Creating A Modular Outdoor Living Area

For those ready to foray into the world of outdoor living, the experts at Belgard and Harmony offer the following advice when it comes to creating a modular outdoor living space.

Consultation is Key

Colors and design elements should complement both the architecture of the home and the lifestyle of the homeowner.  It’s important that the contractor know how the homeowner envisions using the space. Form should create function, not impede it.  Get to know your contractor so that your outdoor refuge reflects your personality.

Know Your Codes

Nothing is more frustrating than a design that cannot be implemented due to setback restrictions or a compromised foundation. Design elements like a kitchen bar or a fireplace often require additional foundation work, such as a thicker layer of gravel, or cement pads or footings. Knowing these details before you begin your design will save you a lot of time, headaches, and ultimately, money.

Choose Wisely

Choose a reputable product line that offers a variety of styles and options. Check to see if there is a local supplier with a showroom or spec sites.  A design may look good on paper but have a different feel in full-scale. Be sure to get full disclosure on all product warranties.

Get Creative

Just because you’re designing with modular units doesn’t mean each project needs to be a cookie cutter of the next. Don’t be afraid to vary your designs with texture, color, and dimension.  Mix complimentary elements, hues, curves and lines that work in harmony with the home’s environment.  Create focal points and use paver variations and design elements to create lines that lead to them. Consider using retaining walls or seat walls to define different areas and provide additional seating.  Remember to consider what the purpose and future usage of each space will be and to leave adequate room for walking, gathering, and furniture.

Phasing it Out

If you don’t have the budget to create your dream now, discuss the option of building the project in phases. If planned correctly, you can add an element at a time until the dream is complete. Once the site is excavated and leveled, have your contractor run lines for future plumbing and electrical. Most modular units are designed so that these elements can be added after the fact, but preplanned buried lines are much more aesthetically pleasing. And if you know ahead of time where the heavier elements will be, you can properly prepare the foundation to prevent sag.

Sample Design Project


A fire table with an elevated bar was placed adjacent to the dining area to provide an element of interest and additional seating. The table includes a beaded glass top, built-in natural gas burner, and wood box. In the background, the fireplace wall continues to define the perimeter of the space and is capped with a pillar unit with additional lighting.

Opposite the fireplace and flanking the rear of the home is a fire pit living area designed to create a separate cozy conversation area, yet still coordinate with the colors and textures of the other units and the exterior of the home.

The only element constructed on site can be the patio with buried plumbing and electrical lines. All other elements can be prefabricated in a factory setting, shipped on palettes, and placed on site using a Bobcat. Within hours, a patio can be transformed into a designer living space using modular units.

For more inspiration on building your backyard paradise, visit our Outdoor Living Gallery!

Grilled Chicken Rice Salad with Pineapple and Pistachios

Serves: 4

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 55 minutes


1 can (8 ounces) pineapple chunks (packed in juice), drained, 1/3 cup juice reserved

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, grilled and cut into cubes

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped

4 large lettuce leaves

2 tablespoons chopped pistachios

To make the dressing: Reserve pineapple chunks for salad. In small bowl, stir 1/3 cup pineapple juice with oil, salt, and pepper.

To make salad: In medium bowl, combine reserved pineapple chunks, chicken, rice, bell pepper, and red onion. Add dressing and toss gently to mix.

Arrange lettuce leaves on 4 plates. Top with salad and sprinkle with pistachios.

Recipe and photo provided courtesy of Prevention.

Modular Design Makes Outdoor Living Easy

One of the fastest growing trends in the construction industry is the increased popularity of designer outdoor living spaces.  An outdoor kitchen or living room not only adds to the character, value, and functionality of a home, it increases the home’s useable square footage for considerably less cost than under-beam construction.

According to a recent nationwide survey of the top 10 “must haves” in new construction (conducted by AVID Ratings Co.), the outdoor living room ranks as number five.  In fact, the survey revealed that homeowners were willing to forgo a media room or a dining room in lieu of an outdoor living space.

When the trend first began to take shape, homeowners were limited due to cost restraints and a narrow number of contractors with the needed skill set and industry knowledge. However, recent innovations in prefabricated modular construction have eliminated some of those roadblocks and are paving the way for those ready to plunge into outdoor living.

One Plus One Equals Simplicity
Joint venture partnerships between supply manufacturers have greatly improved the ease and overall cost benefits of outdoor living construction. Belgard Hardscapes, manufacturer of concrete pavers and wall products, is one such company that has created these partnerships with a variety of other manufacturers, including purveyors of grills, fireplaces, fire pits, and brick ovens.

”We wanted to provide contractors a portfolio from which to create entire packages for their clients,” said Belgard Vice President Ken O’Neill. “Offering a one-stop-shop scenario plus color palettes that all work together makes designing each project so much easier.”

Belgard’s latest venture has taken this concept one step further by partnering with Harmony Outdoor Living to create prefabricated modules for outdoor kitchens and living rooms. These modules, or kits, are pre-assembled in Harmony’s factory, combining Harmony fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables with Belgard pavers and wall products to make outdoor room construction a snap. Kitchen modules can even be ordered with grills, sinks, and stainless cabinetry included. These modules come shipped on a palette and are easily set in place with a Bobcat.

“Certain installations that once took days or weeks can now be done in minutes or hours once the foundation is ready,” says Joe Raboine, President of Harmony Outdoor Living, Inc.

The use of prefabricated modules also greatly reduces the incidence of buyer’s remorse. “There’s often a disconnect between the homeowner’s vision and the finish product,” says O’Neill. “But with the prefab modules, what you see is what you get. And because the fabrication is done in a controlled environment, you get a higher quality product that’s more resistant to settling and is covered under a warranty.”

An additional benefit to homeowners is the ability to phase out their dream design by adding one prefabricated element at a time. A homeowner can start with a patio and later add a kitchen, then a fireplace, then a seat wall, and so on.

Sample Design Project

The focal point of this outdoor dining room is the fireplace that was built using four modular units: fireplace, chimney, and two wine rack walls.  Ample patio space was allotted for additional gathering space and walking room. Incandescent lighting was added to the chimney to highlight the piece and provide additional exterior illumination.

Kitchen modules can be ordered with or without the grill, sink, and cabinetry, and depending on placement can include a bar extension for additional seating.  This particular kitchen was designed to flank the fireplace, define the dining space, and operate solely as a cooking and prep area. It includes three different patterns of wall and paving products to vary color and texture and coordinate with the patio pavers.

Check back next week for a step-by-step guide to creating a modular outdoor living area. In the meantime, visit the Belgard Backyard section of our website for more information!

Project Planning: Pool Decks

With less than six weeks of winter remaining, it’s a good time to start planning outdoor projects for the spring. And, what better way to enjoy the warmer weather among family and friends than relaxing by a new or newly renovated outdoor swimming pool. Whether hosting a low-key pool party for the neighbors’ kids or an extravagant dinner for a group of 20, a beautiful pool is not only the centerpiece of a well-appointed backyard, but the natural “life” of any successful outdoor gathering.

Just as important as the swimming pool, if not more, is the pool deck. It’s likely you will spend more time relaxing around the pool than you do actually swimming in it.  You will need plenty of extra space for sunbathing, entertaining or just socializing. Depending on your preferences, you may want to design a deck that is large enough to accommodate a hot tub, an outdoor kitchen or a fireplace.

Belgard pavers, with their incredible range of colors and textures, work hand-in-hand with unique pool shapes to create a stunning and inviting centerpiece to your backyard landscape. Pavers around pools are the perfect performer, providing a comfortable walking path or even an elaborate area for entertaining, all designed with a coarse texture for a safe, non-slip walking surface even when wet. Belgard pavers allow for maximum drainage, and their very dense structure also works to minimize penetrating moisture and reduce damage caused by freeze conditions.

Although pools are clearly more popular for summer gatherings, Belgard’s recent partnerships with Harmony Elements, Chicago Brick Oven and MediumRare offer easy, affordable opportunities to transform your poolscape into an outdoor living room you can enjoy year-round. Harmony offers pre-built modular hardscape elements, such as fire pits and fireplaces, which can be installed quickly and in phases to fit any budget. Chicago Brick Oven and MediumRare allow the consumer the ability to enjoy cooking outdoors, while creating a unique focal point.

Belgard Sales Manager, Nate Gish and Sales Representative, Doug Porter, offer a few suggestions for incorporating these elements into your backyard to maximize your poolscape’s functionality year-round:

Outdoor Kitchens

An outdoor kitchen integrated into your hardscape design takes entertaining to a whole new level. Imagine having everything you need for cooking, right at your fingertips. No more leaving your guests to run inside.

Fire Pits and Fireplaces

Your backyard swimming pool is sure to become a gathering spot for your family and friends.  So install a fireplace and enjoy a roaring blaze on chilly nights. Or, surround a fire pit with a seating wall or a set of armchairs so guests can be comfortable while they enjoy the ambiance and warmth.

Planning Suggestion

Be careful when adding one of these outdoor elements.  When one of these units is placed in the landscape, it will easily make that area a focal point and draw attention to that particular area.  Please allow at least 3 times the unit dimension around the element as people will be sure to gather or place their chairs in that area.

To learn more tips and tricks and to interact directly with trade professionals, visit our discussion thread on the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook fan page.