Front of House Landscaping may be the word most associated with the quality of a home. It is our image portrayed to the outside world and sets the tone for the character of our homes. After 30 years of walking up to front doors for landscape appointments, I’ve learned to read some things about people by the style and maintenance of their front yard landscaping. Sometimes I simply read that this is a project in need, but other projects that have taken priority. And, maybe that is why they called me to review their front of house landscaping with them and develop a plan to renovate the front of house landscaping. If that is the case, there is often a common set of opportunities for increasing the Front of House Landscaping curb appeal and the visitor’s experience.
Most of the time, the front walkway is the first opportunity for big improvement in Front of House Landscaping. Builders leave a home with the most simple, barely function and least expensive walkway to the front door. The walk is usually crammed up close to the house, too narrow to walk side by side and just horribly boring. Front of house walkways are experience through the landscape, a journey to the front door. They should begin from the sidewalk or driveway with a generous landing to gather before the journey. I like it large enough to accommodate a few landscaped containers with annual flowers flowing over throughout the season. A large landing makes the walkway entry easier to recognize and to enter from various directions. Along a similar line of thinking, I like to incorporate a landing near the front door entry. It should be large enough for a few people to pause together before entry to the home, or for the homeowner to come out and greet visitors. If the overall landscape accommodates the space, this entry landing could be large enough to call a patio and have outdoor furniture arrangements. It may even end up being a favorite hangout to wait for visitors or watch the neighborhood activity.
Between the landings at either end, the walkway can be designed as an experience. It should be wide enough for two people to walk side by side, so at least 48” wide. Whether it is a curvy or linear walkway depends on personal taste. Both approaches can be well designed landscape experiences. I like to have walkways move in, through and out of a series of subspaces using diverse landscape plantings, trees, groundcover and lawn areas. The landscape design principle is to create varied planting plane heights, textures and densities. Maybe you enter with a tree arching overhead, walk through a field of low perennials that narrow into a tight arrangement of medium height ornamental grasses and the open up to an area with the flat green lawn panel on each side, rinse and repeat.
There is a wide range of landscape materials for walkways and patios. Concrete paver walks over a huge range of styles and colors. Beware that these require maintenance over time and are not the least expensive approach. Poured in place concrete walkways are the most economical choice with many options for concrete color and texture. Natural stone walkways are beautiful but expensive. Choose materials that fit your budgets and preferences.
Front of house landscape plantings are a personal preference. I encourage people to keep the wild and untamed landscape style in the back yard. We live in communities and that requires some respect to our neighbors in the form of a relatively neat and clean front yard. That doesn’t mean pruned hedges and mowed lawn everywhere. Naturalistic landscape plantings can still be clean and organized. But the jungle look tends to irritate neighbors.
Well planned Front of House Landscaping designs will help ensure a cohesive project that expresses an organized result. It may be alright to approach your back yard landscapes with ever evolving and more experimental designs, but the front is not the place to show everyone your playful experiments unless you live in a community that embraces such an approach. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of the entire landscape being an ever evolving dynamic experiment. I’m aware of and have visited communities that embrace such an approach. Decide for yourselves the appropriate approach for your neighborhood. A manicured front yard would be would be a digression in a sustainable and experimental housing cooperative, while the wildflower and experimental aesthetic will offend suburban neighbors. But, landscape plans are a good idea for any scenario where a project is to be undertaken.