Before & After Outdoor Renovations of the 2018 Southern Living Idea House

After viewing over 35 homes with an agent and combing neighborhoods for any “For Sale by Owner” sign, the design team settled on a fixer-upper located in the Northwest Hills area of Austin, Texas, for the 2018 Southern Living Idea House.

“I was so flattered to be asked to work on this project,” said landscape designer Julie Blakeslee of Big Red Sun. “They gave me a lot of freedom in the design, and it was lovely to be trusted in that way.”

As the official hardscapes sponsor of the Idea House, Belgard is thrilled to give you a tour of the outdoor living renovations of this Texas-sized makeover project.

Front Yard Makeover

Although the house was chosen for its “good bones,” it was definitely in need of modernization both inside and out. The front of the home had decent curb appeal, but a dated, formal look with boxy landscaping, undersized shutters, and a nondescript concrete walkway and porch.

Front Yard Makeover Design Ideas Before
Front yard before. (photo courtesy Virtuance)

The curb appeal was modernized with new working shutters, squared columns, updated light fixtures and fans, more informal and colorful landscaping, and a new paver walkway and porch.

Front Yard Makeover Design Ideas After
Front yard after. (photograph by Hector Manuel Sanchez)

“We had a limited budget and were stressed out about having to use the original walkway, but the Oldcastle products allowed us to work with that restriction,” Blakeslee said.

Front Porch Makeover Design Ideas Before
Front porch close-up.
(photograph by Hector Manuel Sanchez)

Techniseal® DriBond™ was used to overlay the existing concrete walkway and porch with pavers, saving the design team a tremendous amount of time and expense over demolishing and removing the existing concrete — a much-needed shortcut for the project. Holland Stone pavers were overlaid in a herringbone pattern, which paired well with the classic West-Indies architectural style of the home. Copper lantern light fixtures, wooden rocking chairs and a lush container garden added a welcoming southern touch.

“Everything blended together to give the front of the house an elegant, finished look,” Blakeslee said.

Back Porch Makeover

The existing porch was in poor shape, with a good deal of rotten wood and an old hot tub, plus an outdated look of heavy limestone columns, ornate wrought iron railings and “star of Texas” light fixtures.

Southern Living Idea Design Back Porch Before
Back porch before. (photo courtesy Virtuance)

The hot tub was removed, and the remodeled bright and airy southern-style porch included new weather-resistant ChoiceDek Foundations™ composite decking, skylights, ceiling fans, copper light fixtures and a welcoming sofa-sized porch swing.

Southern Living Idea Design Back Porch After
Back porch after. (photograph by Ben Porter)

Backyard Makeover

Plainly stated, the backyard was a hot mess and was basically unusable due to the slope and rocky quality of the terrain. “We wanted as big a terrace as possible to provide some outdoor flat space and create a funnel to a natural path at the foot of the property that leads down to an arroyo (dry creek),” Blakeslee said.

Backyard renovation design ideas before
Backyard before. (photo courtesy Time Inc.)

Blakeslee designed a multi-level terraced Dublin Cobble® paver patio to turn the sloped yard into a highly functional space with multiple entertainment zones. “The smaller format of the cobbled pavers gave us the vintage look we were going for and allowed us to create a sophisticated entertainment space,” she said.

Backyard upper terrace paver design ideas
New backyard upper terrace. (photograph by Hector Manuel Sanchez)

Extra-wide steps and landings throughout the design serve as additional seating space for large gatherings. Built-in Weston® Stone planters provide the medium for dimensional gardens throughout the space. Additional container gardens add an eclectic, informal touch. Curved transitions between the terrace levels add an elegant look to the design.

“It was a challenging installation, but we were very happy with the look and quality of the products and the end result,” Blakeslee said. “The curves make the space feel more gracious.”

The 2018 Southern Living Idea House will be open for tours through November 8, Wednesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For ticket information, click here.

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All photos used with permission from Time Inc., including its Southern Living division. SOUTHERN LIVING is a registered trademark of Time Inc. and is used with permission.

RECIPE: Homemade S’mores
(From Scratch)

Guest blog from Chuao Chocolatier® artisan chocolates.

Oh My S’mores! Chuao ChocolatierWe’re Chuao Chocolatier, a San Diego-based chocolatier known for our innovatively delicious chocolate bars, and we’re excited to share our recipe for Homemade S’mores with the Belgard family. We know the name of this recipe sounds ridiculous – of course all s’mores are homemade. Is there really any other way to s’more? Actually there is! We have a fun portable version of s’mores that you can eat anytime, anywhere, with no flame required: it’s Oh My S’mores! chocolate bar, and yes it’s delicious.

BUT we’re here to tell you about a different kind of s’more – one where the graham crackers and marshmallows are all homemade from scratch.

Oh yeah, we’re going there.

It sounds difficult, especially if you aren’t one to enjoy baking on the regular. But we promise, it’s so delicious that you will never want to use store-bought ingredients again! Plus, it’s so easy. Yes, homemade marshmallows are easy. You barely have to do anything! And you get soft, sticky, sweet marshmallows as a result.

Graham Cracker Recipe


  • 1 cup graham flour
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled
  • ¼ cup molasses
  • 2 tbs ounces whole milk
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Place both flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine.
  2. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles cornmeal.
  3. Add the molasses, milk, honey, and vanilla extract and process until the dough forms a ball — approximately 1 minute.
  4. Press the ball into a 1/2-inch thick disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  6. Unwrap the chilled dough and place it onto a large piece of parchment paper and top with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll the dough out until it is 1/8-inch thick.
  7. Slide the rolled dough and parchment paper onto a half sheet pan. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and cut the dough, using a rolling pizza cutter into 2-inch square pieces, by making vertical and then horizontal cuts all the way across the dough. Trim off any excess.
  8. Using a fork, poke holes all over the top of the dough.
  9. Leave the crackers on the pan and bake on the middle rack of the oven for 25 minutes or until the edges just start to darken. Remove from the oven, set the sheet pan with the crackers on a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
  10. Once completely cool, break into individual crackers.

Marshmallow Recipe


  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting
  • Special Equipment Needed: Candy Thermometer, Electric Mixer


  1. Combine all three packets of gelatin and ½ cup of cold water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Allow to sit while you make the sugar syrup.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and ½ cup water into a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Raise heat to high and cook until the sugar syrup reaches 240º F on a candy thermometer (about 7 minutes). Remove from heat.
  3. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the dissolved gelatin.
  4. When all the syrup has been added, put the mixer on high and whip until the mixture is very thick and shiny, about 15 minutes.
  5. While the mixture is whipping, generously (and we mean really generously) dust an 8×12 inch nonmetal baking dish with confectioners’ sugar.
  6. When the marshmallow fluff has reached the desired texture, add the vanilla and mix thoroughly.
  7. Pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepped baking dish. Smooth out the top, and add either more confectioners’ sugar, or desired decorative toppings. Let the marshmallows stand uncovered overnight until they’re dried out.
  8. Once the marshmallows have dried out, turn the marshmallows out onto a board that has also been dusted with confectioners’ sugar. Cut them into squares and dust with more confectioners’ sugar.

The Final Component: Chocolate

Ok, so now you have your base layer and your sticky, smoky layer. Next you need a rich, melty layer to make everything come together. We have a few pretty delicious options for you (though you really can’t go wrong with any of our chocolate stuffed into a s’more).

Oh My S’mores!Oh My S’mores!: It’s basically doubling down on your s’more game. The most fun part about this is the marshmallows, because they stay slightly soft and chewy, instead of ooey gooey like the blazed up marshmallows. The texture is killer and the creamy milk chocolate makes for the perfect combo.

Sprinkle Dreams: Imaging combining a trip to your favorite ice cream shop with an gooey and delectable s’more, all in one fabulous bite! The sprinkles in this chocolate bar keep things colorful and fun, while the bits of waffle cone and hazelnuts add a delicious crunch that brings the whole s’mores experience together!

FirecrackerFirecracker: Get ready for a totally unique s’mores experience! Rich dark chocolate makes this sumptuous and heavenly, but then a surprising kick of chipotle tickles your throat while popping candy explodes in your mouth. Trust us, you’re going to want to try this one! It’s like a party in your mouth.

Joy-Filled CaramelsJoy-Filled Caramels: This is NEXT LEVEL s’mores. If you want to make your s’mores totally and completely indulgent, throw a Joy-Filled Caramel in your s’more and let the rich, sweet caramel take your taste buds to flavor town.

There are countless other fun s’mores recipes to create with our chocolate – what would you try first? Or is there another chocolate bar you’re checking out? Well don’t be shy, tell us in the comments! And then go ahead and give it a try – you won’t ever regret eating this deliciousness.

-Team Chuao

If you enjoyed this recipe, head over to the Chuao recipe page and try your hand at all the fun and delicious treats we have there!

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COMING SOON:  National S’mores Day is coming up on August 10! Come back to the Belgard blog on that day to celebrate with us, and you’ll have a chance to enter to win a Belgard fire pit.

Take a Sneak Peek at the Outdoor Living Spaces of the 2018 Coastal Living Idea House

2018 Coastal Living Idea House Outdoor Living Spaces

In the shade of majestic moss-draped oak trees lies the quaint planned waterfront community of Habersham, South Carolina. The distinctively southern style of this award-winning sustainable community and its picturesque marsh views make the ideal backdrop for this year’s Coastal Living Idea House.

Belgard is proud to be the exclusive hardscapes sponsor of the project. Both the builder and the designer for this year’s Idea House weighed in on the value this partnership brought to the look and functionality of the home’s outdoor living spaces.

“The outdoor rooms of the Idea House were critical design elements,” says designer R. Eric Moser of Moser Design Group, Inc. “Belgard offered the ideal products and services extending from the raised courtyard and summer kitchen, to the pervious paver motor court, to the fire pit on the marsh.  The materials create rich textures and inviting spaces. I was delighted with the result.”

“The outdoor living area provided the main visual feature for the outside of the house,” adds builder J. Allen Patterson IV of Allen Patterson Residential, LLC. “Not only was it beautiful, it was also functional and durable.”

Belgard is excited to offer to offer this exclusive sneak peek at the outdoor living spaces of this charming coastal cottage.

Outdoor Living Spaces Stepping Stone WalkwayStepping Stone Walkway

A Lafitt® Grana Slab stepping stone walkway adds casual curb appeal and provides a welcoming entrance to the raised coastal cottage. A Lafitt® Grana Slab landing adds a finished look to the foot of the entrance stairway leading to the wide country-style porch.

Outdoor Living Spaces Permeable Paver DrivewayPermeable Paver Driveway

An Urbana® Stone eco-friendly permeable paver driveway protects the neighboring low country marsh from the harmful effects of stormwater runoff and provides an attractive route to the rear of the home, leading to the two-car garage and the home’s welcoming outdoor living spaces. The driveway design includes a grassy median and is flanked by a colorful flower bed.

Raised Terrace Patio

The terraced Lafitt® Grana Slab patio includes a built-in grill island and a comfortable sitting area bordered by raised planters. The planters and terrace edge are finished with bullnose Eastwood Coping. Lafitt® Grana Slab was also used for treads on the terrace steps and a breezeway to the garage, to create a cohesive look for the terrace design.

Outdoor Built-in Grill Island Design IdeasBuilt-in Grill Island

The centerpiece of the terrace patio is the built-in grill island. The chiseled stone look of Tandem® Modular Grid creates the framework for the island and was also used for a backsplash and to flank the back stairs, adding elegance to the home’s rear entrance.

Fire Pit Patio

A permeable fire pit patio provides a destination spot at the end of the driveway looking out into the peaceful marsh. The Weston Stone™ Fire Pit sits on a bed of crushed stone and is surrounded by the same Urbana® Stone permeable pavers used for the driveway, creating a seamless transition to the driveway and garage area.

The 2018 Coastal Living Idea House will be open for tours now through October 28, Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To purchase tickets, click here.

NEXT WEEK: Belgard is also a sponsor of the 2018 Southern Living Idea House! Come back to the blog next week for a sneak peek at the Texas-sized makeover of the outdoor living spaces of the Southern Living Idea House located in Austin, Texas.

PROJECT PROFILE: Southern California Outdoor Living Project of the Year

Southern California Outdoor Living Project of the Year - ©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build
©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build

Presenting the Belgard SoCal 2018 Best Outdoor Living Project featuring Lafitt® Grana Slab in Montecito and Toscana color blends. The spectacular outdoor living space of this San Diego home features a classically shaped pool with a paving stone pool deck and a raised spa that doubles as a water feature.

Outdoor Kitchen Paver Patio - ©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build
©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build

Adjacent to the pool sits a well-equipped raised outdoor kitchen that features a paver patio, multiple cooking surfaces, ample storage and built-in  stainless appliances. The kitchen is accented by industrial string lighting and flanked by a rustic covered outdoor living room and dining area.

Natural Stone Outdoor Fireplace - ©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build
©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build

An eclectic mix of contemporary and traditional design elements, the covered area includes a stunning natural stone outdoor fireplace, infrared heaters, a built-in television cubby, and a large dining area — making it the ultimate year-round outdoor entertaining spot. Installer Western Outdoor Design & Build incorporated natural stone accents throughout the space to tie the design together.

Pool Patio Paver - ©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build
©2018 Western Outdoor Design & Build

National Grilling Month Giveaway

National Grilling Month Giveaway
Grilling is not just a way to cook. It’s a lifestyle. That’s why Belgard will be celebrating National Grilling Month throughout the month of July by giving away fabulous 3-piece Grill Master BBQ tool sets to several lucky winners.


Recipes for Grilling Success

Over the years, we have featured multiple blogs on grilling tips. In honor of National Grilling Month, here are a few of our favorites:

Pizza Grilling Ideas BelgardIt’s Pizza Grilling Time!

Once you’ve tasted that smokey grilled pizza flavor, you’ll never want to cook pizza indoors again. Get helpful tips and recipe ideas for cooking pizzas on your grill.

>>Read our pizza blog

BBQ Ribs Grilling Ideas BelgardThe Secret to Perfect BBQ RIBS

Many people have a tough time grilling ribs correctly (tough being the operative word). Learn the secret to making tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone BBQ ribs.

>>Read our ribs blog

Sliders Grilling Ideas BelgardYummy Summer Slider Bar

A slider bar is a fun way to feed large groups during summer gatherings. Get great ideas for ingredients and toppings that are sure to make your slider bar a hit!

>>Read our slider blog

Fun Facts about Grilling

  • Barbecuing ranked in the top three on homeowners’ summer to-do list, along with socializing and spending time outdoors. National Grilling Month in July might be the perfect reason to channel your inner grill master and fire up the barbecue with friends and family.
  • 48% of grill owners use their grills year-round.
  • 68% of grill owners use their grills 2-5 times a week during peak grilling months.
  • 71% of grillers use gas grills grills, while 41% prefer charcoal or wood. Some surveyed use both methods.
  • 10% of grill owners also have a full outdoor kitchen. L-shaped grilling stations give grill masters everything they need within arm’s reach, making cooking and clean-up a breeze.
  • 87% of Americans grill out on the 4th of July.

Sources:; Allrecipies; Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association;  Super Market News; and Grilling with Rich.

Readers’ Choice Top Outdoor Kitchen Designs

With National Grilling Month coming up in July, we reached out to the more than 80,000 subscribers of our monthly Outdoor Living by Belgard eNewsletter to visit our Outdoor Kitchen and Outdoor Grill Island Pinterest boards and vote on their favorite designs. The votes have been tallied, and here on the top 5 outdoor kitchen designs in each category.

Top 5 Outdoor Kitchen Designs

Belair Wall Outdoor Brick Kitchen
#5 – Featuring the chiseled stone look of Belair Wall®, this al fresco kitchen includes both a gas grill and a wood-fired outdoor brick oven with a built-in wood box. This well-equipped kitchen also includes an ice-maker, outdoor dishwasher, custom bar sink and multiple durable stainless cabinets.
Lafitt Rustic Slab Outdoor Kitchen Design
#4 – This L-shaped kitchen is positioned adjacent to a covered Lafitt® Rustic Slab patio that offers ample seating for guests to visit with the outdoor chef during meal prep. Stacked-stone veneer adds a rustic elegance to complement multiple stainless outdoor appliances and a double grill.
Weston Stone outdoor kitchen design
#3 – This contemporary Weston Stone® outdoor kitchen includes a multi-functional granite countertop that provides a large linear area to accommodate food prep, serving and dining space. Weston Stone was also used for an adjacent landscape wall to visually tie the design together.
Weston Stone outdoor brick oven kitchen design
#2 – A raised bar opposite the grill allows guest to enjoy conversation with the outdoor chef during meal prep in this lovely Weston Stone® outdoor kitchen. A quaint lantern-style light fixture adds both ambiance and functionality to the wood-fired brick oven. Weston Stone was also used to construct a coordinating decorative wall that adds charm to the overall design.
Belair Wall Stone Outdoor Kitchen Design
#1 – This simple, yet elegant Belair Wall®outdoor kitchen garnered the most votes from our readers. The perfect space to entertain, this kitchen includes an oversized granite countertop that provides ample prep and serving spaces, as well as bar-style dining. The L-shape design puts everything within arm’s reach and opens to a covered Lafitt® Rustic Slab patio with additional seating, which creates a communal atmosphere.

Top 5 Grill Island Designs

Weston Stone L-shaped Grill Stone Kitchen Outdoor
#5 – This Weston Stone® L-shaped grill island offers clean, contemporary lines and a raised bar opposite the prep area for dining. Coordinating shades of Urbana® Stone pavers are laid in a running bond pattern on the adjacent patio to add a cohesive look to this eclectic space.
#4 – Rustic rough-hewn Celtik® Wall pairs with a contemporary granite countertop to create an L-shaped grill island that is the perfect complement to this eclectic outdoor living space. The flagstone design of Mega-Arbel® pavers help define the cooking area of the Lafitt® Grana Slab patio. Charcoal colored Old York™ pavers tie in with the color of the countertop to add a contemporary geometric border design.
Stone Patio Outdoor Kitchen Design
#3 – A built-in arbor made of reclaimed wood and wrought iron accents adds rustic charm to this attractive Weston Stone® grill island. Coordinating tones in the Lafitt® Rustic Slab patio complement the design.
Stone Outdoor Kitchen Design
#2 – The simple lines of this Weston Stone® grill island allow it to blend seamlessly with the structure of the adjacent home. A raised backsplash and granite countertops add a tailored look. The angled extension allows for additional prep and serving space without overpowering the sitting area of the Mega-Lafitt® paver patio.
Tandem Modular Grid Outdoor Stone Kitchen Design
#1 – This contemporary design garnered the highest number of votes in the grill island category. The versatile Tandem® Modular Grid provides the structure for the grill island, as well as a base for the arched arbor and a raised platform for the dining table.

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NEXT WEEK: Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog next week for a chance to win a free prize in our National Grilling Month giveaway!