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.

10 Weekend Hardscapes Projects

Maybe your dream backyard design needs to be done in small pieces due to time, budget or other constraints. Or perhaps you just want to add a finishing touch to your existing landscape.

Here are ten do-it-yourself project plans that are small enough to tackle in a weekend – yet are guaranteed to make a big impact on your landscape. These projects incorporate the Fresco™ wall system, which features versatile components that can be oriented in any manner to create many outdoor living projects.

Build a Bar

Everyone gathers in the kitchen, or the outside bar when it’s a warm summer night. Create a space to serve your crowd, large or small.

Help the Bees: Build a Flower Planter

If you’ve heard the buzz (pardon us) about the declining bee population and are thinking about adding perennials to your yard, build a planter and stock it full of flowering native plants.

Fresco™ Wall System, Slaton Plus™ Tumbled Paving System

Fresco™ Wall System, Slaton Plus™ Tumbled Paving System

Warm Up with a Fire Pit

We offer designs for fire pits in various sizes and shapes using the Fresco wall system. Choose the design that fits your space or use one of our handy fire pit kits. Don’t forget to check local ordinances about open fires before installation begins.

Fresco Square Fire Pit Kit

Fresco™ square fire pit kit

The Fresco wall system offers many ways to enjoy your outdoor living area. Find more project inspiration in our Project Ideas book or on our Facebook page.

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.

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!

Fire Features for Any Yard

Portable Fire Pits

Portable fire pits can be accommodated by spaces large and small, and don’t require the commitment of a permanent feature. Plus, they are commonly available at home improvement stores and other retailers, often for under $75. We love how the portable fire pit allows this front courtyard to transition from sunny summer afternoons to chilly fall evenings.

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Fresco™ wall system and Slaton Plus™ tumbled paving system

Permanent Fire Pits

For homeowners who are dedicated to having a fire feature as a built-in landscape element, permanent fire pits provide function and allow creativity.

Brisa® wall system

Permanent fire pits can be placed in-ground or above-ground, and can be created in circle, square/rectangle and other shapes to complement their surroundings. Some require professional installation, while others come in do-it-yourself fire pit kits.

The Brisa® wall system fire pit and seating wall in this backyard create a cozy post-hot-tub gathering spot and offer a beautiful view from the raised patio.

Brisa® wall system and xxxx paving system

Brisa® wall system and Slaton Plus™ paving system

Brisa-Fire-Pit-Detail

Outdoor Fireplaces

If you’re looking for a fire feature that truly sets the stage for entertaining family and friends (or curling up with a good book), look no further than the outdoor fireplace.

Stone Age fireplace with Highland Stone wall system

Stone Age fireplace with Highland Stone® wall system and Britton™ paving system patio

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Stone Age fireplace with Brisa® wall system and Britton™ paving system

Outdoor fireplaces offer a variety of veneer options, including brick, pavers and even natural stone. This means your outdoor fireplace kit can be customized to fit your desired style, and will instantly transform your backyard into the ultimate getaway.

Be sure to let us know which fire feature is your favorite in the comments section below. And if you’re planning to add a fire pit or fireplace to your home’s landscape this season, check out our 5 Tips for Planning a Fire Pit to get started.

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.