Have you ever heard the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”? Not only does this wise advice apply to job interviews or the first day of school, but it applies to your home as well. A front yard is more than just a green area separating your house from the sidewalk; it’s a multifunctional space that marks the transition from the outdoors to the indoors, a place to great visitors and to say your good-byes and an opportunity to complement your home. This week, the Garden Designers Roundtable is talking about first impressions, and my contribution is a mini lesson on curb appeal.
Creating an entry sequence
A natural transition occurs when visitors come to your home. Designers use the term “entry sequence” to refer to the path from public spaces (the street or sidewalk) to the semiprivate or private space closer to your home’s front door. A well-planned entry sequence connects a house to the landscape and creates a cohesive space. Here are some tips to creating an effective entry sequence:
It’s all about the door
No matter how many plants, arbors and outdoor tchokes you add to your front yard, the door is still the de facto focal point. After all, you want your friends, delivery folk and Jehovah’s Witnesses to easily find their way to the doorbell right? (Okay, maybe not that last group). When I meet with a new client and have trouble identifying the entrance, I know I will earn my fee in the first five minutes, simply by sharing easy ways to make the door more visible.
Simple steps include painting the door in a contrasting color or flanking the entrance with pots or small trees. Or take it a step further and add an arbor or front porch.
At a minimum, avoid blocking the view to the door. To take it to the next level, make the journey from the street to the house easy to navigate, comfortable and in the appropriate scale and style for the home. Which leads to my next tip...
No wait, it’s all about the path
If this blog post had a subtitle, it would probably be: Landscape Designers Are Obsessed with Pathways. And I’m no exception. Design a pathway that makes it easy to find the door, and you’re on your way to a home with curb appeal that will make the neighbors gnash their teeth in envy.
The first step is to ensure the path is wide enough. A path that is broad enough for two people to walk abreast is the gold standard here. That means a minimum of 4 ft. but for most houses, 5 to 6 ft. will be a better width. Let the scale of the house and the garden be the determining factor.
Having a primary path that is wide enough is also important to distinguish it from any secondary pathways, such as those that lead to a side entrance or even meander through the garden if you’ve chosen a no-lawn landscape design.
What about shape? More formal designs favor straight lines, but often times a curve is an easy and effective way to break up the boxy shape of a typical front yard. But keep it simple and don’t exaggerate the curve – remember, your goal is to take your guests on a pleasant journey to the front door, not help them reach their goal of 10,000 steps a day.
And finally, the most misunderstood part of the entry sequence is the beginning. We all know it ends at the front door, but avoid the temptation to start the path in the driveway. (Really, when did front yards become an homage to three care garages and oversized driveways - don’t add to the madness! But that’s a rant for another day.) If you regularly access the front door via a carport, then by all means provide a secondary, less prominent path, but a general rule of thumb is to begin the path at the street or sidewalk, so it is clearly visible and easy to access.
If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because some of these ideas are part of the first chapter of Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small and Large Spaces (which I’m sure you’ve all read, right?). For some different perspectives, check out what other designers from the Roundtable have to say on the topic.