5 Tips for Designing a Patio around a Fire Pit

A fire pit instantly becomes the spot where everyone wants to gather. If you’re planning on adding this must-have element to your backyard, these tips will help you create a welcoming outdoor living space with a fire pit as a focal point.

Location, location, location.

brick paver fire pit patio design ideas

Unless you’re going for a contemporary symmetrical look or you’re working with a lot of space, don’t place the fire pit in the center of the patio, but offset to one side. You can balance the design with other heavy elements, such as an arbor, tree, water feature or outdoor bar. You will also want to pay attention to the wind patterns in your yard to place the fire pit in the location that will most likely draw any smoke away from the center. This is particularly important with a wood-burning fire pit. It’s also wise to investigate whether there are any regulations in your neighborhood or municipality regarding fire feature placement. It should be easily accessible, but not too close to the home. A good rule of thumb, especially with wood-burning pits, is to place the pit ten feet or more from any structure.

Make room for everyone.

stone paver fire pit patio design ideas

Once the fire is lit, people will tend to gather around it. In terms of space, you will want to plan for seating that will allow for both group settings or cozy, intimate one-on-one time. A fire pit itself is rarely larger than four or five feet across. The patio space around it should be an additional four to six feet on all sides. Seat walls are a great way to both visually define the space and allow for lots of seating. But don’t enclose the space completely with walls. It’s nice to leave room for chairs, standing and foot traffic. Also think ahead to how you plan to decorate. For example, if you’re choosing low-slung seating such as Adirondack chairs, realize that they will take up extra real estate and plan accordingly.

Create conversation zones.

patio fire pit design ideas

It’s highly unlikely that people will sit around the fire pit to eat on a regular basis. You will want a separate dining space for that. Plus, for better entertaining, it’s a great idea create multiple conversation zones around the patio where separate groups can gather for more intimate conversation. Some people will feel comfortable picking a spot where they can stay all evening, while the social butterflies will flit from zone to zone engaging in multiple conversations throughout the night.

Gas or wood? Why not both.

patio paver fire pit design ideas

Some people prefer gas — fewer code restrictions on placement, no ashes to contend with, no smoke, no wood to buy or chop. Other’s prefer wood — earthy smell, more robust flames, more warmth, more traditional campfire aesthetic. For those who enjoy the pros of both scenarios and live in a community that doesn’t restrict wood-burning features, consider a hybrid fire pit that allows for both gas and wood. The gas can be used as a starter and can even be hooked up to a smart system, which makes it easier to get the party going. Plus, the fire doesn’t have to go out when you run out of wood.

Soften the space.

brick paver patio fire pit design

To make your space comfy and cozy, soften the space with pillows, throws, decorative accessories and organic design elements. Landscaping or a water feature behind seating adds wonderful dimensional texture to the design and adds a sense of privacy. Decorative elements add personality to the space and help create an outdoor living room aesthetic. Pillows and throws soften the space both visually and physically, also allowing you to tie in with the colors used elsewhere on your patio to make the overall design more cohesive. You can also use paver patterns to create a faux rug paver design.

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Smart Irrigation Tips for Eco-Friendly Gardens

Benefits of Smart Irrigation Eco-friendly Garden
Water-harvesting Eco-Dublin® permeable paver system.

Across the nation, people in the irrigation industry have been celebrating July as “Smart Irrigation Month” and showcasing various technologies that improve the efficiency of outdoor water usage. According to the EPA, the average family uses 320 gallons of water per day, about 30 percent of which is outdoors. It is estimated that as much as half of that water used outdoors is wasted due to inefficient irrigation.

Indeed, even this blogger has vivid memories of growing up in a home with lush outdoor gardens that were constantly being watered by my mother, who simply moved hoses around all day (or instructed me and my siblings to do it). “Time to move the hoses,” was a constant call from one side of the house to the other. In the hot Louisiana climate, this was a near-daily occurrence throughout the majority of the year. Many of our neighbors had similar habits. Practices like this are likely what drove the industry to find a better way.

Benefits of Smart Irrigation

Smart irrigation techniques not only protect the community water supply, but offer multiple additional benefits to individuals. First of all, depending upon your municipality and water source, reducing your water usage can have a major affect on your utility bill. You can also improve the look of your yard by watering at the right times — not to mention the added convenience of automation.

Do-It-Yourself Smart Irrigation Techniques

Here are some simple ideas on improving your home irrigation.

  • Break your yard into zones that have different irrigation needs due to shade, slope or sun exposure.
  • Make sure the water is always aimed at the plants — never a driveway, walkway, building or deck.
  • Water in the early morning and/or late evening, when the most water will be absorbed without evaporating.
  • Water plants more often for shorter periods of time, which will allow the soil to better absorb the water.
  • Adjust water times and amounts to seasonal conditions.

Smart Irrigation Technology

Smart Irrigation Technology
A permeable paver system can be outfitted with water-harvesting technology for irrigation or interactive fountains.

The official term “smart irrigation” typically relates to underground sprinkler systems that incorporate computerized technologies like soil moisture sensors, rain sensors, fertilizer injectors, programmable timers and smartphone apps. However, there are multiple other technologies on the market today that can improve both efficiency and ecological responsibility.

  • Water-Harvesting Permeable Paver Systems – Providing multiple ecological benefits, permeable pavers reduce flooding and pooling, filter rainwater to reduce pollution and can be outfitted with an underground cistern to capture and reuse rainwater. Some municipalities offer tax incentives or rebates for installing these types of permeable paver driveways or paver patios.
  • Rain Barrels – Many municipalities offer tax incentives or even offer free rain barrel programs. These barrels capture the water from your gutter downspouts for you to reuse for irrigation. Many big box stores, like Lowe’s and Walmart, offer a wide variety of barrels to choose from.
  • Solar-Powered Sprinkler Timers – Reduce both water and electricity usage by using renewal solar power to irrigate your gardens. These systems are available from numerous retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Gourmet S’mores Recipes

Belgard will be giving away an Ashland Fire Pit Kit as part of our annual upcoming National S’mores Day celebration, which begins on August 10. Last year’s fire pit winner, Elaine Pitenis, just so happens to be a chef! So, we asked her to help us prepare for this year’s celebration with some new gourmet s’mores recipes. She was excited to oblige us and gave us some super yummy new gourmet s’mores recipes with varying levels of difficulty. Try them yourself!

Phyllo S’mores

Phyllo Dough S'mores Recipes Gourmet
Photo/styling: Cameron Gonzales

Thanks to her Greek heritage, Chef Elaine specializes in Greek cuisine. As a result, her family often makes s’mores with phyllo dough using the following recipe:

  • Take 10 sheets of phyllo and layer with melted butter.
  • Cut into 3” squares and bake at 350º F for 7-10 min.
  • When cool, place 4 squares of Hershey’s chocolate and one roasted marshmallow on top of a square of baked phyllo, and top with another layer of baked phyllo.
  • Allow the chocolate to melt, and eat!
  • To make indoors, simply use un-toasted marshmallows and place back in the oven until melty.

Chocolate Chip Cookie S’mores

Chocolate Chip Cookie S'mores Recipes
Photo/styling: Cameron Gonzales

Who doesn’t love a good chocolate chip cookie? Plus, this recipe is easy enough for kids to make by themselves (with adult supervision, of course…especially near the fire). For this recipe, you’ll need Pepperidge Farm® Farmhouse™ Thin & Crispy Milk Chocolate Chip Cookies or large homemade chocolate chip cookies.

  • Cover one of the cookies with Hershey’s chocolate pieces to fit your cookie.
  • Carefully toast marshmallows in fire pit
  • Take one toasted marshmallow that is still on the skewer and place on top of the Hershey’s chocolate.
  • Take another cookie and cover the hot marshmallow by pressing down firmly enough to pull out the skewer.
  • Allow the heat from the hot marshmallow to melt the chocolate. 
  • Wait until s’mores cools before eating. 

Baklava Truffle S’mores

Baklava Truffle S'mores Recipes

This gourmet s’mores recipe is the most difficult, but also the most delicious. Baklava is a rich Greek dessert of layered phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and held together with syrup on honey. You can make it from scratch or purchase pre-made baklava in many local grocery stores and bakeries. To make the Baklava Truffles, you will need the following ingredients:

  • 8 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate (high quality or Ghirardelli 62% cacao)
  • 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Cocoa powder
  • 8 servings of Baklava, crumbled

TRUFFLE PREPARATION: (Yield: 30 Baklava truffles)

  • In a small, heavy saucepan bring the heavy whipping cream to a simmer (stir and scrape down the sides with a spatula every few minutes).
  • Place the chocolate pieces in a separate bowl. Pour the scalding cream carefully over the chocolate, add the vanilla and allow to stand for about 10 minutes, then stir until smooth. (This chocolate base is called ganache.)
  • Allow to cool, then place in the refrigerator for two hours. Remove and use a teaspoon to roll out balls of the ganache. Roll in your hands quickly (as it will melt from the heat of your hands) and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Roll balls in cocoa powder first, then roll in broken baklava and serve in small baking papers, or place in the refrigerator until needed. Baklava Truffles can be frozen in a sealed container for up to 3 months.

NOW, FOR THE S’MORES: To use a truffle to make a Baklava Truffle S’more, roast a marshmallow on a long skewer. Take one truffle and one roasted marshmallow (still on the skewer) and place between two graham crackers. Remove the hot marshmallow by pressing down firmly enough to pull out the skewer, which will also press the truffle to get it warm and melty.

. . .

5 Fiery Ideas for Building Your Outdoor Cooking Station

Kitchens are definitely one of the hottest trends in outdoor living design, and the centerpiece of any outdoor kitchen is the cooking station. Whether you have a gourmet outdoor kitchen, a modest grill island, or you’re planning to build something in the future, we have some fiery ideas for outfitting your outdoor cooking station to improve the functionality of your space.

1. Lots and Lots of Prep Space 

Outdoor Kitchen Ideas Prep Space

Any home chef needs room to breathe if he or she is to succeed in making their culinary masterpieces. Regarding outdoor kitchens, this is no different. With an expansive prep space at hand, your kitchen is optimized for efficiency at any and all stages of cooking. You can never have too much countertop space, which will keep you from having to run back and forth inside during meal prep. Plus, countertops can also function as serving tables and bar-style dining areas once the meal is ready. If you’re working with a grill island, or you simply don’t have the square footage for more countertops, considering using a rolling cart that you can move when not in use.

2. A Spot for Every Cook in the Kitchen

Indoor Outdoor Kitchen Ideas

A summer pool party can easily bring in upwards of 25+ people. The guest list always seems to grow somehow. No matter how many guests show up, it helps to have multiple cooking surfaces in addition to the standard built-in outdoor grill. Plus, although charcoal enthusiasts will swear the flavor is superior (this blogger agrees), you simply don’t always have the time to wait for the coals to be “perfect” and sometimes just need to be able to turn on the gas and get to grilling. And if you talk to anyone who has a griddle or a brick oven in their outdoor kitchen, be prepared for a lengthy conversation on how they don’t know how they ever lived without it. Other popular cooking surfaces include ceramic kamodo-style grills and gas burners for large pots or frying.

3. Throw Some Shade

Outdoor Living Space Terrace

Unless you live somewhere where it rarely rains and the temperature is always mild (a.k.a. California), you’re going to need your cooking station to be covered. It gets HOT standing in front of a grill. And no one wants to hold an umbrella while flipping burgers. Keep in mind that shaded areas do not have to take away from the beauty of your patio entertainment area but can become a design element in itself. This can be accomplished with an earthy pergola, a farmhouse-inspired pavilion or a colorful canopy. For a more natural aesthetic, consider integrating some flowering vines, ivies or other climbing plants. To add a festive atmosphere, you can never go wrong with edison-style string lights.

4. Be that Person with the Outdoor Brick Oven 

Outdoor Brick Oven Ideas

Yes, we’ve already mentioned brick ovens, but they are so worth mentioning again. There are two prominent benefits of cooking in a wood-burning brick oven versus a traditional oven: the better dispersion of temperature and the additional level of flavor. And there are more options than you might think. Belgard offers a full line that range from mobile and countertop brick ovens to gorgeous stone-clad brick oven kits for a custom built-in look. Aside from the swagger that accompanies having one, a brick oven presents numerous cooking opportunities for amazing wood-fired meals. Even though an outdoor brick oven is often referred to as an outdoor pizza oven, it is not just for cooking pizza. Here are a few brick oven recipes to get the creative juices flowing!

5. Seating for Your Audience… (umm, guests)

Outdoor Seating
HGTV® Dream Home 2019. Photo credit: HGTV. Used with permission.

Preparing dishes in the kitchen is a visually stimulating affair. With you home chefs out there putting on shows, why not give your audience a front row seat? Bar seating or built-in seating near the cooking station creates a cozy atmosphere to enhance the outdoor cooking experience. An additional bonus to constructing permanent seating is that you won’t have to fuss at your kids for leaning too far back on the chairs. With no chair legs to break, rust or unravel, the only things you’ll need to change out each season are the throw pillows.

. . .

Gourmet Greek Grilling Ideas to Inspire Your Inner Outdoor Chef

Happy National Grilling Month! Last August, we sponsored a contest to win a Belgard fire pit. Selected completely by random, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that the winner (Elaine Pitenis) is a working chef specializing in Greek Cuisine! To help us celebrate our National Grilling Month Giveaway, we asked Chef Elaine to share some of her favorite grill recipes. Celebrate with us by enjoying these recipes and enter for your chance to win our Grilling Month prize package of a Belgard Weston Grill Island Kit, Omaha Steaks® for a year, plus grilling accessories!

. . .

GRILLED OCTOPUS

The most popular appetizer in Greece during the summer is grilled octopus. Octopus can be purchased fresh or frozen and is tenderized before grilling with olive oil, lemon juice and Greek seasonings, then grilled to perfection in under 10 minutes. In Greece, it’s usually served with a cool glass of ouzo on ice.

GRILLED OCTOPUS RECIPE IDEAS
(Food photography credit: Nikki Ross)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large octopus (about 3 pounds)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Greek oregeno
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Wash and clean the exterior of the octopus by peeling any outer skin.
  2. Place the octopus in a large pot and cover, simmering over low heat with no liquid in the pot, for about an hour, until the octopus is tender and bright pink. The octopus will exude its own juices while cooking. 
  3. Remove octopus from the pot and drain. Allow to cool.
  4. Cut the octopus into smaller pieces by its tentacles. Combine marinade ingredients and allow the octopus to marinate 4-5 hours, or overnight.
  5. Grill octopus over medium heat, brushing it occasionally with the marinade, until it is slightly charred and crisp, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.  
  6. Serve immediately.

. . .

PAITHAKIA (Grilled Lamb Chops)

One of the favorite dishes in Greece is lamb, and Grilled Lamb Chops are simply the best and quickest way to enjoy lamb. The most tender lamb chops come from baby lamb. These juicy, tender and delicate lamb chops are prepared with plenty of olive oil and Greek seasonings to bring out all the glorious flavors.

PAITHAKIA (Grilled Lamb Chops) Recipe Ideas
(Food photography credit: Nikki Ross)

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 lamb chops
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Greek oregano
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Brush lamb chops with olive oil and season lightly with oregano, salt and pepper.
  2. Grill on medium-hot grill for 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Mix olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper in bowl and pour over grilled lamb chops, and serve.

. . .

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI

A summer treat in every Greek home is Chicken Souvlaki. Delicately prepared with free range chicken, the breast meat is cubed, skewered, and then marinaded for several hours to intensify the flavor.

CHICKEN SOUVLAKI Recipe Ideas
(Food photography credit: Nikki Ross)

INGREDIENTS / MATERIALS

  • 3-4 pounds boneless, skinless, free-range chicken breast, cubed
  • 12 wooden skewers
  • large plastic container

MARINADE

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoon Greek oregano

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Skewer cubed chicken. Place in a plastic food container and add marinade.  Cover container and refrigerate at least 4 hours.
  2. On medium heat, grill for 10 minutes on each side until meat has a nice char and all pink is gone.
  3. Serve with rice pilaf or on warm pita bread with a dollop of tzatziki sauce.

. . .

MELITZANOSALATA (Greek Eggplant Dip)

There is no more delicious appetizer for entertaining guests than Greek-style Eggplant Dip. Grilling the eggplant is easy and gives it a delicate and smoky flavor. Eggplant is a low-fat food that’s high in potassium, and when combined with olive oil and garlic, it’s a heart-healthy way to boost your nutrition.

MELITZANOSALATA (Greek Eggplant Dip) Recipe Ideas
(Food photography credit: Nikki Ross)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 cupc olive oil
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: kalamata olive and lemon slices

 DIRECTIONS

  1. Grill whole eggplant on medium heat for 30-45 minutes, depending in the size of the eggplant. Turn eggplant on the grill every 10 minutes using long tongs. Grill until the eggplant is slightly charred and has collapsed. Allow to cool before peeling the skin.
  2. In a food processor, combine the eggplant flesh with the chopped onion, garlic, and lemon juice, pulsing while adding the olive oil gradually. For a more textured consistency, use a fork instead of food processor to combine all the ingredients.
  3. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour, allowing the all the flavors to mingle.
  4. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with pita bread.

. . .

Elaine Pitenis Greek Chef

About Elaine Pitenis and My Big, Fat, Greek Cooking Class!

Elaine Pitenis grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts and did her graduate work in Microbiology at Harvard University. She worked in the fields of Microbiology and Cancer Research before marrying and having four beautiful children. The family moved to Greece and lived in Athens for a short time before relocating to Daytona Beach, FL in 1999 and opening her Greek Cooking School. While in Greece, Elaine learned cooking techniques from several acclaimed Greek chefs from Corinth, Kastoria, and the islands of Samos and Salamina. Elaine began teaching Greek Cooking in 2004 at The Casements in Ormond Beach, FL and has used the acquired techniques from Greece in addition to her prior knowledge of the culinary arts through her mother Connie Spinos, who was an exceptional Home Economics teacher before she retired. My Big, Fat, Greek Cooking Classes elicit a fusion of both “old world” traditional cooking techniques blended with her own flavorful and innovative methods to offer her students a unique, hands-on cooking class that creates delicious, heart-healthy Grecian delicacies.                         

Introducing:
NEW Verona™ Porcelain Pavers

Belgard is excited to announce that the new Verona™ collection of Porcelain Pavers is now available nationwide! The Verona line emulates a variety of natural stones to create distinctive contemporary outdoor living designs. Each available color was specifically fashioned to closely mimic the natural qualities of a different quarried stone, including intricate color striations and a polished stone texture.

  • Verona - Blue Stone Porcelain Pavers
  • Verona - Platinum Stone Porcelain Pavers
  • Verona - Taos Stone Porcelain Pavers
  • Verona - Yukon Stone Porcelain Pavers

Verona Porcelain Pavers are available in 24″x24″ pieces to create stunning contemporary designs. These large-scale pavers rise above and beyond traditional paver products with a lighter weight, outstanding cleanability and durability, and an extremely high compressive strength. They offer an ultra-low water absorption rate, which creates a highly impenetrable surface. This allows the pavers to fend off surface mold, moss, dirt and other types of stains found in exterior environments (including oil and red wine). These maintenance-free pavers do not require any sealers and are unaffected by efflorescence or discoloration, making them perfect for use around water features and pools.

Another huge benefit with Belgard Porcelain Pavers is the product line’s installation versatility. Porcelain Pavers can be installed over a grass, gravel or concrete base, depending upon the application. For uneven surfaces and rooftop terraces, Porcelain Pavers can also be installed using a pedestal system, which also allows future access to utilities that run underneath. With the proper installation, Porcelain Pavers can even support vehicular loads, providing spectacular curb appeal for both residential and commercial use.

For more information, visit the Verona product page or click the image below to download the data sheet.

Verona Porcelain Pavers Natural Stone