Anchor Block Company’s Best of 2014

We’re lucky to work in an industry where capturing beautiful, creative landscapes is part of the gig. Before we ring in the new year, help us celebrate our standout projects from 2014.

Big or small, modern or traditional, eco-friendly or family-friendly — we highlighted a variety of projects that will inspire you to make your dream landscape come true, whatever it may look like.

5. Dramatic Entrance. This home’s bold architecture deserved bold surroundings. The RINN™ Medino® paving system driveway provides a simple, stunning entrance for homeowners and guests alike.

RINN Medino paving system

RINN™ Medino® paving system

4. Family Function(ality). The most beloved outdoor living spaces provide a place to relax — or entertain — for the whole household. This smartly-planned patio features Slaton Plus Random patio stones and multiple seating areas, including a Fresco™ wall system seat wall, and a fire pit for stories and S’mores.

Patio featuring Fresco wall system with Charleston and Slaton Plus Random paving systems

Fresco™ wall system with Charleston™ and Slaton Plus™ Random paving systems

3. Calming Effect. The tree-filled backdrop to this backyard is a dreamy contrast to the hardscaped features, which were created using the Brisa® wall system, RINN Medino® paving system and Slaton Plus paving system.

Rinn Medino and Slaton Plus pavers with Brisa wall system

Brisa® wall system, RINN™ Medino® paving system and Slaton Plus™ paving system

2. Inside Out. More and more homeowners are treating their landscape as an extension of their home, and this outdoor living room and kitchen featuring the Slaton Plus™ tumbled paver patio is a winning example.

Slaton Plus™ tumbled paving system.

Slaton Plus™ tumbled paving system

1. Making Headlines. This backyard may look familiar to Twin Citians: it’s the outcome of the BATC/KARE 11 Backyard Makeover. The new design, which was chosen by news watchers’ popular vote, includes our RINNHydropor Laziano® permeable pavers — used to mitigate flooding that used to plague the outdoor “studio” during heavy rainfall — and planters built from the Matiz wall system.

RINN™ Hydropor Laziano paving system and Matiz wall system

RINN™ Hydropor Laziano® paving system and Matiz™ wall system

Looking for more inspiring home landscape projects? Check out Anchor Block Company’s Houzz profile or contact us to request your FREE 2015 Landscape Collection catalog. Just enter discount code “BLOG” in the comments field.

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From Flat to Fantastic: 3 Steps to A Beautiful Backyard

Transforming a large, flat yard is easy when you focus on building a beautiful foundation and adding vertical elements to give the space definition. Here are tips on how to bring your outdoor space from boring to beautiful.

 

Step 1: Work from the Ground Up

Transform a large flat space by installing concrete pavers to create a patio for relaxing or entertaining. Paver patios can be installed at grade or atop a slope. A raised patio like the one shown below will work in either of these conditions, and is a perfect way to replace an old wooden deck while adding height to flat ground.

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Highland Stone® wall system; Slaton Plus™ tumbled paving system

 

Step 2: Add Interest with Accessories

A paver patio will quickly become a gathering place because of its functionality and low maintenance. To add creative flair to the flat space, consider these accents:

  • Freestanding walls provide instant height, beauty and seating.
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Highland Stone® wall system

 

  • Built-in planters filled with flowers and grasses soften a paver patio.
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Fresco™ wall system; Slaton Plus™ paving system with Charleston™ paving system border

 

  • Columns act as stylish spots for light fixtures or plant pots.
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Brisa® wall system; Rinn™ Medino® paving system with Slaton Plus™ paving system border

 

Step 3: Build a Structure

Built structures are popular design elements for flat landscapes. Arbors and pergolas can define spaces and help make an outdoor area truly feel like an extension of your home.

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Diamond Stone Cut® wall system

 

With the right elements, a flat yard can be taken to new heights. Find more hardscapes inspiration by downloading our 2014 Landscape Collection catalog or visiting the Anchor Block Company Facebook page.

Landscape Inspiration for Small Spaces

Don’t let a small space hamper your plans for a dream landscape. The secret, according to Anchor Block Company product specialist Gene Karjala, a landscape pro with more than 20 years of experience, is to think big – regardless of your lot size. Here are Gene’s favorite tips for small yards.

Maximize Space

This small urban backyard was a shady area where grass wouldn’t grow and rain water created a muddy mess.

Holland-Permeable-Before

Holland Permeable paving system

Holland Permeable paving system

The contractor maximized the space with a plan that incorporated permeable pavers in most of the yard. While some homeowners might be reluctant to transform so much of their space into a hard surface, the contractor’s plan cleverly terraced the slopes into planters that provided the homeowners with more planting space than they had before. Read the full story here.

 

Create Intimacy

Gene likes to use creative touches to create an intimate setting. His favorite tricks are using columns to define the space, planting a hedge that grows into a wall and makes the area its own room, and using small-scale furniture that fits the space. Better yet, says Gene, “Install a freestanding wall, which doubles as seating and space for food and drinks and you don’t have to store extra patio furniture during cooler months.”

Brisa® wall system and Slaton Plus™ paving system

Brisa® wall system and Slaton Plus™ paving system

 

Add Style with Lighting

Lighting transforms a space because it not only extends the use of the space into the evening but adds a professional touch. Gene likes to install lighting to emphasize columns, flower beds, statuary or special plants. “Just because a space is small doesn’t mean it can’t have some drama and a big creative impact,” said Gene.

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

 

How will you add impact to your small outdoor space? Tell us about it in the comments section below or on our Facebook page.

Set Your Sights on 2014 Landscape Trends

Avid gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts use the long winter months to plan gardens and landscape improvements. If you’re ready to think spring, check out these top landscape trends and begin a little landscape planning of your own.

Modern Geometry

The sleek lines and simple shapes of mid-century modern style continue to influence fashion, home décor and the outdoor landscape.

RINN™ Padio™ 14 paving system

  • Set plank pavers — or circle- or square-shaped patio stones — a few inches apart in a bed of grass, mulch or aggregate to showcase their silhouette.
Square patio stone

Square patio stone

  • Make traditional patio bricks, like the Holland Permeable paving system, everything but by laying them in a bold running bond (shown below). Added bonus: You can use this system as a component in storm water management to minimize runoff.
Running bond paver pattern

Holland Permeable paving system

Bright and Contrasting Colors

According to “Green Scene,” a report from the Engledow Group, color is one of the most important components of a landscape plan.

  • Choose bright pillows, cheery planters or painted patio furniture to give your outdoor living area a fresh appearance from season to season.
Kingston Plus paving system

Kingston Plus™ paving system

Holland Plus™ paving system with Highland Stone® edger

Holland Plus™ paving system with Highland Stone® edger

“Natural” Beauty

Mother Nature rules when it comes to retaining wall design, with consumers and designers clamoring for functional, low-maintenance products inspired by the look of real stone.

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

Brisa® Random wall system

Easy Heat

Products that allow easy installation of permanent fire features are hot, hot, hot!

  • Build your own fire pit using the Fresco™ square or circle fire pit kit. These easy-to-assemble kits include a metal insert and are sure to enhance any outdoor hangout. Purchase a cooking grate attachment and invite the neighbors for a cookout!
Fresco Square Fire Pit Kit

Fresco™ square fire pit kit

Find more inspiration for your home’s landscape by downloading our 2014 Landscaping Collection catalog or visiting us on Facebook.

What’s Your Retaining Wall Style?

It’s widely known that landscaping can add value, beauty and functional living space to a home — but that’s not all. According to the Professional Landcare Network (PLANET), homeowners also value personal expression and creativity when it comes to their landscape.

Here’s some information to help you choose a retaining wall system that suits not just your landscape needs, but your style — from vintage to contemporary to traditional.

Rough-Hewn Charm

For a more natural-looking landscape, ask your landscape contractor or home improvement store associate for a concrete retaining wall system with rough-hewn (also referred to as split or distressed-split) or tumbled blocks. These systems offer a time-worn look and feature rounded edges or exposed aggregates.

Fresco wall system

Fresco™ wall system

Style idea: Combine rough-hewn or tumbled walls with candles and a fire feature to create a cozy outdoor retreat.

The Fresco™ wall system is a versatile, tumbled product that handy homeowners and contractors alike can transform into fire pits, planter walls, benches and more. (Click here for more DIY Fresco wall system project ideas.)

Grill surround featuring Fresco and Brisa wall systems

Fresco™ and Brisa® wall systems

The Highland Stone® wall system can be used to build outdoor projects of all types, such as grill surrounds or seat walls. It’s popular with residential contractors because of its versatility and availability in multiple heights.

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Highland Stone® wall system

Distinctive Look of Stone

There’s a variety of retaining wall systems with face styles inspired by the look and color of natural stone.

ChiselWall wall system

ChiselWall® wall system

Style idea: Stone-inspired walls and flowers in soft hues add elegance to any home’s landscape.

Natural Impressions® Flagstone wall system

For do-it-yourself landscapers, the Natural Impressions® Flagstone retaining wall system resembles courses of flagstone. The ChiselWall® retaining wall system looks like hand-chiseled stone.

For professionally-installed retaining walls, the Brisa® Random wall system has the look of split limestone in varying heights and sizes.

Brisa® Random wall system

Brisa® Random wall system

Traditional Style

More traditional concrete retaining wall systems are manufactured with a straight or beveled face.

The Windsor Stone® retaining wall system features a beveled face. It has long been a best-selling block because it looks great in any landscape, is easy to install and is widely available through home improvement retailers and landscape dealers across the Midwest.

Windsor Stone wall system

Windsor Stone® wall system

Style idea: Set a traditional wall system apart from the rest by adding finishing touches such as caps, curves — or both.

For more ideas on which wall system will best enhance your home landscape, view our full selection of Anchor™ retaining wall products. And don’t forget to tell us which style is your favorite in the comments section below!

5 Tips for Planning a Fire Pit

Freestanding wall and fire pit installed using Brisa® wall system

Thinking about adding a fire pit to your outdoor space? You’re not alone. Ninety-seven percent of architects polled by the American Society of Landscape Architects said fire pits and fireplaces are in demand by homeowners. Before you buy the marshmallows, consider these tips to make your project a success.

Know Your Codes

Check your city and county codes. There are communities that have banned fire pits; other cities allow fire pits but have special requirements or permits for use.

Call Before You Dig

Before digging, call your utilities company to avoid hitting underground utility lines. In Minnesota, call “Gopher State One Call” at 1-800-252-1166.  If you live outside Minnesota call 811, a new, federally-mandated national “Call Before You Dig” number created to help protect homeowners and professionals.

Find the Perfect Spot

Consider safety first when choosing a location for your fire pit.

  • The fire pit should be at least 25 feet away from hanging branches, fences, sheds and garages.
  • Don’t locate your fire pit upwind of where you’ll be seated or where the smoke will blow into your windows — or those of your neighbors.
  • Don’t place a fire pit in an enclosed area, as fumes are harmful without proper ventilation. Learn more fire pit safety tips from Anchor Block Company.

Have a Seat

Plan your project with the end result in mind. If that means endless evenings with family and friends gathered around the fire pit, think about seating. Freestanding wall systems are permanent and attractive ways to add seating and extra space to set a drink or the bag of marshmallows.

Choose Wood or Gas

The sounds and smells of a crackling fire are undoubtedly nostalgic, but to some people the reality of a wood burning fire pit – storing wood, staying vigilant about open flames, properly extinguishing the fire – isn’t as enjoyable as the convenience of a gas flame.

Consider an insert that converts your fire pit to a propane (LP) or natural gas fire pit. There are many products available for gas fire pits, including logs, lava rock or volcanic stone and even remote control starters.

Are you ready to get started planning your fire pit? You can learn more about fire pit products, including do-it-yourself fire pit kits built with Fresco™ and Hudson Stone™ retaining wall systems at www.anchorblock.com. Whatever inspiration you find to make your landscape dreams come true, tell us about it in the comment section below or on our Facebook page.

Trendspotting at the St. Paul Home & Patio Show

Home and garden shows are always a great way to learn about the newest products and trends.

Anchor Block Company partnered with The Home Depot, Holm & Olson and Sculptured Earth at this year’s St. Paul Home & Patio Show from February 14 – 17, 2013, to help inspire homeowners with their spring projects. Here are a few outdoor living trends featured at the show.

Fire Pits and Fireplaces

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) 2013 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends survey listed outdoor fire pits or fireplaces as the most in-demand item this year – and they were a popular item at the show as well. While fireplace installations should be done by a landscape contractor, products such as the Fresco™ fire pit kit are suitable for professionals and do-it-yourselfers alike.

Holm_Olson_FrescoFirePit

Fresco™ Fire Pit Kit

Water Features

Decorative water elements – including fountains and waterfalls – are also predicted to be popular this year. If you’re short on space, don’t cross this feature off your list. A simple but striking fountain built with Brisa® freestanding wall blocks can be as small as 4 feet in radius.

Sculptured_Earth_BrisaWaterFountain

Brisa® Freestanding Wall System

Columns

Columns are as functional as they are decorative. As a wall end, they welcome planters, lighting or even a mailbox; standing alone, they can be used to create benches, pub tables and more.

Fresco™ Wall System

Fresco™ Wall System

If you missed the St. Paul show there are more opportunities on the spring calendar, including the Minneapolis Home + Garden Show, which runs February 27 – March 3, 2013, and the Bachman’s Landscape Design Show on March 9, 2013.

For more outdoor living inspiration, be sure to visit the Anchor Block Company website, which is full of project photos, installation tips and more. Whatever inspiration you find to make your landscape dreams come true, click over to our Facebook page and tell us about what you discover.