Pavers, plants and patterns for your own royal garden

Sure, Paris has the gardens of Versailles, but Kernersville, North Carolina has the Pattern Garden at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden. It’s a beautiful tribute to French classical gardens with curving patterns lined with 10 varieties of Boxwood shrubs—seven Korean and three English varieties—and beautifully edged with Pine Hall Brick clay pavers. (Click on any photo to enlarge.)

As the name suggests, the Ciener Pattern Garden, designed by Chip Callaway of Callaway & Associates, is a study in the method of pattern gardening which is defined by 14 pattern elements:

  • Scale, which relates the garden to the environment;
  • Garden rooms, which divide and connect the garden;
  • Pathways, which define what we see in the garden;
  • Bridges, which differentiate garden spaces and create compelling focal points;
  • Gates, which are the portal to the garden;
  • Shelters, which anchor the garden in space;
  • Borders, which separate and make distinct garden sections;
  • Patios, which tie the house to the landscape;
  • Sheds, which add texture;
  • Focal points, which create destinations in the garden;
  • Water, which fully engages the senses;
  • Ornamentation, which creates mood;
  • Containers, which allow artistic flexibility; and,
  • Materials, which add bulk, solidity, and softness to the garden.

(Source for list: Wikipedia)

You don’t have to be a king to have your own pattern garden, and you can start as small or as grand as you please. The Ciener Botanical Garden—whose Kitchen Garden we covered earlier—is a good place to get inspired.

To get to the Pattern Garden, take the Rumbled Cocoa paver walkway from the Welcome Center until you come to a pea gravel pathway that winds its way through paisley islands of beds, planted with bulbs about to explode in spring colors, defined by pavers and shrubs.

Pavers make your garden easy to frame, contain and maintain. Take a closer look at the up-ended pavers to see how easily you can create your own edging in any shape you can imagine. If you prefer a full paver pathway, don’t be intimidated by curves. Pavers can be cut to fit almost any shape, so your patios and walkways don’t have to be rectangles, squares and straight lines.

Right now, plants are just peaking out of the earth, but it’s a great time to prepare with paver projects that will enhance your enjoyment all the more in just a few weeks, depending where you live.

In addition to pavers, face brick is also a natural choice for garden spaces, whether you’re thinking of outdoor kitchens, garden walls or your home’s veneer. The Welcome Center at the Ciener Botanical Garden is good example in white Chesapeake Pearl, paired beautifully with the darker Rumbled Cocoa Pavers. Rustic brick and pavers can give event the newest garden a beautifully aged aesthetic.

To see more images and ideas from the Paul J. Ciener Botantical Garden, visit our Pinterest page. Of course you can visit the garden year round. Learn more, here.


Pavers enhance a beautiful winter garden

It’s January and the Kitchen Garden is chock full of colorful cruciferous and green vegetables. Jade Cross Brussel Sprouts, Champion Radish, Marathon Broccoli, Astro Arugula, Ruby Perfection Cabbage, alfalfa, Early Jersey Wakefield cabbage, Blue Curled Vates Kale and Solid Blue Cabbage are all in their full glory at the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, NC.

Anyone can enjoy an inspiring stroll through this cold-weather oasis via a winding Rumbled Cocoa paver pathway that demonstrates how brick and gardening are a natural design combination. And it’s an affordable landscape choice for homeowners.

The Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden is a living gift to the community from its namesake, a philanthropic businessman who loved horticulture. Its Kitchen Garden and Patterns Garden were designed by Greensboro, NC, landscape architect Chip Callaway.

It’s a tempting walk through a well-managed garden that makes you want to go home and start digging your own garden.

Vegetables are on display year-round in the Kitchen Garden so each season is a different experience of color. This time of year, the winter vegetables demonstrate how your home outdoors can be lush—and nutritious—even through snow and ice.

The Patterns Garden is made with paisley shapes edged with pavers and various types of Boxwood shrubs. The patterns are defined with pavers split in half in a soldier course. For images from the Pattern Garden, visit our Pinterest page.

Central to the Kitchen Garden is a beautiful and well-placed 19th century sugar kettle, once used to make cane sugar. It makes a serene water feature and adds an element of aged metal to the environment.

The Ciener gardeners here were among the first to use “smart pots” for vegetables. These fabric containers were originally designed for nurseries growing trees. The sacks fit right in next to the earth tone pavers and brick. It’s a great way to plant with portability to move wherever the sunlight goes.

You don’t have to have a grand estate or an expansive public garden to achieve many of these same features and outdoor experiences for yourself. You can create shapely paths and retaining walls made of natural materials that blend perfectly with any garden or landscape.

The palette at the Ciener garden might be called “natural elements” with the deep brown of the Rumbled Cocoa pavers—complemented by the cool tones of bluestone borders —contrasting with the naturally iridescent white of Pine Hall Brick Chesapeake Pearl brick of the garden’s Welcome Center accented with green painted shutters and mahogany stained doorways.

More images from this story are available on Pinterest.






Brick: indoors, outdoors and in between


Home additions using brick and pavers can expand exterior and interior space whether it’s a patio for grilling and relaxing outside, a larger kitchen for bigger meals inside or a tidy screen porch that combines the best of in- and out-of-doors.

We found this example in Greensboro, NC that has a spacious paver patio, but also features a screened porch with a modular brick floor and cozy painted brick fireplace. Outdoor paver applications usually don’t use mortar. But for indoor flooring modular (brick and mortar) makes sense. It’s easy to clean provides an interior surface that still has a casual alfresco feel.

Decorating is fun, because you have such a range of possibilities from basic patio furniture to more formal seating and tables, as well as any number of decorator floor coverings.

Mount a television above the hearth and you’re set for a Super Bowl party, just a few steps from the kitchen.

This porch, with three screened walls, puts you in touch with the environment, but has amble coverage to stay dry and—with the interior-style fireplace—warm. In temperate zones a porch like this can be used year-round, with a few exceptions.

The painted brick contrasts nicely with the red modular pavers on the floor, and also the exterior steps. The exterior entrance to the porch is “civilized”, with painted and natural brick, includes a curved wall that embellishes the concrete walk.

With brick a home like this, continual expansion with design continuity is always possible. In fact, most of the back half of the home was an addition to the original construction. You wouldn’t know it with the white painted masonry.

Clay or modular pavers, natural brick or painted, it’s a versatile building material that stands the test of time. To see more ideas for indoor/outdoor living, visit our Pinerest page for ideas and inspiration.


Visit our Pinterest page for ideas and inspiration, or download our free 7 Simple Steps guide for tips on your next DIY Project.


One of the first Castle Gray home sightings

home design castle gray brick

Don Mills Builders is wrapping up a new home that will soon be someone’s castle in Oak Ridge, NC. It’s one of the first homes to be built using the new Castle Gray Oversized brick.

This rustic looking brick has plenty of character as the light hits this home throughout the day.

The house is part of the new Knights Landing development in Stokesdale, NC.

Castle Gray makes it worthy of its name, as you could imagine this brick being reclaimed from an old world manor. But in the Don Mills example, the masonry is also precise with unique features on window sills and overhead “Jack Arch” soldier courses that alternate raised and lowered brick, giving the home’s façade some nice depth.

Don Mills, owner of Don Mills Builders, has been building custom and spec homes for over 27 years and he takes  pride in covering a wide range of styles and price points to meet the needs of first-time home buyers and empty nesters, alike. Mills puts a lot of emphasis on energy efficiency in his product. Which is one reason why he primarily uses brick.

Working with Fred’s Masonry, Mills specified gray mortar to go with the Castle Gray Oversized brick and it’s proven to be a great paring.

Large double doors of oak on a spacious front porch suggest a castle entry. In the back, there’s an elevated porch and deck, both supported by Castle Gray columns. Black shutters contrast nicely with the masonry.

Expect to see more Castle Gray, coming to a neighborhood near you. Visit our Pinterest page to see even more!




How to hang Christmas lights on brick using a glue gun

Brick homes dress up beautifully for the holidays with greenery and lights for a classic look. But how do you hang lights without nails in window sill and eves?

Use a hot glue gun. We found this method online and wanted to test it ourselves, so we took our supplies to the Pine Hall Brick showroom in Greensboro and set up a Christmas light laboratory.

Here’s what you’ll need:
• Hot glue gun
• Extra glue sticks (you might need a little practice in getting the bead just right!)
• Extension cord to reach the “job site”
• Outdoor Christmas lights
NOTE: these instructions are for application to brick—unpainted—only. We do not recommend this for stucco, stone or other sidings.

You can use any outdoor lighting you choose, but it’s probably best to buy the larger bulb and base varieties, because you’ll have more surface upon which to apply the hot glue.

As always, test your strand first and make sure all the bulbs work. Then, we recommend removing the bulbs to make installation go a little faster, since the bulbs can be very fragile.

With any standard glue gun, apply a one-inch tube of melted glue to the side of the light. Think of applying toothpaste to your toothbrush! As an alternative, you can also apply a button of glue to the flat base of the light, if you prefer that the bulbs be perpendicular to the brick. Don’t be afraid to use too much glue, especially if you expect heavy precipitation. DO NOT TOUCH THE HEATED TIP OF THE GLUE GUN TO THE ELECTRICAL WIRE OF THE LIGHT STRAND.

It’s best to do this on dry brick, but the glue will hold up to rain and snow. Heavy ice might present a problem, but in most cases the lights will easily stay up till January.

Before the glue hardens, press the light onto the side of the brick fro at least 20 seconds, then move on up the strand and repeat. Try to keep the cord taught, but not so tight that it puts stress on the lights above.

It’s a good idea to wear gloves because the hot glue can cause burns. We used knit gloves, but wished that we had some cool mechanics gloves like these that you can pick up at home improvement stores.

Once the lights are in place, you can reinstall the bulbs, alternating in any pattern you choose.

You don’t have to apply glue to all the lights, either. In fact, you might want to have a nice swag here and there. The glue on the anchor lights should be plenty durable to support several unglued lights.

When it’s time to remove the lights, remove all the bulbs from their sockets. Then apply a cotton swab saturated in alcohol to loosen the glue, which should then lift off like tape. If any are stubborn, keep applying alcohol until it some loose easily.  ChristmasDesigners.com provides detailed video instructions.

You can also try “brick clips.” These are sold and home improvement stores around the holidays. They’ basically brackets that grip the top and bottom of brick. But your mortar must be recessed at least an eighth of an inch. Use a small screwdriver to depress the springs at the boom of the clip. Actually, brick clips are probably best for indoor use on fireplaces, where they’re ideal for hanging stockings. Brick clips shown here are 2-1/8-in H to 2-1/2-in H and available at Lowe’s. 

Merry Christmas from Pine Hall Brick!

Pavers shown here are Pathway Full Range. The beautiful brick shown here is Rustic Village!







Entertain outdoors by the fireplace year-round

Summertime campouts may be over, but with a rustic outdoor kitchen of brick on a paver patio you can enjoy the crackling sparks and aromatic smoke of an open flame that’s as cozy as it is fun and practical.

Why not move holiday gatherings to the patio? Go old-school with a pot of chili simmering over a bed of hickory coals. Or just heat up some cider—soft or hard!—and enjoy a football party in your home outdoors.

We’re loving the potential of this amazing outdoor fireplace built with Pine Hall Brick Vienna oversized tumbled brick paired with wine mortar. It’s got plenty of space for party-sized spread of hearty snacks or trays of barbecued ribs.

When you entertain on a paver patio, nobody has to wipe their feet or mind their plates, too much. So an outdoor kitchen is ideal for kids, pets and your rowdiest neighbors.

The impressive spiraling chimney makes the fire a lot more efficient with a stronger updraft than an open campfire and it keeps the smoke out of your face. A smaller grilling niche lets you barbecue meats over charcoal or firewood.

It’s rustic, but beautiful with impressive decorative masonry work that can add re-sell value to any home. Of course, experts advise against fire—or even turkey boilers—with wooden decks. They’re just too combustible. But with a paver patio, you can entertain by a roaring blaze to keep everyone toasty.

The brick gives the aesthetically-minded entertainer a neutral palette that can be accessorized with bold colored or seasonal picnic table cloths, blankets and even fun outdoor cookware. We found a cool red percolator from GSI Outdoors for a hot pot of coffee, western roundup style.

This fireplace was professionally built, but some DIYers might want to give it a shot. Pine Hall Brick, of course, supplies all the structural brick, but we also sell and advise on the use of high quality fire brick (see yellow brick above) for the inside of the chimney.

Your home outdoors is fun year-round with a paver patio and fire only makes it better…along with some fleeces and wooly socks. See more Pine Hall Brick fireplaces and fire pits, visit our Pinterest page.

An insider job for a beautiful outdoor space


Vernon and Nancy Moore live less than a mile from the Dan River where were we get our clay to make pavers for good reason. Nancy is our human resources director and Vernon is our retired vice president of operations of the paver plant. When they wanted an innovative hardscape to extend their home outdoors, they contracted with Hugo Yañez, owner of Fred’s Masonry and, himself, a former brick maker for Pine Hall Brick.

                                   Hugo Yañez, owner of Fred’s Masonry and former brick maker.

Of course when you get three brick professionals together, they tend to look for creative ways to design livable outdoor spaces. And with our paver plant just over the river, it was easy for the team to purchase plenty of factory seconds, samples and discontinued items.

It’s a fun design with a path leading from the front of the home to the back with two small patios for grilling and dining, respectively, both connected to a spacious seating and entertainment space.

“We sort of had an idea, but got a landscape architect to help us draw it up,” says Vernon Moore. “I knew Fred from a long time ago at the plant so we called him to do the installation. He did a great job!”

The three patio spaces use a unique specialty paver called Clemson Block, 12” x 12” square clay pavers, originally designed for a Clemson University hardscape. Nancy bought them as seconds. The pathway uses an early version of Pine Hall Brick Old Town pavers in cocoa that pair and contrast beautifully with the pinker and lighter Clemson Block pavers.

Clemson Block is still manufactured, but only for large special orders. By the way, anyone can buy factory seconds in a range of styles at our annual Paver Days events. Read about that, here.

Nancy Moore applied her own creativity—and a limber back—to add a touch of whimsy to the backyard experience by repurposing Pine Hall Brick bullnose step treads, designed to be used for outdoor stairs, as borders to gardening features. Like the pavers, the treads are fired clay, designed to be durable for centuries. She also created paths across the lawn using concrete stepping stones set in red brick chips.

Fred’s Masonry is a full-service masonry contractor handing brick construction as well as paver installation. Yañez’s experience in brick manufacturing launched his career as a mason. He’s a sought-after expert for home improvements with installations around the Triad that go back more than a decade. The Moore’s project was completed in September 2016 and is one that Yañez takes a lot of pride in showing.


A white brick masterpiece captures old world charm

Brick defines Worth Mitchell’s home in Kernersville, NC. From the gated entry with its distressed mortar treatment reminiscent of a 400-year-old Spanish villa to a beautifully aged two-story veranda and patio with pavers, Mitchell has crafted a dream home that looks like it belongs in an upscale travel magazine.

And that’s exactly what Mitchell had in mind when he designed it.

“I wanted to marry old world Charleston with old world Spain,” says Mitchell.  “I knew there was going to be a lot of brick. And we just kept going and going and going with it.”

The home itself seems to keep going, too. It’s over 11,000 square feet, including a seven-car garage, sprawls over the hillside property just above the headwaters of the Haw River. The secluded lot is landscaped with plenty of greenery and the manicured shrubs along path to the front door compliment the home in a way that’s cheery and welcoming even on an overcast day.

Mitchell acted as his own contractor and designer with the help of Steve Almstead of Almstead Custom Homes during the 2007-2009 construction process. As a successful serial entrepreneur—whose business interests include high end construction, development and design, gourmet sauces and seasonings, Spanish galleon shipwreck salvage and Kvell Vodka, a high end 10-times distilled premium Vodka—this homeowner takes DIY to a whole new level.

“I designed it on a napkin, then took it to a buddy of mine, Sal Interlandi of Sal Interlandi Architects,” says Mitchell. “Sal’s a very, very talented architect who put it on his CAD system and got it all handled which included rendering a set of plans.”

Using a palette of Pine Hall Brick Oyster Pearl product, Mitchell was able to achieve a masterpiece of subtle shades and earth tones with the popular white brick. And got a lot of satisfaction pulling out all the stops with the masonry details.

You see this in the soldier courses, the randoms and the herringbone and English bond where every third course is flipped to show the back unfinished side of the brick. All the corners on the steps, windows and doors have ogee returns and one-and-a-half Spanish arches are used beautifully.


It’s almost as if Mitchell built his own village complete with outdoor cafes, gardens and paths. To get to work, he takes stroll down a walkway paved with Pine Hall Brick English Edge clay pavers to an office that overlooks three small waterfalls in the draw behind the property.

Like a lot of entrepreneurs, Mitchell is always in motion and he’s now in the process of selling the home. Pine Hall Brick will play a big part in marketing its curb appeal.

The home is currently listed by Wendi Huffman of Tyler Redhead & McAlister.

To see more photos from the Mitchell home and other inspiring designs, visit our Pinterest page.

Jason Reader sold himself on Casa Grande with white mortar

Home builder Jason Reader prefers to build with brick whenever possible.

“We use lots of materials, but if the neighborhood and the price point line up, I’m absolutely going to choose brick,” says Reader.

His most recent completed project is a 5700-square-foot brick beauty for some very special homeowners: the Reader family.

The modified Tudor style home wraps around Reader’s lifestyle with an office specially built for J Reader Construction that’s linked to the main home by a nifty portico walkway over the driveway that leads back to a separate two-car, one-golf-cart, garage.

Not only does this arrangement eliminate any commuting to work, it makes getting to the golf course a short cart ride to the Bermuda Run Country Club that backs up to the property.

It’s built with Pine Hall Brick Casa Grande. The dark brown brick with just a hint of red is balanced beautifully with white mortar. As a builder, Reader had specified a lot of the popular Casa Grande line, but when he saw it with white mortar, he knew that was what his personal home had to have.

Reader managed to have his new home ready to show this weekend and next in the Winston-Salem (NC) Fall Parade of Homes. It’s the 10th home he’s built for himself.

“And it’s the last one I want to build,” says Reader, “at least until our daughter is out of college!”

So quality was upmost in Reader’s work.

“I like to borrow from other designs I see and from other homes I build custom or on spec,” says Reader. “I mix and match rooms and exterior features working with my draftsman to get exactly what I want. The spec home I’m building next door comes from about eight different plans.”

The Reader home features a lot of stylish exterior elements that accent the expansive face brick, like cedar corbels, stained exterior ceilings and a stately second floor bay under a curved gable for his daughter’s playroom. Reader also combined Hardie Plank and stone with the brick façade for nicely balanced curb appeal.

Reader began as a floor sweeping apprentice, working his way up to eventually become a contractor — learning from his mentors along the way.

“I’m still best friends with the first contractor who hired me,” says Reader.

J Reader Construction sets itself apart by being consistently present at its job sites to monitor progress and assure quality.

Jason Reader attributes a lot of his home’s quality to choosing the best materials, like Casa Grande with white mortar from Pine Hall Brick.

Fall is for fire pits

As summer fades and the early autumn sun starts to drift lower in the sky, the cooler evenings make your home outdoors more inviting. A patio expands your space and makes it more enjoyable for your family and guests. Why not install a brick fire pit for home value and fun?

An attractive circular brick fire pit can match your home’s face brick and, as with interior spaces, decorating the new space becomes part of the fun. You can make your toasty patio beautiful and functional year round. On warmer nights, bring out the wicker or rattan. Or maybe you prefer a classic white rocker.  For winter, you might want something with a bit more upholstery, just add a few stadium blankets and put some cocoa on the coals.

A fire pit lets you be as rustic or as elegant as your mood or occasion requires.

My Home Outdoors took a look at a how affordable outdoor seat cushions (by Solarium) give you some easy decorating options. Here, our Vienna brick matches nicely with deep red.

If you’re on a budget or a first-time homeowner, you may not have to spend a lot on expensive patio furniture. Outdoor seat cushions and pillows are durable enough to be used directly on the patio.

How about some yoga or morning meditation by the fire? A kids’ party with s’mores turns your patio into a campsite with all the comforts of home. Add a guitar for a few rounds of sing-along.

Or just a good wine or craft beer with your neighbors under starlight.

Fire pits are also easier to maintain than an indoor fireplace and offer a lot of versatility. Whether you just enjoy the mood that fire sets or you want to go full-on outdoor chef, a brick fire pit lets you build a beautiful roaring blaze or a long burning bed of coals where you can roast corn, potatoes or tend a kettle of chili.

A word about wood

One big difference of having a fire in an outdoor pit versus your indoor fireplace is you can burn a greater variety of wood. Chimney cleaners don’t generally recommend softwoods like pine and cedar indoors because they produce a lot of tar that collects in the chimney. But with a fire pit—and no chimney—you might enjoy some yellow pine or cedar if you want an especially bright, dazzling fire. Such softwoods burn faster than hardwoods, so if it’s for a party, you might want to stock up. If you want a longer, hotter fire with good coals for cooking, you’ll want hardwoods like oak, hickory and hard maple.

If you love fire, a brick fire pit is a great way to have more of it. And with a little imagination, the space around the fire can be as inviting and enchanting as your den indoors.


(Fire photo: Emeldil at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

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