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Most New Year resolutions tend to be about changing, growing, and investing in oneself for the better. We look inside and outside of ourselves to decide what we need to let go of, what we need to add, and what we need to improve upon to make life better for both ourselves and those around us.
“New yard” resolutions should take the same direction. It’s time to take stock of what you’d like to accomplish this year. Whether your goals are to increase your curb appeal, improve drainage, or create a new outdoor entertaining area, the process can sometimes seem overwhelming at first. Take it one step at a time.
Sometimes we get so accustomed to how our yard currently looks, we have trouble imagining it any other way. It’s time to get clicking.
When investing in your yard, you want to get the most return on that investment, both while you live in the home and once you sell it. Know why you want to make these changes. What goals are you trying to accomplish? How can you improve your environment and your lifestyle in a meaningful way? Think both long term and short term. If you have a larger overall plan that you want to phase out over time, save yourself time, money, and headaches by putting the entire plan together now.
Develop a relationship with an Authorized Belgard Contractor for the Orange County area who can help you with your long-term plan and knows what will work and won’t work with regards to your goals. For projects that will be phased out, a qualified contractor can help you pre-plan critical preliminary work that you will need to have in place for a later project down the road.
Depending on where you live, January may not be the best time to start digging in your yard. But, you can get started with some of the decision-making processes…choosing a contractor, working on a design, choosing pavers or retaining wall products, researching costs. Once your plan is in place, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when the time comes.
Article by Belgard Hardscapes
Research continues to name fire features as one of the top “must haves” in modern outdoor living, making designing with fire a hot topic. In the early days of the trend, the fire feature was typically an add-on freestanding element, like a ceramic chiminea or metal fire bowl, which could be easily moved to other positions as needed. However, the trend has evolved over time to include more built-in permanent fixtures — such as a custom outdoor fireplace, fire pit, or gas fire table — which require more planning in terms of the overall design scheme of the outdoor living area.
When planning a permanent fire feature, there are a number of safety issues to consider. Before beginning, check with local municipalities regarding safety codes to avoid costly design mistakes. Never underestimate the value of a professional plumber when running and installing gas lines. Also, be sure the contractor uses only non-combustible materials, and remember to include a fire-resistant liner when building a fire pit over existing hardscapes. This is especially important if the fire pit is on top of granite or limestone, which can retain water and explode when overheated.
Location Location Location
The design of this outdoor living room centers on the Bristol fireplace and incorporates several other pieces from the Belgard Elements Collection.
A fire feature will be the visual anchor of the design.When determining the best placement, it’s best tocheck for building code restrictions. Although it varies by municipality, gas-burning fire features can typically be placed just about anywhere, but most building codes require a wood-burning feature to be placed at least ten feet from any vertical structure. When using a wood-burning fire feature, it’s also a good idea to test wind patterns in the yard with a portable grill to check smoke flow direction and avoid choking out seating areas. Making the fire feature the furthest design element from the home will create a dramatic view and take into account both safety and functionality.
Once placement of the fire feature has been determined, additional hardscapes can be integrated into the design to complement the feature and create a cohesive outdoor living space. Paver patterns and retaining wall designs can mimic the lines of the fire feature, delineate separate gathering areas, or direct traffic flow. One option is to create a paver pattern in front of a fireplace that mimics the look of a rug. Seat walls can also be incorporated into the design but should be placed at least four feet from the fire feature to maintain a comfortable distance from the heat source. It’s important to consider how the space will be used and remember to leave room for furniture and walking space.
A faux “area rug” of Mega-Arbel pavers in front of the hearth break up the design of this Urbana Stone patio to enhance the “living room” concept.
A number of elements can be added to the design that will make the space more functional, as well as add ambiance. Low voltage lighting can be installed directly onto the fire feature, as well as nearby walls, pillars, and around landscaping to increase both visibility and mood. Outdoor rated music speakers can be installed at various locations around the space to allow for a consistent sound level without bothering the neighbors. And, custom cushions added to seat walls will add both color and comfort.
In order to create a cozy outdoor room, you first have to answer the question, “What makes a room cozy?” The answer will invariably include two basic components: comfort and intimacy.
Fire features reinforce the “room” concept and set a warm and inviting tone.
Comfortable Outdoor Living
The elements needed for outdoor comfort will vary depending on the season. During hotter months, finding a way to keep cool is often a priority. During this time of year, keeping warm becomes more of an issue. In order to enjoy your outdoor rooms further into the fall and winter seasons, it’s imperative to have heat sources, such as butane heaters, comfy blankets, and fire features like a fire table, outdoor fireplace, or fire pit. Lining the perimeter of an overhang or porch with retractable ceiling-to-floor solar screens can also provide a dual purpose, by blocking the sun during the summer and providing a wind screen during the winter.
Face furniture pieces towards each other to create intimate “conversation areas”.
Furniture selection can also be a big part of the equation. Many people tend to choose form over function in order to create the look they desire. When selecting outdoor furniture, choose pieces that are both comfortable and can be grouped together to create intimate conversation areas. Also keep comfort in mind when selecting accessories like throw pillows, which can sometimes be attractive but stiff. Stools and ottomans can also add to the comfort level by offering an opportunity to prop feet up into a more relaxed position.
Seat walls help define the space and provide additional seating.
Creating intimacy can be a challenge in an open space. One way to do so is to group furniture into smaller conversation areas. Another option is to partition outdoor areas into specific rooms with walls. This can be done with virtual walls, such as with a folded screen or a shelved container garden, or actual walls can be built by using retaining wall block to create freestanding divider walls or seat walls.
Seat walls actually serve a dual purpose by defining or dividing rooms while simultaneously providing extra seating. In fact, according to a recent survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects, built-in seating is actually one of the hottest emerging trends in outdoor design today.
Decorative items add character and charm to an outdoor room.
In order to create a truly comfortable outdoor room, decorate it as though it is an indoor room. Choose elements that reflect your personality. Ideas include container gardens, weatherproof clocks and vases, lanterns, bird houses, and baskets. If your outdoor room includes walls, you can also decorate the walls with various items that will reinforce the concept of bringing the indoors out. Lighting can also enhance the mood of the room.
For lighting ideas, read our previous blog on lighting your hardscapes.
Decorate outdoor walls similarly to how you might decorate an indoor wall.
Fall can be a fabulous time to entertain outdoors. The weather can sometimes be unpredictable, but in most parts of southern California, the needle hasn’t dropped quite low enough to send everyone scampering indoors yet. Here are four simple tips to help make the most of your outdoor living space during this time.
1. Decorate for the Season
Many people decorate the front of their homes or their dining rooms to coincide with the season, but never think to take the same concept to the backyard, where everyone gathers. Put away the bright summery throw pillows and exchange them for warmer tones. Place a few pumpkins in a basket to create harvest-themed centerpiece on an outdoor buffet or table. Add little touches of autumn all around your outdoor rooms.
2. Light Up the Night
Nothing says “festive” like flickering lights. Who says stringed lights are only for Christmas? Now that the sun goes down earlier, you can take the opportunity to add some fun and festive lighting to your backyard. Get creative in how you light up your outdoor rooms. Look for LED lanterns, solar landscape lighting, or flameless candles that can be set on timers to light up as soon as the sun goes down.
3. Get Warm and Cozy
Provide your guests with opportunities to warm themselves on chillier evenings. Options can be as simple as a hot beverage or a comfy throw blanket or can include any variety of outdoor heaters, from permanent overhead installations to portable floor or tabletop butane heaters.
4. Crank Up the Fire
Whether a simple chiminea or a custom outdoor fireplace, guests love to gather around a fire. The crackle and smell of an open fire warms the heart and soul as much as the body. Make the fire an interactive part of your event by roasting marshmallows or hot dogs, or just open a nice bottle of wine and relax.
Article by Belgard Hardscapes
This custom site-built fireplace is flanked by built-in Celtik® Wall seat walls for additional seating.
One thing that distinguishes anevent from an experience is the creation of a lasting memory. Reflecting on our lives, we flip though these memories like the well-worn pages of a favored book, calling to mind the sights, sounds, flavors and textures of the world around us at that particular moment in time.
A fireplace or fire pit can transform a backyard or patio into the family’s favorite gathering spot and become the place where memories are made. In the setting of the dancing lights and earthy aromas of a crackling fire, a cup of coffee becomes a meditative retreat; a backyard gathering becomes a lively marshmallow roast; a glass of wine becomes a romantic interlude; an event becomes an experience.
The rustic Bristol Fireplace and matching wood boxes are part of the Belgard Elements™ Collection of modular outdoor living units.
That’s why fire features have become the hottest growing trend in outdoor living. Over the last few years, the outdoor living room concept has flourished as homeowners yearn to make their outdoor spaces as warm and inviting as the interior of their homes. By doing so, a homeowner can create an outdoor living space that is a true extension of the home and reflects the personality of those who live there.
The Bordeaux Fireplace is the latest in the Belgard Elements series of modular pieces and features a stacked-stone appearance.
Just as theindoor living room often centers around a fireplace, the outdoor fireplace acts as a striking centerpiece to the visual look of an outdoor living room and goes a step further by becoming the center of outdoor life, as a whole. Young and old alike are drawn to both its figurative and literal warmth. The appeal of fire crosses all strata and knows no age or cultural boundaries. Around the fire, time stands still as stories are told, lives are shared, and experiences become memories.
Article by Belgard Hardscapes
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West Hills Masonry 109 Meadowcreek Rd Brea, CA 92821 Tel: (714) 519-5009
Orange County, CA
License # 920870
Driveways, Front Yard Remodels, Backyard Remodels, Block Walls, Outdoor Living, Patios, Walkways, Barbecues, Water Features, Fireplaces/ Fire Pits, Pool Remodels