Hold the phone! Don’t we all live in the back yard? Isn’t the front yard just a showpiece to make us look good in front of the neighbors?
Normally when you think of sitting, dining, relaxing, reading, entertaining, or just spending quality time outdoors, you probably go straight to the back yard. It’s where the grill and patio and pool are, after all. The front yard is just… a lawn, maybe some flowers and a walkway to the front door. It’s supposed to be there for “curb appeal” not for living.
Well, today we’re going to change the way you think about your front yard! These are some ideas for turning all that unused and overlooked space into something warm, welcoming, comfortable, and as much a part of your living space as the back yard.
Too often, walkways are just strips of stone that make a beeline for the front door. While you do want to create a path to welcome visitors and lead you home, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it with an eye for living, not just walking.
Here’s an obvious modification that can make a walkway more than just strictly functional: make it wider. Chances are, you’re used to walking single file down a path, but there’s no rule that says it has to be that way.
Widen your walkway so that two people can walk side-by-side, and now you’ve got a place for strolling and enjoying the scenery! Instead of a straight-line path to the front door, let the walkway meander a bit. Plant beautiful flowers along the way, add charming décor, place planters, include fragrance and turn your walkway into a place where you can make your way through a space that feels more like a garden than an express trip inside.
One of the nice things about hanging out in the back yard is that it’s a sanctuary from the rest of the neighborhood. But the front yard is visible to anyone who drives by or peeks out a window. That doesn’t mean you have to be on display if you want to enjoy your front yard!
Think creatively to design privacy right into your space. Fencing is an obvious way to create a separation between you and a busy road or nosy neighbor, but if you really want a living space, don’t hesitate to add traditional “back yard” elements like a standalone structure or screening.
A wall of arborvitae isn’t particularly attractive – or friendly! – but an enclosed porch, a gazebo covered with vines, a trellis system ensconced in flowers and tall grasses, or a garden hidden by bamboo screening is both aesthetic and functional. If you want some height without the fence, try a retaining wall to separate your space from the yard next door or even to create a cozy courtyard that can be designed as a lovely focal point from the outside, enclosing the perfect sanctuary within.
Take A Seat
If you’re more of an extrovert, and you don’t mind a bit more attention, why not create a seating or dining area in the front yard? The back yard can still be a safe haven for family and intimate gatherings, but for those times when you’re feeling social or want to include the neighbors, front yard seating is a great opportunity to turn curb appeal into community appeal.
A small patio or gravel area can contain everything you need for a comfortable gathering, from chairs and benches to a sofa, table, porch swing or rocker, and even a fire pit. You might be surprised by how much privacy and coziness you can achieve even while maintaining some visibility. Tall grasses, wildflower beds, retaining walls, and accessories all add a lovely aesthetic along with fun and functionality.
If you have a porch, you’re already halfway there! Whether you choose to enclose it, add flower boxes or planters, or do something completely unique, all you need is the seating and a bottle of wine!
You’ve probably seen tons of photos of beautiful back yard ponds, but it’s just as easy to create and enjoy one in the front. Even people who never thought they wanted a pond find that it’s their new favorite landscape element once it’s installed. Why keep all that beauty hidden behind the house?
There are so many ways to include a pond for cub appeal and daily enjoyment that you’re limited only by imagination. Remember that front walkway you were going to rethink so that it meandered gracefully with room for two? It can easily stretch alongside a pond. Or try a graceful stream that leads to a pond at the end.
Why not consider most of your front yard a pond? Start right at the edge of your porch or front patio and turn your entire yard into a dreamy waterscape bordered by flower gardens and natural stone. No porch? Build a pond right up to the front steps and add a natural stone bridge to traverse to the front door.
If space is limited, you can still enjoy water in the form of a smaller pond, pondless waterfall or bubbling orb or column. Any of these can be built into your landscape, surrounded by beautiful gardens, lined with natural stone pathways, and even accompanied by seating so you can enjoy your masterpiece.
Light It Up
Few landscape designs are complete without lighting, whether front or back yard. Lighting not only makes your space functional long after the sun sets (or before it rises!) but it adds ambiance, sets the mood and highlights your landscape though an entirely different lens.
Lighting plays an especially important role in the front of the house, which is the entrance to your home and should welcome you and your guests. Place lighting along pathways and steps for safety and beauty. Use lighting to highlight special elements like your front door, favorite décor or the unique shape of a tree or planting. Add underwater lighting to your pond or within a fountain or water feature. Include lighting on the porch or wherever you’ve created a seating area to make it the perfect place for a late night rendezvous.
Avoid boring lighting schemes, like those that result in rows of “good little soldiers” – you know what we’re talking about, those perfectly spaced, perfectly even, perfectly dull spotlights that turn front pathways into mini runways.
Think natural, instead. That means an asymmetrical layout, fixtures placed at variable heights, even different fixtures altogether from one location to the next. There are plenty of varieties to choose – spotlights, sconces, lanterns, string lights, in-ground lighting, post lights, and hanging lamps to name a few. Whether they’re embedded into paving stones or placed high up in trees, lighting adds to the value of your home and is a favorite among homeowners for good reason.
Turn Up The Charm
Sometimes all you need to turn a mere front yard into a living space worth smiling about is to add your personality. That can take many forms, from seasonal window boxes, to rustic furniture, tall planters, an explosion of colorful porch pillows, or unique décor.
Make a statement with a striking entryway. A trellis, arbor or archway covered with flowering vines can reflect your style and create privacy, too. Be playful with color. Depending on the hues you choose, you can alternately make a small space seem larger, or a large one feel cozier. Create height and depth through creative use of retaining walls. Even if your yard is as flat as a pancake, it can be graded to contain multi-level gardens that can include flowers, greenery, and yes, edibles.
Say good bye to vast, drab lawns and welcome diversity in the form of four-season plantings, natural stone, reclaimed wood, water features, and container gardens. While you’re at it, rethink that huge span of asphalt that’s called a driveway. Paving stones make a beautiful and gorgeous alternative, and can be designed in patterns and with accents to complement your home’s style and add a true touch of your own personality.
By now we hope you’re convinced that your front yard can be every bit as much fun as the back. All it takes is some creative thinking and good planning to design a front yard with curb appeal and living space. If you’d like to discover how your front yard can be just as enjoyable as it is beautiful, contact us for a consultation. Our landscape professionals will work with you to create a space that’s perfectly suited to your home and needs.