Happy National S’mores Day! Enter to Win a Fire Pit and Artisan Chocolate!

Happy National S'mores Day

Due to the popularity of last year’s National S’mores Day Giveaway event, we have decided to celebrate again this August by giving away another fabulous Belgard fire pit. And to literally sweeten the pot, this year’s winner will also receive a year’s supply of Chuao Chocolatier® artisan chocolate!

CLICK NOW TO ENTER!

Like last year, share your special fireside memories or unique s’mores recipes when you enter. We’ll compile our favorite entries to share on the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog when we announce the prize winner!

Belgard FIre Pits for S'Mores

So many of us do have fond memories of sitting around a fire, sharing stories and roasting marshmallows. Just the mention of it is likely sending you on a walk down memory lane to a moment during a camping trip or a week at summer camp. Or maybe even just last week in your own backyard. After all, fire pits are currently ranked as the number one trend in outdoor living design.

Types of Fire Pit Features

Now don’t get us wrong, we do love the classic s’mores recipe of a gooey marshmallow sandwiched between melty milk chocolate and cinnamony graham crackers. But if you’ve never tried any other combinations, here are some tasty ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

S'more Recipe Ideas

We look forward to checking out your ideas for delectable fireside treats, as well as reading about your cherished fireside memories. Good luck!

CLICK NOW TO ENTER!

Fire Pit Patio Design Trends

Research shows that fire pits have been among the top five outdoor living design trends for the last several years. As this trend continues to grow hotter with each passing season, design ideas for fire pits have evolved and taken many different forms. Whether a gas-burning, wood-burning or hybrid version, fire pit designs continue to become more unique and individualized in nature.

In-Ground Fire Pits

The appeal of an in-ground fire pit is that it creates the beautiful, primal effect of flames erupting from the ground. In terms of fire safety, there is the added benefit of lower flames that are kept more contained. However, there’s a safety drawback, as well, as there are no protective walls around the fire.

Gas Fire Tables

Gas fire tables offer a contemporary look and appeal to homeowners who prefer the ease of gas — always ready to light, no wood or ash to worry about. An added benefit of a fire table is that it has a larger surface area and can actually be used as a table, creating more of an outdoor living room aesthetic than a traditional fire pit. Fire tables can also be built at varying heights, including bar height.

Multi-Level Fire Pit Patios

A multi-level fire pit patio offers a dimensional element to the design and separates the fire pit area into a distinct outdoor room, making the fire pit more of destination spot in the backyard.

Fire Pits with Built-in Seat Walls

Built-in seating often holds a spot in the top 10 outdoor living design elements as well, so it’s only natural that seat walls would become a popular aspect of fire pit patio design. After all, where does everyone want to sit and gather? By the fire, of course.

COMING SOON: Interested in winning a free wood-burning fire pit for your back yard? Come back to the blog on August 10, when we’ll celebrate National S’mores Day by kicking off our Fire Pit Giveaway Contest!

Home is Where the Hearth Is

Products: Belair Wall® (fireplace and seat wall) and Mega-Lafitt® pavers.

The outdoor living room has been one of the fastest growing trends in outdoor design over the last few years. When considering the popularity of this trend, the question arises: What’s the difference between a patio and an outdoor living room? The answer is simple: Livability.

Products: Bristol Elements™ fireplace and Lafitt® Rustic Slab pavers.

An outdoor living room is more than just a grouping of chairs with a coffee table. It’s a cozy and inviting space that evokes a sense of relaxation, a space where people want to spend time both alone and enjoying the company of others. To achieve this effect, it’s important to apply interior design techniques to creating your outdoor space.

With that in mind, what tends to be the centerpiece of most interior living rooms? The answer, of course, is a fireplace. The reason for this is multifaceted. Historically, a fireplace would be added to the living room to heat the home. But as this need diminished in necessity over the years, the popularity of an interior fireplace did not. That is because the warmth that exudes from a fireplace is not only physical in nature, but emotional, as well. Spending time in front of a fire with a loved one often creates a deeper connection with that person on an instinctual or primal level. Fire, good.

That’s why one of the easiest ways to create an emotional sense of warmth in an outdoor living room is to add a fire feature, which has the added benefit of physical warmth during the colder months, allowing you to use your outdoor living room year round. Another benefit to fire features — like fireplaces, fire pits and fire tables — is that they appeal to people of all ages. When multiple generations gather around a fire pit, the generation gap disappears, and they can all relate to one another on a purely human level. It’s no wonder that fire pits have been on the top of the “must haves” list in outdoor design for the last several years.

A fire feature, like this welcoming fire pit at the HGTV® Dream Home 2018, instantly converts a simple patio into an outdoor living room. Products: Belair Wall® 2.0 (fire pit) and Urbana Stone® permeable pavers. (photo: Robert Peterson, Rustic White Photography)

When adding a fire feature to an outdoor living room, be sure to leave ample space for seating and traffic because it will instantly become everyone’s favorite gathering spot. If it’s a wood-burning fire feature, it will also need to be an adequate distance from any structures, as a safety precaution. In fact, some municipalities and HOA’s have specific regulations about this, so be sure and do your homework.

To complete your outdoor living room, add other interior design touches — such as tables, accent lighting, pillows, throws and other accessories. But be warned, once you create an inviting outdoor living room, get ready for company!

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For fire feature design ideas, read our blogs on Fire Pit Design Ideas and  Outdoor Fireplace Design Ideas For more design inspiration, visit the Belgard Pinterest boards.

NEXT WEEK:  Don’t let the frigid temperatures fool you. If you want your new pool to be ready for swimming season, it’s time to start planning now.

2017 Outdoor Living Contractor Wish List

In addition to our homeowner audience, the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog is read by many of Belgard’s industry partners. This week’s blog is a nod to those hardworking professionals who create beautiful outdoor living spaces. With that in mind, we offer season’s greetings to our designers and installers with this year’s favorite picks of gadgets, tools and gift ideas for the Belgard Professional.

VIRTUAL REALITY GOGGLES

VR is no longer just for gameplay, but can be a powerful design and sales tool. With the Belgard Design Studio‘s new Virtual Reality platform, you can immerse a client into the design of their future outdoor living space. Simply slip a smartphone into VR goggles to see a 360-degree view of the design as though standing in the actual future space. Contact your local Belgard rep to learn more about receiving your own Belgard VR goggles.

CONCRETE Cup GRINDER

This handy tool will be integral in turning jobs faster in 2018. Earlier this year, Belgard debuted the revolutionary new Techniseal® DriBond™ Advanced Dry Mudset for laying thin pavers over existing concrete, thus eliminating the need for concrete demolition and removal. A concrete cup grinder will help level and prep the slab for the overlay process, allowing contractors to take advantage of overlay opportunities. The concrete cup grinder can also be used for a host of different hardscape applications and is a versatile tool that all crews should have in their toolbox.

AERIAL VIDEO DRONES

Those who read the Contractor Wish List each year know that we regularly recommend buying an aerial video drone. Well, with good reason. The technology continues to improve and get easier to use, making it a must-have for the savvy designer or installer who wants to showcase their work on a website or social media platform. Each year, PC Magazine does an in-depth report on the best drones of the year. Click here for their 2017 favorites.

BATTERY-OPERATED PAVER PLACER™

Large-format pavers are a tremendously popular trend in contemporary patio design, which can be back-breaking work to install. Pav Mor® offers a full line of paver-placing tools that help to both reduce injuries and speed installation. Many of their models work off of a standard air compressor, but the one shown is this photo is a battery-operated model that can allow the freedom to function far away from an outlet.

WESTON FIRE PIT KIT

There’s an old saying that states, “The cobblers children have no shoes.” Many an outdoor living professional has neglected his or her own backyard to spend time beautifying other people’s homes. But the Weston Stone® Fire Pit Kit is so easy to install, the kids will not only have shoes this year, but will be roasting marshmallows to boot.

Seat Wall Design Ideas

The classic seat wall design is becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. According to annual national surveys conducted by the American Society of Landscape Architects, built-in seating has regularly been among the top 10 trends in outdoor living design in recent years.

The reason for this is simple…people are spending a lot more time in their outdoor living spaces, and they’re bringing friends. Plus, there’s only so much you can do with traditional furniture, and it typically needs to be replaced periodically due to exposure to sun, rain and critters. Whereas, built-in seat walls provide a more permanent solution and can perform multiple roles within the design.

In addition to providing a place to sit, seat walls can act as functional design elements to define the space itself. Whether you need to control the slope of your yard, or are just looking for a way to define the transition from one outdoor room to the next, a seat wall may be the design solution to your seating needs.

Fire pit seating

Seat walls provide an excellent design solution for fire pit patios. The wall itself helps to reflect the heat to provide a cozier environment. In addition, the bench-style seating can accommodate more people than traditional chairs. For additional comfort, add pillows or cushions.

Fire Place Seating
Add definition to an open area with the addition of a seat wall. This design incorporates a curved seat wall to coordinate with the round fire pit and curved patio.
WALL PRODUCT: Castle Manor™ Wall.
Fire Pit Seat Walls
A curved seat wall helped to create a cozy alcove adjacent to the porch of this home. Bullnose coping was used to soften the seating edge of the rustic wall. To tie the design together, the same coping was used to cap the fire pit.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall
Weston Stone Seat Walls Fire Pit
This fire pit patio incorporates an L-shaped seat wall to coordinate with the square fire pit and angular patio design. Built-in arm rests help provide a finished.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
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ADDING FORM AND FUNCTION

A retaining wall or perimeter wall can easily be embellished and converted into built-in seating to create a more functional space.

Multi Level Seat Wall
The slope of this yard presented a significant grade change, which required a retaining wall in order to build the pool. The designer took advantage of the grade change to create tiered seating around the fire pit, also creating the perfect built-in “movie night” setup.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall
Patio Seat Wall Design Ideas
By adding a ledge to this perimeter wall, additional permanent seating was created to provide a conversation area for this patio.
WALL PRODUCT: Tandem® Wall.
Seat Wall Design Ideas
This fire pit patio is adjacent to an outdoor bar area. The seat wall extends from the built-in bar to defines the perimeter of the space and provide seating for both the bar and the fire pit, creating a multi-purpose entertainment zone.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
.    .   .
Incorporating Natural Elements

When using manufactured stone to build seat walls, natural materials can be incorporated into the design to add visual interest.

This seat wall incorporates natural wood into the design, using wooden posts for the seat ledge and back rest. Mitered edges and a stair-stepped design soften the look and create an intimate space.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
Seat Wall Steps Design
This design uses natural stone for the seat ledges and the stair treads leading to the back porch. The designer also took advantage of the terraced design to construct a planter wall for a raised flower bed, creating the feel of a sunken outdoor living room.
WALL PRODUCT: Weston Stone®
.   .   .
Terraced Design

Terraced design lends itself well to the addition of seat walls, as a retaining wall is already being used to create the terrace and needs only to be embellished with a seat ledge.

TERRACED SEAT WALL DESIGN
A ledge wall is added to this terrace and continues along the wall of the house to create a curved seating area. The terrace and exterior wall of the home act as built-in back rests. Low-voltage lighting was installed under the seat ledge to provide ambiance during evening gatherings.
WALL PRODUCT: Belair® Wall
Celtik Wall Seating Design Ideas
A curved ledge wall was added to this terraced retaining wall to create seating for the fire pit. The designer also took advantage of the multiple grade changes to add planters at every level and create a built-in vertical garden.
WALL PRODUCT: Celtik® Wall

Next week: The holidays are just around the corner! Come back to the Outdoor Living by Belgard blog for holiday backyard entertaining ideas.

Fireside Memories & S’mores Recipes

Last month, we reached out to our audience and asked them to share their fireside memories and favorite s’mores recipes with us as part of our National S’mores Day Fire Pit Giveway. We had an incredible response and received nearly 1,500 stories and over 600 recipes from all across the nation. It’s clear that spending time with loved ones around a fire is a heartwarming activity for people from all walks of life. Below are some of our favorite submissions. For more stories and recipes, be sure to visit the Outdoor Living by Belgard Facebook page, where we’ll be sharing more of these throughout the month.

Fireside Memories

The only time we got with my dad when we were children was camping. Being around the campfire making s’mores and telling stories was the best because we got a sweet treat, and we got my dad’s undivided attention finally. And mine were always the gooiest!   – Douglasville, GA

Sitting around a fire is one of the few great things I can still remember about my childhood with my grandparents.   -Algonquin, IL

I remember the kids being little and me running around to make sure they didn’t poke anyone or create little fireballs. Kids, now adults, still have fun making fireside s’mores, and I STILL run around trying to make sure they don’t poke each other and create little fireballs!  -Reston, VA

We made s’mores with my grandson on a makeshift fire pit just before my husband was diagnosed with cancer. My grandson’s response was so amazing. He was three.  It was really special to have that first experience with him.  -Trinity, FL

Every year we have a family reunion at our home. Family members fly in from all around the United States for a one-week event where we have a few nights of cookouts in our backyard. And s’mores are part of that on our homemade fire pit.    -North Oaks, MN

My first s’mores experience was when I was nine years old. I was camping with friends and was introduced by my friend’s family. I’ll never forget the incredible taste and experience. It is something that I plan to one day pass on to my children as well.   -Joliet, IL

My favorite memory is making s’mores around the campfire as a Camp Fire Girl, fifty years ago. S’mores have been the best campfire treat for a long long time. So glad they get a special day each year. Now that’s getting your just desserts.  -Pleasant Valley, OR

Our family was in the backyard, around our store-bought fire pit, making s’mores. Our youngest son decided he had enough and told us that he was “going home.” In his mind, we were on a grand adventure, even though we were just in our backyard.   -Jacksonville, FL

S’mores Recipes

A lot of folks suggested augmenting a classic s’more by trading out the milk chocolate bar for other candy bars: Andes® mints, peanut butter cups, Heath® bars, Mr. Goodbar®, et cetera — all of which sound delicious! But here were some recipes that had a little extra creativity.

This is a Trader Joe’s s’more! Take a large marshmallow, carve a small hole and put in these items from Trader Joe’s (whatever amount fits): choc chunks, dried blueberries, dried coconut chips. After toasting that, put between two graham crackers or lemon shortbread cookies.    -Cumberland, ME

This is an adult s’mores recipe that I created and is amazing: Grand Marnier® marshmallows, milk chocolate bar, waffle cookies. The combination makes wonderful s’mores that are not overly sweet.     -N.Mandelke,  Los Gatos, CA

Vanilla graham crackers, chocolate, peanut butter and marshmallow. -Cary, IL

We line up four vanilla wafers on a plate, add a small Heath® bar and two toasted marshmallows. We then top it with four more vanilla wafers and press down. Delish!!  –T. Karnowski, Andover, MN

Shortbread cookies, dark chocolate squares, raspberries and marshmallows!  -Grandville, MI

We like to make s’mores cones — Ingredients: Sugar cones, mini marshmallows, crumbled graham crackers, chocolate chips. Directions: fill cones with remainder of ingredients to the top. Wrap in foil and lay on grate above coals for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool.  -S. Miller, Homer, LA

Our favorite way to make s’mores is with chewy ginger cookies instead of graham crackers. Two chewy ginger cookies (homemade or store bought) with a little Nutella® then add a toasted marshmallow. A delicious classic with a little extra ginger twist.  -Ventura, CA

Enjoy!

Next week’s blog: Come back to the blog next week to learn about using columns as an accent in outdoor living design.