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The Green Scene in Your Home and Lifestyle, August 2010

McDowell Front Yard

Welcome Your Guests with Open Arms
by Carolyn Runyon

Backyard outdoor rooms are extremely popular everywhere in the United States. Outdoor kitchens, spas, video centers, fireplaces, swimming pools, and gazebos all help to establish a wonderfully usable, comfortable desirable living space in which to entertain family and friends. But many homeowners tend to forget about the front yard and entrance to their homes because, simply, they don't spend much time there. "A homeowner returns home drives along the driveway to the garage and enters the home from that door, never even catching a glimpse of the house", says Scott Cohen, a designer regularly featured on HGTV and landscape designer at the Green Scene, an award winning residential landscape design and

construction firm. Homeowners feel that, although the backyard is theirs, the front of the home belongs to the neighbors. They often neglect it because they practically forget that it's even there."

Cohen says the front of a home should actually be of paramount importance. It's the primary area seen by those approaching and leaving the home and by all passersby. The front entryway is the first thing an invited guest sees, so it should be attractive and hospitable. I like an 'open arms' design for an entry", explains Cohen. The base of the stairs should be wide, and as they lead to the front door, the width should be reduced somewhat. The perception is of welcoming open arms to anyone moving toward the entry." Cohen also advises against "duck walks", meaning an entry access that is so tight that people must walk single file to reach or leave the door. "The entry should be generous and comfortably allow for two way traffic", he notes.

Cohen discourages owners from creating too many approaches from the front yard to the house. "Some homeowners offer a multitude of walkways to visitors", he explains. There's a path from the front to the backyard, another path to a side yard or garage, as well as the steps leading to the front door. All these paths are confusing to guests; they don't know which walkway to use." Cohen believes the front door should be the main focus, and the walkway or stairs leading to that door should be prominent in the front yard design.

Landscaping and architectural details that coordinate with the original structure will look like they belong and have always been a part of the house, Cohens says. He advises using the same materials and shapes that are on the house in the landscaping design. "If a house has a low horizontal plane, so should the landscaping", he says. A grander home can hanle a grander scale of architecture and landscaping details." Nevertheless, he warns, "Never overdo or overpower the home itself."

Presley Front Yard
These steps are illuminated with eyebrow lights
on the sides of the pilasters

In order for steps to be attractive and safe, certain design elements should be included. Wide landings are comfortable to walk on and impressive looking. Stairs should be well lit for safety reasons. Never light stairs from the top because that will cause a shadow. Light stairs from the side with eyebrow or pilaster lights or on the face of the step itself," Cohen suggests. "I prefer side lighting myself. Lights on the face of a step tend to look more commercial."

Landscaping plantings can be simple and monochromatic or ambitious and colorful. Dividing walls can be stone, stucco, or live hedge. But all the details should complement the original structure and coordinate with the original materials used in the construction of the house. Cohen adds, "A well-planned and appealing front entryway says, "come on in" to visitors and tells them that the owners are proud of their home and warmly welcome guests."

When Preparing to Sell

Curb appeal is especially important for aa house that is on the market. The front of a house is the first thing a potential buyer experiences. It can invite that person to look inside or turn him away. Scott Cohen offers a few suggestions to home sellers:

Fertizize and water your landscaping plants. Yellowed trees, grass, and plantings are not healthy and look uncared for. Neglected plants may influence someone's impression of how you have maintained the rest of your home. Prune overgrown trees and plants. Pay particular attention to those that block the path to the front door. A clear entry is open, comfortable, and inviting.

Make sure you have good outside lighting. Many prospective buyers may want to drive by the house in the evening to see the outside before making an actual appointment to view the house. For the same reason, make sure sure address is easily visible from the street.

Yerelekian Front Yard

Add seasonal color in pots. These flowers or plants can be changed easily if necessary.

Finally, step outside and actually take a look at the front entryway. Are there spiderwebs? Are bulbs burned out? Is there an accumulation of leaves or debris? A little cleaning and maintenance will help project a warm, welcoming impression to prospective buyers at little or no cost.