Fall and winter holidays and coming and they bring family, friends, and guests together to celebrate. If you’re hosting a gathering this year, whether it’s one guest or dozens, you’re probably busy decorating, planning the menu, choosing gifts, and a hundred other tasks.
Somewhere in all that busyness, you’ll probably clean the house and prepare it to welcome your guests. But before they lay eyes on your living room or sit down at your table for a feast, they’re going to see your landscaping.
From the moment they drive up to your home and step foot outside your door, the space around your home is already creating ambiance, setting a tone, sending out a message to your guests. It’s their first impression, and when they leave it will be their last. So what impression is your yard giving?
Is it welcoming, warm, and inviting? Will it delight guests and bring smiles to their faces? Or will you be hoping they don’t notice the broken walkway and big, bald patch where the summer garden used to be?
If your outdoor space is hardly a second thought in your holiday planning, or if you do think about it and wish it made a better impression, this is for you. Find out how to create a truly welcoming, memorable experience this holiday season – from the outside in.
Extend an invitation to guests by leading them right to your front door with a beautiful natural stone pathway. But remember – beauty is only half of it! Functionality is the other.
We’ve seen so many homes with lovely walkways that lead from the front door to a section of the property where nobody ever enters. Whether it leads to an unused driveway space, or out to the road leaving guests in the driveway stranded, pathways can look good but see little or no foot traffic if they aren’t placed wisely.
Perhaps your guests don’t enter by the front door. There are plenty of homes where a side or back door is preferred. If that’s your home, then design a pathway to the doors you and your guests will use. You can be creative with your landscaping – there are no rules about what direction a walkway can take, where it can be placed, or even how many you can have!
During the design phase, consider how you want to physically use your space, including paths of ingress and egress. Once you understand the practicalities, you can enjoy the creative choices of selecting the type of pathways and how they will look.
There are so many natural stone options to choose from that it’s only a matter of which one speaks to you. From the timeless look of brick to the color and pattern variations of pavers, to the informal, natural look of bluestone or the richly textured and unique shapes of fieldstone, the hardest part about creating your home’s walkways is going to be deciding!
Lay stones in a straight path, curve them through gardens, add a few steps along the way to accommodate a sloped terrain. And of course make walking safe with the addition of lighting for evening hours – but more on that later!
Focal points have a number of functions. They can invite attention, direct the flow of movement through your space, or invite interaction. In fact, just about anything can be a focal point – even that ugly stack of garbage pails sitting next to your garage door!
But in the spirit of welcoming guests, we want to create a focal point that invites positive attention – something they can talk about as they greet you and exclaim in delight over the beauty you’ve presented to them.
In even better news, a focal point can also disguise and obscure eyesores, like those ugly garbage pails, an electric box, drainpipe, or whatever detail seems to drag your attention to it no matter how much you wish it wasn’t there.
You can have more than one focal point, but be careful. The idea is to focus on something, and if there are too many things to focus on then it defeats the purpose.
So what can be a focal point? As we said, anything! A great one can be a water feature, like a garden bubbler, pond, waterfall or fountain. Yes, you can have all of these in your front yard! Water attracts us naturally, and it is a multi-sensory experience that invites us to look, listen, perhaps even touch and smell.
A tall planter with stunning winter greenery and décor can be a focal point that changes form season to season. A unique or whimsical piece of artwork, a favorite tree, a garden bench, even your front door can be a focal point.
A focal point doesn’t need to be large. In fact, there is such a thing as too big. A small yard can easily be overwhelmed by an oversized statue or boulder, for example, and draw the wrong kind of attention. Remember, we want to welcome guests and create a sense of warmth and beauty – not confuse them by design choices!
Use color, texture, motion, shape, or a combination of these to invite guests to look more closely and participate in the environment you’ve created.
There are more dark hours here in New Jersey during the holiday season, which is the perfect opportunity to create light and warmth that welcomes guests.
We mentioned that lighting is a vital element of a functional walkway, enhancing safety for guests at night. But how you add that lighting matters, too. Strip lighting can be functional but also harsh and unattractive. For the most pleasant experience, try a more naturalistic approach to lighting.
That can mean embedding lighting into bricks or pavers, so the light glows from beneath your guests as they walk. It can mean placing bulbs in less regular intervals and patterns. It can mean choosing different fixtures, such as stakes or posts that can be placed in gardens along the path instead of directly on the edge of the path itself. This will create a much more pleasing ambiance as well as brighten up your gardens so they can be enjoyed and appreciated, too.
And that’s just walkways! There is so much more that you can do with lighting to create an exceptional experience that we couldn’t possibly list it all here. But just for a taste… imagine string lights wound through trees, fairy lights hanging between them, or spotlights illuminating an especially interesting tree or shrub.
Imagine a swath of tall winter grasses, rustling and swaying in the breeze and lit up from within by ground lights. Imagine a small gazebo – which can double as a focal point! – intertwined with tiny white lights. Imagine lanterns set atop a retaining wall, entry posts, or on your front porch or steps. Imagine a bubbling column or waterfall glittering with underwater lights.
There are so many possibilities that you’ll never be satisfied with that plain old bulb stuck beside your front door again!
When was the last time “music” came to mind when you thought of landscaping? Maybe never! But if you want to create a truly welcoming experience and a memorable one for guests, then it’s time to think beyond the plants and trees.
We’re not talking about blasting Christmas carols from a speaker, either. We’re talking about installing an outdoor audio system that is both subtle and entirely unmistakable, so your guests will be treated to an impressive multi-sensory experience from the moment they arrive at your home.
True outdoor audio might be different than what you associate with listening to music outside. If you’re more familiar with the idea of dragging a stereo speaker out to the patio or using a portable one for special occasions, then you might cringe a little at the idea of disturbing neighbors or annoying guests.
But a true outdoor audio system is designed to be used outdoors. It manages sound in an entirely different way than other types of speakers, creating a much more pleasing and subtle listening experience.
Place speakers within gardens for a magical effect that makes it seem as if music is emanating from the plants and stones themselves. Control the volume, the type of music, and even the areas where music is played. Rather than a rise and dip in volume as guests move from one location to another, they will be treated to a consistent symphony that won’t disturb a single cricket.
With the tips we’ve offered here, you can invite guests to your front door and provide a wonderful, welcoming experience along the way. Lay out the welcome path, light it up, delight their eyes and ears, and set the tone for the joy that’s about to come.
If you’d like to explore ways to welcome guests to your home with a warm, appealing experience, book a consultation with us. We’ll evaluate your space, listen to your ideas, and plan a space with curb appeal that will make you proud – not just during the holiday season, but all year.