Each week Mansion Global tackles an interior design topic with an elite group of designers from around the world who work on luxury properties. This week we look at how to design your front yard.
First impressions can say a lot about your home. So much of our focus is on the interiors, but the exterior—the front yard, driveway, doorway—is a prelude of what’s to come.
“The front of the house should look good 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Janice Parker, of Janice Parker Landscape Architects based in Greenwich, Connecticut.
“We always say that the architecture is the picture and the landscape is the frame, so the most important thing is to frame the house as you see it from the street,” said Miami-based landscape designer Fernando Wong of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design.
To design this area with creativity and distinction, follow these tips from the pros.
Think About Logistics
“Plants need to be resilient as this is an area that can get heavy traffic. Delivery people can skip over paths and walk through beds, as can the impatient teenager. Plants also need to be robust enough to look good most of the year. I rely on boxwoods and evergreen perennials quite a bit. Palace Purple heuchera, lamb’s ears, lavender and hellebore are all year-round beauties, except in the coldest of winters.
"I always prefer real stone when possible for walkways, but keep in mind where ice may form in winter. An entry garden should be safe from black ice. This is not the spot for steppers with big grass joints. Those tend to be muddy in spring, too.
"Consider the winter interest of plants, such as ornamental grasses and coneflowers. Though the above ground parts are dead in the winter, their seed heads and blades can add beauty to the right garden. It’s also important to think about the mature size of plants so they don’t take over.
"I also try to incorporate fragrance whenever possible. Low evergreen shrubs like sweatbox or smaller lilacs like ‘Miss Kim’ are great options.
— Jennifer G. Horn, RLA JHLA/Jennifer Horn Landscape Architecture in Arlington, Virginia
"One way to frame the doorway is with beautiful French Anduze urns, Caisse de Versaille planters, or Italian terracotta pots planted with trees or palms. We also do quite a few custom planters made out of metal or concrete for our more contemporary projects.
"We use a lot of natural materials for walkways and pavers, such as limestone and coral stone. However, you can do so much with concrete now; you can dye, paint, and score it or, one of our favorite options, create Tabby, a concrete with shells and white stones mixed into it. It’s so versatile and works for every architectural style imaginable.
"To plan for year-round interest, focus on the 80/20 rule. We plant 80% of the landscape with perennials and 20% with annuals. We also try to use a lot of natives and then change up the annuals using different kinds and colors of flowers every year to keep things interesting.
"The driveway is literally and figuratively the entry to a house, and we treat it not just as a pathway, but as part of the exterior language. Driveways offer great opportunity for defining the space in their surface material, approach to the structure, shape, and with the bordering plantings. Many of our projects incorporate a courtyard around which we organize flow to house and gardens.
"In general, try to use natives whenever you can. They use much less water, won’t disrupt existing ecosystems, and grow like weeds.”
— Miami-based landscape designer Fernando Wong of Fernando Wong Outdoor Living Design
Marry Form and Function
Neil Landino Jr
“Plants that have sculptural shapes that grow slowly and won’t outgrow the area over time are very important. Deciduous trees and shrubs that have interesting branching structures and beautiful bark will also enhance the garden all year long. Ideally, you don’t want the house entrance to be dependent on flower color or seasonal plantings.
"We like to use natural stone materials for walkways. If you are in an area with frost, it’s important that the stones be set on a concrete base, and be able to withstand heaving, salting, and snow shoveling. In areas of extreme cold, you may want to consider a radiant snowmelt underneath the pavers. In warmer climates, it is still important that the pavers be set tightly, so that the jointing between the pavers does not end up with weeds and plant material growing between the joints of the stones, which can create muddy or slippery situations.
From Penta: How to Showcase Cherished Collections with Style
"Great style can be had by planting two large matching trees framing the entry to a home, one on either side, or in a symmetrical pattern. Keep your line of sight at the driveway entrance clear and open. Low groupings of evergreens on either side of the driveway are ideal if tall trees will impede the sightlines. It’s important not to depend on flower color at the entrance to the driveway, as this is seasonal, and you want to create year-round interest.
"Have fun with color and style around the doorway or porch area. Using beautiful evergreens in the winter, and tropicals and annuals in the summer is a wonderful way to highlight your entrance and you will always enjoy looking at them as they greet you on the way into your home. Seasonal potted plants also add beautiful interest.”
— Janice Parker of Janice Parker Landscape Architects based in Greenwich, Connecticut
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