The purpose of front yard landscaping tends to be presentational because it is the public-facing side of your house. It’s about appearances, making a good impression on visitors or passersby. The landscape leading up to and bordering your home is designed to show a beautiful setting that frames your house in a pretty picture that says in some way or other “welcome to our home” -or- “don’t you wish you lived here?”
So, when we consider privacy in outdoor environments, we are usually thinking of the back yard. It is true that the backyard, not the front, is where people desire that perfectly serene, personal space to have when they want to relax outdoors. You really want that space to be “by invitation only” and you want to feel you are hidden from view when using it.
However, most homeowners don’t want to feel like they are on display when they are inside their house. They don’t want it to be too easy for people to see into the windows as they pass by on the street. This is why it is necessary to incorporate privacy elements in a front yard landscaping design.
Controlling the View with Front Yard Privacy Landscaping
With the front yard, privacy landscaping is necessary but more subtle in effect because it needs to balance with the presentational goals mentioned above. We tend to design with partial views and intentional views in mind. We don’t wish to completely block the viewer from seeing but to control what can be seen.
The primary goals of front yard landscaping for privacy are:
- to effect “partial” privacy that reveals selective views of the house from different viewpoints
- to create a setting that is flattering to and showcases the house to the best advantage.
There are many elegant privacy solutions that employ combinations of built structures and plant groupings.
Designing Privacy in Layers
To achieve your front yard privacy goals with finesse, your landscape architect will visualize the landscape in layers, dividing it into zones: foreground, middle ground, borders, and then the foundation of the house.
The first landscape layer is nearest to the curb. There you might employ a combination of low walls or fencing preceded by low greenery and backed by taller shrubs. This first layer delineates your property and creates an immediate point of interest that is also a partial visual barrier.
If you live on a busy street, you can use this first layer to create a “buffer” zone that provides a sense of seclusion by softening the noise of street activity and glare from street lights. And it will place beautiful plantings and greenery (instead of traffic) into the view from inside your home.
A gateway entry at the driveway can further enhance the feeling of seclusion. And deeper into the property, in the middle ground, strategically positioned groupings of small trees or shrubs in mounded beds can be positioned strategically so they will, as they fill out over time, block or partially obscure views of windows or door areas.
Privacy Landscaping vs. Neighborly Landscaping
Whenever possible we like to use “living” walls for privacy screening because plants are always perceived as neighbor-friendly. Even a very tall, thick hedge barrier would not be perceived as “un-neighborly” in the way a tall privacy fence or stone wall would feel to neighbors. We consider the psychological effect of “soft” privacy that is pleasing vs. “hard” privacy elements that may feel abrupt or exclusive to neighbors.
Most of the time a combination of these soft and hard privacy elements works extremely well to fulfill the privacy requirements of the homeowner and still maintain a friendliness factor to the neighborhood. The landscape architect will try to capitalize on the existing landscaping features and fashion the additional privacy elements and plantings to enhance what is already there.
Enhancing the Setting
When designing front yard privacy landscaping, your architect will selectively leave “negative space” or gaps that allow teaser views of the house. And these partial views change depending on where you are standing in relation to the house.
So the views are crafted to highlight different aspects of the home in relation to the surrounding landscape and where you are standing. The house is the ultimate object to be viewed and the landscaping controls how much is revealed. It is designed so that, as someone is walking past, what they see is changing as they move. Glimpses of the house are revealed and obscured alternately so as to create some intrigue and satisfy their curiosity.
The notion of privacy is a somewhat unexpected element of front yard landscape design. Nevertheless, it is an important consideration that can have a significant influence on the direction a design takes. And the way we treat privacy in a front yard landscape is one of the core differences between front yard and backyard landscaping.
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