The Latest Trends in Water Features

Water is a soothing natural element that can add comfort and ambience to any outdoor space. Whether it’s a pond, fountain, waterfall or bubbling rock, water features continue to be a popular design element for outdoor living spaces. As this practice continues to evolve, technology and contemporary design preferences are definitely influencing the trends.

Water Feature Technology Trends

Smart Features

More and more homes are becoming integrated with smart-home technology, and this is making its way into outdoor living spaces. One of the hottest trends is to incorporate “smart” technology into water features so that homeowners can use a smartphone app, Alexa or Google Home device to turn the feature on or off.

Solar Technology

Utilizing solar technology for a water feature offers multiple benefits. Not only does it eliminate the ongoing costs of electricity to power the water feature pump, but also eliminates the need to run electrical utilities to the water feature. This is especially helpful when installing a water feature to an existing outdoor living space. Retrofitting an existing space with electrical wiring can be a costly endeavor.

Water Feature Lighting

Water Feature with Lighting Technology

Adding lighting to a water feature enhances the ambiance and also allows the feature to be viewed at night. For ponds and brook-like features, it’s popular to include lighting under the water or shining towards the water. For features that include a waterfall, incorporating an LED light into the waterfall itself adds an ethereal quality. It’s also popular to affix low voltage hardscape lighting to exterior walls of water features.

Water Feature Design Trends

Interactive Fountains

Interactive fountains are not only beautiful, they are a great family-friendly patio design element. These types of water features can either be designed with a water-recycling permeable paver system, or by adding a drain system to standard pavers.

Fire & Water

There’s just something primal about juxtaposing the natural elements of fire and water that appeals to humans at an instinctual level. As the fire pit and outdoor fireplace trends continues to grow, so does the trend to incorporate a nearby water feature.

  • Weston Stone® Wall Outdoor Hardscapes
  • Highland Stone and Weston Stone® Wall with Water Fall Feature
  • Bristol™ Series Fireplace and Celtik Wall Fireplace and Water Feature
  • Belgard Elements™ Fireplace and Water Element
  • Brighton™ Series Fireplace and Waterfall Feature

Pondless Waterfalls

A pondless waterfall is simply a recirculating waterfall or stream without the presence of a pond. The water typically disappears into a basin or a bed of gravel to recirculate into the water feature. Trends in this style of water feature range from natural stone streams to wall fountains and contemporary stand-alone structures.

  • Allan Block® Outdoor Waterfall Feature
  • Celtik Wall® Landscape Waterfall Feature
  • Mega-Bergerac® Pavers Brick Waterfall Element
  • Tandem® Wall with Water Feature
  • Weston Stone® Outdoor Patio Waterfall

Poolscape Water Features

Modern pool design trends center on incorporating the pool as part of a cohesive design element with the surrounding outdoor living spaces. The pool itself is not just a place to swim, but an active part of the overall design. A great way to achieve this is to add a water feature that flows into the pool.

  • Dublin Cobble® pool deck
  • Lafitt® Rustic Slab pool deck
  • Mega-Bergerac® pool deck
  • Melville™ paver pool deck and Tandem® Wall Waterfall and Pool
  • Porcelain Paver pool deck
  • Urbana® Stone pool deck
  • Weston Stone™ column water feature
  • Cambridge Cobble® pool deck

Artistic Water Features

Many of today’s homeowners gravitate towards water features that act as a focal point of a design, like an interactive piece of modern art that makes a statement. That statement can be bold or simple, often reflecting the personality of the homeowner. Designs of this type add an element of zen to an outdoor space and can range from water walls to urn fountains and bubbling rocks.

  • Aqua Bric® permeable paver patio
  • Mega-Arbel® patio water fountain
  • Tandem® Modular Grid Water Fountain
  • Weston Stone® Water Fountain Outdoor

Backyard Pool Games for the Whole Family

Family Backyard Pool Games

Water ya up to this summer? Hope its going swimmingly. So long, spring showers…you will surely be “mist.” Ok, enough with the bad water puns. Time to have some real fun in one of our favorite family outdoor spaces: the pool!

Whether you have a modest pool or a contemporary backyard masterpiece, it is time to seize the moment and have the pool party that everyone will remember. Summer is in full swing, and do we have some fun pool games for you!


A traditional game like “Marco Polo” might be fun for some. Others are ready for something new to spice up their pool life. Just remember, no matter what the activity, kids in the water need a parent or adult to supervise!

Kid Friendly Pool Game Ideas
On your marks, get set, go!

BYOB (Bring Your Own Bottle):
Did you know that most plastics will sink once filled with water? Gather a bunch of small plastic bottles and remove the labels. Once complete, have the kids designate an area of your pool deck as their base where they throw the bottles into the pool backwards (no peeking). The player with the most bottles wins!

. . .

Coin Dive Pool Game Ideas
Who can find the special coin?

Ice Cream Coin Dive:
This one will keep them occupied for a while! Start out by collecting an ice-cream bucket’s amount of coins and designating one as the “prize coin.” Then disperse the coins throughout your pool. Tell the kids that there will be ice cream for everyone who plays. The top prizes will be special ice cream sundaes, which will go to the one who gathers the most coins and the one who finds the prize coin. Watch as they scramble for the top prize!

. . .

These little guys are harder to gather than they look!

Ping Pong Ball Race:
This one will have everyone laughing. With everyone out of the pool, toss a bucket of ping pong balls into the pool. Be sure to spread them out. At the count of three everyone jumps in and tries to gather as many as they can, stuffing them into their suits and swimshirts or holding onto them how ever they can. The person who gathers the most wins. You can also have specially colored balls that count for extra points or get a special prize.


Children are subconsciously drawn to pools like hummingbirds to honeysuckles, but who says pool games are just for the little ones?

See game videos at

Watermelon Ball:
You can either play this with a real watermelon or a specially weighted Watermelon Ball (which has less potential for cracking and getting messy). The game is basically like a combination of rugby, football and basketball played in the water. Watermelons are neutrally buoyant, which allows them to be passed underwater. Fabricated watermelon balls are engineered to create the same feel. To play, split into two teams and line each team on opposite sides of the pool. Flip to see which team gets the melon first. The goal is to get the melon onto the opposite deck to score a point. Opposing team gets to start with the melon on the next round. Set some ground rules regarding rough play (like no pulling off suits or holding someone underwater), but otherwise pass, steal, dribble, run, whatever it takes to make a goal. To add another level of difficulty, anchor inner-tubes to use as the goals for each team. To make the game even more tricky, you can coat the watermelon or ball with some petroleum jelly to make it harder to hold onto.

. . .

Floating Pool Beer Pong Battleship
Take “you sank my battleship” to a new level.

Pool Pong (21+):
When it’s adult swim time, fetch a few of those ping pong balls from the race and play beer pong in the pool. There are lots of pool pong products on the market for this type of activity. Although, probably the most creative is called Battleship Beer Pong, which is sort of a cross between beer pong and the classic Battleship board game, complete with cup rafts that replicate the destroyer, submarine, battleship and aircraft carrier from the board game.

5 Tips for Merging Indoor and Outdoor Spaces

There was a time when a simple patio or deck was the height of backyard outdoor living. Today, we have transcended to a place where our outdoor spaces rival and often surpass the look and livability of our indoor spaces. The latest trend on this design journey is to merge our outdoor and indoor living spaces in a way that allows the backyard to be a true extension of the home. Here are some ideas on how to accomplish this.

1 – Use Complementary Architecture

When designing an outdoor living space, use materials and architectural touches that mirror the interior space. For example, if the interior includes arches, transoms or large beams, similar touches can be incorporated in the exterior spaces. You can also mirror architectural materials such as light fixtures, countertops and flooring in your exterior spaces. Just remember to buy the outdoor-rated versions for durability in the harsher environment.

outdoor and indoor living space complementary architecture
Belgard Porcelain Pavers and coordinating Porcelain Wall Veneers are a great tool for connecting outdoor spaces with interior spaces. The veneers can be used for both interior and exterior applications, and Porcelain Pavers mimic the look of interior flooring and often have coordinating indoor tile styles.

2 – Create Seamless Transitions

For climates that allow this as an option, collapsible doors provide the perfect opportunity to create a seamless transition between the indoor and outdoor environment. This is not realistic in some climates due to excessive temperatures, mosquitoes and other factors. For these scenarios, the look can be accomplished with large windows, sliding doors or screened enclosures. It also helps to have the initial zone of the outdoor space at the same floor height so there’s not a step up or down when going in or out.

connecting outdoor and indoor living spaces
The HGTV® Dream Home 2019 created the perfect example of indoor/outdoor living with folding doors and windows on first floor room facing the backyard. (photo: HGTV, used with permission)

3 – Incorporate Cohesive Design Schemes

If you’re limited by architecture or climate and want to create a sense of flow to the outdoors, continue the same decorating motif used in the adjoining room. Use similar color schemes, furniture styles, rugs, lamps, vases and other accessories.

outdoor and indoor living space design
The use of wingback outdoor chairs and homey accessories makes this Mega-Bergerac® patio feel more like a continuation of the indoor environment.

4 – Make the Space More Functional

If you really want your outdoor space to be cohesive with your indoor space, it needs to be a place where people want to hang out. That means adding functional elements like a bar, outdoor kitchen or fire feature.

functional indoor and outdoor living space
This Tandem® Modular Grid outdoor kitchen is a fully functional cooking and entertainment space, complete with multiple cooking surfaces, full-sized sink, outdoor-rated appliances and built-in television. The half wall also serves to enclose the space to make it feel more connected with the home’s interior.

5 – Link Entertainment Zones

Adding a television is a no-brainer, which is easy enough to link with your home’s system. But you’ll also want to add WiFi extenders to improve internet connectivity. To really enhance the sense of flow from the indoors out, add audio speakers and connect them with your home’s entertainment system. That way, you can hear the same background sounds when walking from one space to the next.

connecting outdoor and indoor living spaces
This outdoor living room already feels like an interior space, thanks to the roof pitch and the Bordeaux Series™ outdoor fireplace. To make a space like this even more connected with the interior, place outdoor speakers at the four corners and connect them to the interior sound system. Be sure to include the ability to adjust volume by zone, either with a phone app or with manual volume knobs.
HGTV, HGTV Dream Home, HGTV Dream Home Giveaway and their associated logos are trademarks of Scripps Networks, LLC.; Photos © 2018 Scripps Networks, LLC.; Used with permission; all rights reserved.

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


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 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.