdoor living spaces.

Showers of May Flowers

Tandem® Wall

Now that the showers of April are gone, take a look at your backyard oasis: flowers, flowers everywhere! Having just sprucing up our yards during National Lawn & Garden Month in April, our backyards are now blossoming with opportunities to show Mom some love with a lovely homegrown arrangement.

Give each kid a basket or shatterproof vase, along with some basic instructions on stem length and which plants to avoid, then set them loose to gather some flowers and greenery. The object of this activity is to put together unique flower arrangements to display around the house or in your outdoor kitchen. You could also have your crafting box nearby to add ribbons or other accoutrements to their creations. He or she with the best arrangement wins the best prize one could win: a hug from mom and much coveted bragging rights!

Love You Berry Much!

Make a grilled dessert pizza with your fresh berries! (click for recipe) Photo: Kate Sears, Styling: Susan Vajaranant (courtesy Time Inc.)

Spring is the perfect time to visit your local farm or orchard for some berry picking, a perfect outing for the whole family! Consider making it a competition with the prospect of unlimited gourmet jams.

Be sure to come prepared with a bunch of baskets or buckets, though, because the berries will surely pile up fast! As we can see in annual easter egg hunts, kids can certainly find something quickly if they have the right motivation.

When you get home, you can keep the outdoor family time going by getting everyone to help make yummy grilled dessert pizzas with the spoils of the day.

Wine Not Paint Together?

Evident in the popularity of “sips and strokes” art establishments, it is without a doubt that everyone has an inner Bob Ross. But who says it has to be an out-of-home experience? Make it a family affair! Or invite some friends over and make it a party for kids of all ages — including the young at heart.

Arteza offers a bulk box of 14 mini 4″x4″ painting canvases with easels included that can be purchased at WalMart or Amazon for under $30. Plenty to go around, and the perfect size for painting a May flower! Add a bulk order of inexpensive paintbrushes and acrylic paints, then pick up some paper plates to use for painting pallets, and you’re ready to go. All you need now is a couple of bottles of wine, some sparkling grape juice for the kiddos, and your garden for inspiration. Those who don’t want to participate in the painting can still join in the fun by filling glasses, grilling up some goodies for the artists, or judging the art show when the painting is done.

Family-Friendly Patio Design Ideas

When investing in an outdoor living installation, consider features that offer multi-generational appeal. This will not only help your family enjoy the space more now, but will also add to your home’s resale value down the road. If you’re designing a family-friendly patio space specifically with kids in mind, it’s also important to think long term. Plan features that will entice them to spend more time outside now, but will still be appealing to you later once the nest is empty. Here are some inspirational backyard design ideas with those considerations in mind.

Backyard Interactive Fountains

An interactive fountain is a picturesque water feature that can double as a play area during warmer months. Small children will be enthralled for hours at at time running through the dancing waters. And in the off-season, or in later years, you’ll still enjoy listening to the soothing sounds and watching the playful spouts. These fountains can either be created with a water-recycling permeable paver system, or by adding a drain system to standard pavers.

  • Eco Dublin® permeable paver patio space
  • Subterra® permeable paver patio ideas
  • Urbana Stone® and Cambridge Cobble paver patio design ideas

Firepits and Outdoor Fireplaces

Nothing offers multi-generational appeal like a fire feature. The fabulous thing about a fire pit or outdoor fireplace is that it will actually entice multiple generations to spend time together. A backyard fire tears down generational barriers and allows everyone to enjoy each other’s company while listening to the crackle, watching the flames, roasting marshmallows and telling stories — all while creating new stories to be told later.

  • Belair Wall fire pit with seat walls
  • Mega Arbel sunken fire pit
  • Weston Wall outdoor fireplace

Garden Walls and Seat Walls

A garden wall offers the multi-functional ability to serve as a retaining wall, seating space or a decorative component to your outdoor spaces. It can be a spot for landing G.I. Joe’s helicopter, lining up Barbies for a modeling show, or just hanging out with a friend to tell secrets (that last one works for any age). You can also use landscape walls to build a raised garden bed that can either house science fair experiments, herbs and veggies for farm-to-table dinners, or elegant gladiolas.

  • Celtik Wall garden seat walls
  • Weston Stone Wall Urban Flower Garden Built-in Garden Design
  • Celtik Wall raised garden planters

Outdoor Kitchens with Multiple Cooking Surfaces

As the kids get older, if you want your house to be the one where all their friends come to hang out, be aware that adolescents and teens feed like a plague of locusts. You’re going to need multiple cooking surfaces to feed the masses. And you’re going to prefer they hang out outside, which is MUCH easier to clean before or after a gathering. Honestly, isn’t that why leaf blowers were invented?

  • Bristol outdoor pizza oven and bar design ideas
  • Tandem Modular Grid Outdoor Kitchen with multiple cooking surfaces
  • Weston Wall outdoor kitchen with pizza oven and wine cooler

Outdoor Bar Top Dining

When designing an outdoor kitchen, a bar top dining area is a must — and you can never have too much seating space. Everyone wants to sit near the cook to visit during food prep. Plus, kids love to eat at a bar and let their little legs dangle. And adults love to sit at the bar to watch the game. That’s why sports bars exist, so why not just have one at home where you can watch what YOU want.

  • Weston Stone® wall and Bergerac® paver patio family-friendly
  • Weston Wall outdoor kitchen with bartop dining

Patio Chalk Art

Kids (and some grownups) can entertain themselves for hours with a box of chalk and a concrete surface. And with a simple spray of water, the canvas is ready for the next artist. Smooth-faced pavers work best for drawing, and modular styles like Lafitt® Grana Slab can offer natural boxes for housing separate creations…or opportunities to color outside the lines. Patio pavers with textured surfaces can also be fun for creating colorful, abstract chalk designs.

  • Lafitt Grana Slab Outdoor Living Room Family-friendly
  • Lafitt Rustic Slab with chalk designs patio ideas

Multi-Zoned Outdoor Living Areas

Whether you typically host adult gatherings, family get-togethers, or kid paloozas, having multiple entertainment zones is a must. This allows for the natural creation of different conversation areas, or even separate play areas. The moms can visit together in one zone while the kids play with blocks in another. Or one zone can be for cinephiles to discuss the latest twist in the Marvel universe, while elsewhere a group of oenophiles can discuss the intricate flavors of their latest Pinot Noir discovery.

  • Lafitt Rustic Slab Outdoor Living Room with pergola
  • Family-friendly patio design with multiple entertaining zones
  • Outdoor Kitchen and living room design ideas

Enhancing Your Gardens with Hardscapes

We’ve officially entered that time of year when you have trouble finding a parking spot at your favorite hardware and nursery locations. While you’re contemplating how you want to spruce up your yard or improve your curb appeal this season, we thought we’d offer some inspirational ideas for enhancing the look of your gardens with hardscapes. Patio pavers, garden wall blocks and edging stones not only add to the visual appeal of your garden but also add to the value of your home, providing lasting beauty for your outdoor living spaces.

Contrasting Paver Borders

For gardens that abut a patio, walkway or driveway, the visual appeal can be enhanced through the use of contrasting paver styles, paver colors or paver laying patterns on the border of the paved area. This works both when bordering a paver field or poured concrete.

  • Soldier course border
  • Double Paver borders
  • Raised Planters Outdoor Living Space Design
  • Contrasting paver borders
  • Sailor course border ideas

Edgers

Edging stones can add a clean or more formal look that works both for gardens that abut paved areas and for gardens that are bordered by grassy areas. For grassy areas, edging stones also help protect the garden from encroachment from grass and weeds.

  • paver edger with no border
  • garden edger ideas
  • buried edger ideas
  • unique paver edger combinations

Built-in Planters and Raised Beds

Built-in planters and raised garden beds can add dimension and act as a focal point for your garden designs. This also works well for accenting trees or creating a vertical garden.

  • paver hardscapes focal point
  • raised garden pavers
  • paver hardscape Borders and beds
  • sloped landscape garden ideas
  • Weston Stone Wall Urban Flower Garden Built-in Garden Design

Entangled Borders

One of the latest trends in landscape design is to “entangle” hardscapes with nature. This can be done in a way that either makes the hardscapes look like part of the natural landscape, or it can be use to create contemporary modernistic designs, depending upon the hardscape selected.

  • garden pathway ideas
  • garden paver pathway ideas
  • garden edging ideas
  • garden driveway paver ideas

Columns

Columns can be used to border a garden or create a focal point within the garden itself. For extra textural design, a planter can be built into the top of the column.

  • column garden planter hardscapes ideas
  • built-in paver planter hardscapes
  • garden wall columns
  • Paver Column lighting

Terraced Landscape

A sloped yard can be converted into a terraced landscape using retaining walls, creating an elegant multi-dimensional garden.

NALP’s ‘Top 5’ 2019 Outdoor Living Trends Focus on Bringing the Indoors Outside

A recent National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) survey reveals the top outdoor design trends that will influence the design and maintenance of backyards across America in the year ahead. As outdoor design continues to focus on functional spaces that bring the indoors out, homeowners are turning to their backyards as an extension of the home and truly enjoy using their space.

NALP Outdoor Living Trends 2019
*Information sources: Associated Press, NALP

These outdoor living trends for 2019 show that homeowners and design innovation are transforming the backyard from a simple patio into a functional outdoor oasis. For inspiration on transforming your space visit our inspirational outdoor design Pinterest boards or go to Belgard.com/inspiration. To find a qualified contractor near you, visit our contractor locator page.

Crafting a Sustainable Modern Art Masterpiece: Your Personal Urban Garden

Create a Personal Urban Garden Design

Whether it is a window sill herb display or a rooftop installation, urban gardening is quickly transforming itself into the “next big thing” in sustainability. Aside from polishing courtyards and sprucing up terrace appeal, city-dwellers are increasingly investing time to ensure almost year-round access to attractive flora and freshly-picked fruits, herbs and vegetables. As you know however, keeping this on par with building ordinances and more importantly personal landscaping flair requires careful planning and coordination. For those of you looking to transform your urban venue into the likes of a Monet, sit back as we navigate you throughout the jungle of urban garden design.

First Thing’s First

Before going out and splurging your hard-earned money on a bunch of exotic ferns from your local Lowe’s, utilize this time instead to ascertain what you really want. Do you want a home farm-to-table experience? Do you want to propagate moss on your outdoor fireplace to give it a more rustic feel? Do you want to create a forest-like aesthetic on your roof? Needless to say, the possibilities are endless when it comes to urban gardening.

Tying the Knot Between Form and Function

A garden in the city is a bold step in the right direction. Sometimes it’s just a therapeutic escape from the concrete and steel atmosphere of urban living. Sometimes it’s a way to ensure access to organically grown food. Perhaps you gourmet chefs out there could experiment will exotic peppers and herbs grown on your window sills. Perhaps you canning aficionados can create the next best jam or pickle with homegrown produce from the vertical garden on your balcony. Whatever the case, gardening in the city is a true blend of practicality and elegance. Once you have figured out what you want, consider hiring a contractor to help you design and install permanent structures for your garden that will not only stand up to the elements every growing season, but will enhance the overall look of your space.

Go Big and Stay Home

Your home is your palace, your castle, your Shangri-La. You have worked long and hard to get to where you are now. Your home should reflect this and then some! In terms of sustainable gardening ideas, you have many options to pull this off. An attractive yet durable raised plant bed, a paver courtyard with a container garden, water features and an outdoor fireplace — you hold the cards! Creating a lasting urban garden for the ages can be tricky, but you can count on Belgard to pave the way with ideas that will transform your balcony, terrace, courtyard or rooftop into the masterpiece you deserve!

Built-In Planter Ideas

Courtyard or Terrace Design Ideas

  • Celtik Wall Vertical Urban Garden Design Ideas
  • Brighton Fireplace with Container Garden Design Ideas

For more outdoor living design ideas, visit our Inspiration Gallery and Pinterest Boards.

NEXT WEEK: Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog next week for creative ideas on enhancing your gardens with edgers, borders and planters.

PROJECT SPOTLIGHT: ‘Simple Splash’ Backyard Makeover

Based in Minneapolis, Mom’s Design Build states that their company mission is to create outdoor living spaces that inspire the human spirit to live fully. That mission was wholeheartedly accomplished with a recent backyard transformation they titled, “Simple Splash.” This backyard makeover project took a rarely used yard with a rocky, sloped terrain and converted it to a welcoming contemporary family oasis.

  •  Nondescript patio
  • Contemporary sundeck and pool
  • Sloped backyard transformation
  • Multi-level poolscape

Project designer Heather Sweeney initially met with the family to discuss their goals for the space. The interior of their home has a modern design motif, and they felt the existing traditional paver patio was disconnected with the home’s interior and too small for their needs. The family includes two small children, a 5-year-old girl and a 9-year-old boy. They knew they wanted a pool that would eventually include a pool house. They wanted the design to have a contemporary feel that would flow well with the home’s interior design, but also wanted some traditional elements so that the space would be comfortable and approachable.

“A major challenge was how do we put a flat pool on this crazy hillside,” Sweeney said, “especially when the city had rules that dictated retaining walls could only be a maximum of three feet tall.”

Sweeney’s answer to that challenge was to create a tiered poolscape that includes a sundeck on the upper area, a poolside bar on the lower level, and a cozy sitting area where Mom could relax and overlook the entire space.

“Kids can sit either on the outside or in the pool,” Sweeney said of the dining bar. “Future plans include a pool house with a kitchen and a fireplace off of that area. This way, we could phase it out without making it look unplanned.”

  • Swim-Up Bar Concrete Pavers
  • Dining Terrace Pool Deck
  • Pool Sundeck
  • Built-in Lounge Paver Pool Area


The project features a mix of materials that includes Nau 2.0 porcelain pavers (Fado color), poured concrete, natural Bluestone and weathered corten steel. The retaining walls and bar are poured concrete trimmed with corten steel. Bluestone was used for the coping, step treads, stepping-stone garden and wall caps. The pool decking areas are all durable Nau 2.0 porcelain pavers, which offer the look of natural woodgrain with the stain-resistance and frost-resistance of porcelain — ensuring lasting beauty despite the harsh Minnesota climate.

“This was my first time using Belgard porcelain pavers,” Sweeney said. “I’ve been intrigued with the product. On this design, we were trying to find something that looks good that won’t burn your feet. The wood look lends to the clean-line modern look and at the same time subtly softens the look.”

For the sundeck area, the porcelain pavers were installed on a crushed stoned base like tradition pavers. Around the pool, Mom’s Design Build used a concrete sub-slab with a mat base between the concrete and paver. “I was a little nervous at first because it was a new process, but the sand locked it into place,” Sweeney said. “It looks great, and I’ve used it on additional projects since. For people who like that clean-line modern look, it works perfectly.”

Adding to both the look and functionality of the design, Sweeney included a natural diving platform that also functions as a water feature. The feature includes an built-in light controlled with the pool controller. To add to both ambiance and safety, lighting was also installed throughout the design, including the step treads. Channels were carved under each step tread to hide LED rope lights that automatically come on at night with a photocell sensor.

tiered garden and paver pool decking

Centered on the pool is a custom built-in lounge seat surrounded by a tiered garden. The mother stays at home most of the time and wanted a place to relax and watch the kids without having to be in the pool or get splashed. Custom built from decking and 6″ foam, the result was an artistic piece that acts as a natural focal point. The overall look of the third tier was softened with a combination of low-maintenance landscaping, ground cover along the corten wall, and maintenance-free artificial turf that connects with the sundeck.

The family has future plans to extend out from the dining area to build a pool house with an outdoor kitchen, along with an outdoor living room with an outdoor fireplace. By discussing the overall plan during the design phase, Mom’s Design Build was able to prep future phases on the front end, saving a lot of time and expense down the road. “All conduits have already been run the through concrete walls for future electrical, water and gas. Everything is setup so we don’t have to redo anything,” Sweeney said. “Footings are also in place for the kitchen and fireplace. We tiled on top of the footings and will remove those sections and build up from there when the time comes.”

Sweeney reports that the homeowners love their new space and spend time outside on almost a daily basis, something they rarely did before the backyard makeover. “They didn’t use their backyard at all before. They had a tiny patio. It was too shady, damp and hilly without a lot of functional space. The mom now spends a lot of time on her lounge reading, and her daughter likes to line up her Barbies along the edge of the pool to play. And they like to entertain large groups, and this space offers them lots of seating.”

For more backyard makeover inspiration, visit Mom’s Design Build on Facebook and Instagram. To find a qualified contractor in your neck of the woods, visit the Belgard contractor locator.