Let’s face it. When your home comes into view–whether you are turning into the driveway with a carload of kids and groceries or you’ve just slowed down to a well-earned jog after a hard three-miler around the neighborhood–you want to feel something. Proud. Pleased. How about welcomed?
Here is the problem: Your front yard is ordinary, and arriving home is unexciting. Once you’re inside the house, it’s beautiful but you wish you could experience that “welcome home” feeling on the way in, too.
Working with a seasoned landscape architect, you can develop a front yard landscape design that organizes the approach to your house in a way that is aesthetically pleasing, streamlines your daily comings and goings, and highlights the way to the front door for guests on special occasions.
Should My Front Yard Landscape Design Stand Out or Fit In?
Obviously, you want your front yard landscaping to showcase your home and make a positive impression. And you want it to relate harmoniously to nearby homes. A good front yard landscape design will do both by taking stylistic cues from the architectural details of your home and the overall vibe of the neighborhood.
Once you’ve got a good sense of how your house fits into the fabric of the neighborhood, you can begin working with a landscape architect, to discuss specific landscape elements that will make your front yard ‘pop’ rather than fade into the background.
Point of View: Identifying Focal Points
Your landscape architect will make you aware of the way your house is positioned on the lot and you’ll talk about the most appealing angles from which to view it. You can identify your ideal starting point from which to create the most interesting approach–one that highlights the house (the destination) and creates a sense of anticipation by framing views of it with constructed and planted elements.
If your house is situated in an older neighborhood close to a quiet street, the front yard landscaping will require a different approach than a home that is set back from the road on a deep one, two or three-acre lot. A home with a modest-sized front yard is best served by a straightforward approach that pays close attention to the size, detailing and positioning of fewer landscape elements. A large property with a deep setback will require a greater number of plants and a finely drawn balance between landscape features and “negative” space (lawn areas often fulfill that function) to achieve a balanced composition.
Regardless of the size of the area, the principles underpinning your landscape design will be the same. Essential considerations include:
- Framing views of the destination (the house, the front door) to make it stand out
- Positioning beds and border features to accent the approach and guide you along the way
- Employing hardscape features to define primary and secondary points of interest and to anchor the composition
- Using design features that create a sensation of intrigue that draws you through portals and transition spaces, guiding you down the pathway
Your design plan will also employ the principle of landscape layering. Layering technique simply divides the total area into visual planes (foreground, middle ground, and background) based on the depth of the yard from the curb to the house. Layering determines the type, size, density, and height of plants selected as well as the location of constructed elements such as gateways, border walls, and steps.
Hardscape and Landscape Working Together
Although plantings usually get most of the attention, your driveway and front walkway are critical components in achieving that “welcome home” feeling. These two hardscaping elements are frequently the source of dysfunction in a front yard landscape. The issues begin with the approach to the house, with the ease of getting to the front door.
It is important to note here that many homes have two entrances: one for everyday use and one for special occasions. Most people enter the house directly through their garage or a side door, the primary entrance. The front door is for guests. That is the secondary entrance. Generally, a primary entrance is going to be more straightforward and geared toward functionality. The secondary entry is the one that usually gets the most design input.
A lot of basic sidewalks come straight off the driveway too close to the house. A better design sets the front walk further from the house giving some breathing room and providing an opportunity to add layers of interest with plantings that make a soft transition against the hard lines of the house. It also helps to start the walkway farther down the driveway to accommodate guests who may be walking from a parking spot on the street.
Lighting the Way
Landscape lighting for your front yard should not be an after-thought because it is both a safety and an aesthetic enhancement. Down-focused path lighting that guides the way without shining into your eyes is extremely important to safety especially when there are steps and elevation changes. Lighting at the front door should be bright enough to make it stand out and yet not excessive. Think about how dimmers create ambiance in interior lighting and ask for that same kind of sensitivity in your outdoor lighting.
And finally, tasteful outdoor lighting design can bring your front yard landscape to life in the evenings. Carefully placed lamps can bring depth to your night-time landscaping by showing off the limb structure of trees or drawing intriguing silhouettes across distant points so your yard isn’t simply engulfed in the surrounding darkness.
It’s possible you may have been “living with” a sub-par front yard landscape for a long time. And that is often what happens: you just tune it out. But perhaps you’ve recently begun to plan for a major family event–a wedding or graduation–and have suddenly become painfully aware of the yard you have learned to ignore. A well thought out landscape design can transform the front of your home with an inviting arrival experience that welcomes you, your family, and friends in every season.