Monday, 25 June 2012 00:00

Front Gardens

Which door should you use? Which door should you use?

First Impressions Count

We are often so busy enjoying our back gardens that we forget about the front;

it’s not typically where we sit or sunbathe, entertain, or want to spend much time gardening.  We pass through on our way in or out and tend not to look too closely at the overgrown shrubs until they start grabbing at shopping bags or soaking our clothing with wet foliage as we squeeze between them and the car.  


Car parking has unfortunately come to dominate how front gardens are used; depending on the size of the garden vehicles can take up much of the available space.   But front gardens have other important roles to play - welcoming visitors, providing security, pleasing the eye and complimenting the architecture of the house – creating that all important ‘kerb appeal’, which not only adds value to your daily experience of using the garden but can help sell your house in an instant.  


Sorting out all these different functions with their sometimes conflicting uses is where good design comes to the fore, so that, as far as possible, these uses are integrated into a coherent whole and one function does not adversely affect another.  So if you are thinking about improving your front garden it is worth spending some time considering how all the competing demands on the available space can be accommodated sympathetically.  


Some houses have more than one front door, or the door is hidden from view and it isn't always clear which door should be used.  Leaving your visitors guessing isn’t the best welcome.  This does not mean that you have to have a formal path leading straight to it.  A more informal arrangement, for example using stepping stones in gravel, or a meandering path, gives a more relaxed feel but will still deliver your visitor safely to the door.  Alternatively, subtle direction can be given in the choice of materials, the way they are positioned and how inviting the path is to walk up.  Deliberately changing the material just outside the front door will suggest that the visitor has arrived at the right place.   A clear and attractive house name or number close by will give final confirmation.


Choosing materials that relate to the style of house and local environment will help set the house off, but whatever you use do give careful thought to their colour; for example, using white or blue chippings can look great at the seaside or in an contemporary urban setting but stands out artificially in a traditional rural setting where colours are typically softer and more muted.  Whichever colour scheme you go for, keep it simple.  


Finally, in choosing plants consider carefully what their ultimate size will be -  something that wants to be 3m wide planted in a 1m wide border will quickly outgrow its space and start attacking the shopping until you give in and move it  – work easily avoided by a bit of research and choosing plants that will behave themselves.


If you are planning to resurface an area of more than five square metres in your front garden you will have to meet planning requirements.  For more information go to:  http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/commonprojects/pavingfrontgarden/.

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