Location: Glen Allen, Virginia
Key Features: 700 Square foot Paver Patio, Sitting Walls, Outdoor Kitchen with Bar-Top Seating, Outdoor Fireplace, Pergola and a Low Maintenance Landscape
Biggest Obstacle: The slope of this backyard directs back towards the house, creating terrible soil conditions against the house where the patio was to be installed. Additionally, there was an existing deck on the back of the house that kept the ground shaded and prevented it from drying out.
Solution: We over-excavated the patio and hardscape area until we found solid ground, amended the soil and installed a gravel foundation that measured approximately 12” in depth.
As with most of our projects, this outdoor space was designed specifically for an active family. Always on the go, our clients were looking to create a special place for their family to slow down and gather with each other, and with friends. Before this space, our clients were living with an undersized, builder-grade deck that was in no way functional. After a couple of iterations, this design provided the clients with their wish-list items while staying in budget. The finished space features a stunning outdoor fireplace, a spacious outdoor kitchen with bar-top seating, and a pergola covered dining area with bistro lights and fan.
The hardscape for this space is composed almost entirely of Techo-Bloc products. The patio is the classic Outdoor Dreams’ style of BLU 60 slabs with a Villagio paver border and Antika paver inlays. To create a more unique look, we blended 3 different Techo-Bloc colors (Sandlewood, Shale Gray, and Mohave Beige) in this hardscape to create a mosaic of grey and tan tones. For a little darker contrast, we used Coos Bay Bluffstone from Eldorado Stone to cover the fireplace.
To soften the hardscape, the plan also included landscaping and lighting. The landscape provides interest throughout the growing season and includes azaleas, drift roses, dogwoods and hardy geraniums. For lighting, we used a combination of up-lights, wall lights and bistro lights to create a stunning ambiance when the sun goes down.
This client regularly touches base with photos and happily reports that this space is truly a gathering place for family and friends!
The Best Outdoor Lighting: Bistro Lights
At Outdoor Dreams, we install a variety of different outdoor lighting fixtures, but none do a better job of creating ambiance than bistro-style string lights. The glow created by these lights is truly unbeatable for setting the mood for any outdoor space or patio. With this patio and hardscape, we had the bistro lights installed around the pergola, creating a well-lit dining area. With electrical already run for the fan, the addition of these lights was done easily and without the need of an ugly extension cord. Additionally, it should be noted that bistro lights are not only one of the best ways to light your patio area, they are also one of the least expensive.
Getting the Pergola Height Correct
As our gallery shows, many of our clients have pergolas covering their dining areas. A pergola is a great structure for mounting a fan and bistro lights, creating the perfect environment for dining al fresco. Though a great addition to a dining area, it can pose a bit of a design challenge.
Typically, designers will incorporate dining areas closer to the house. When dining outside on the patio, whether you are bringing out the food, cleaning it up or if you simply forget something throughout the process, you don’t want a long walk to get back inside. Additionally, so many outdoor living spaces incorporate a fire feature that must be located further away from the house, forcing the dining area closer.
With dining areas closer to the house, pergolas can pose an issue with blocking windows. Because patios are typically lower than the first floor of the home, pergolas will often cut right in the middle of windows. No matter how perfect the craftsmanship, no one wants to look out the window and be immediately confronted with the crossbeams of a pergola. Additionally, depending on how the house sits on the property, a pergola can block a lot of light and significantly darken an interior room.
When this obstacle arises (and it arises often), it is important to put significant thought and planning into the height of the pergola. When determining the height, it is not as simple as making it a little shorter or a little taller. If a pergola is too short, you will not be able to safely mount a fan. If a pergola is too tall, it can quickly begin to look ridiculous. The “safe zone” with most residential pergola heights is typically between 8 ½ and 10 ½ feet tall.
For this project, we built on the high side of that range to keep the beams at the top of the window. From inside, the clients now have a unique, unobstructed view out to the dining area of their patio. When the bistro lights are on, it is a truly spectacular and inviting view.
The Outdoor Dreams Fireplace
Outdoor Dreams created this outdoor fireplace design in 2010 for our very first outdoor fireplace client. Though we offer countless different design options, many of our clients keep coming back to this original design. Despite our willingness and desire to try new designs, almost two thirds of our outdoor fireplace clients have chosen this design for their outdoor living spaces. Though we enjoy new challenges and expanding our portfolio, it is always a great compliment when one of our designs is loved and replicated by new clients.
Though they have the same design and dimensions, each client makes this outdoor fireplace their own with unique material choices and slight modifications. With this outdoor fireplace, the client chose a rough, stacked stone veneer that gives the fireplace a rustic look. The dark, Coos Bay color blend enhances the rustic look and provides good contrast with the patio and hardscape. Additionally, the Coos Bay color blend features auburn highlights that tie the outdoor fireplace together with the auburn shades found in the Mohave Beige and Sandlewood Techo-Bloc products used for the patio, sitting walls outdoor kitchen and other hardscape features.
See What We Used
Fireplace: Bluffstone from Eldorado Stone (Coos Bay)
Outdoor Kitchen: Mini-Creta Architectural from Techo-Bloc (Sandlewood)
Granite Counter (Santa Cecelia)
Plant Combination: ‘Karen’ Azalea, Kousa Dogwood, ‘Rozanne’ Cranesbill, ‘Limelight’ Hydrangea, ‘Sky Pencil’ Holly and Shrub Roses.