Lawn as Design Element

Divide to Enlarge

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One of the tricks I use to make small yards feel much, much larger is to divide them up.  It’s a concept that’s very hard for many of my clients to grasp.  Here are 2 front yards to give you an example of what I mean.

The image, below, is courtesy of Google Neighborhood.  The homeowner used a mix of plantings in the front yard in lieu of grass.  As you pass the home, your eye stops first on the intermediate plantings making the home feel further away.

Intermediate Landscaping Pushes the House Back Visually
Intermediate Landscaping Pushes the House Back Visually
A Typical Suburban Lawn Makes the House Appear Closer
A Typical Suburban Lawn Makes the House Appear Closer

The home was sold and the new homeowners replaced the plantings with a more typical lawn.  Admittedly, with the higher camera position from Google, more of the house is obscured by the street-side tree.  But even so, you can see how much closer to the sidewalk the house appears in the second photo.  Your eye moves directly to the house – foundation plantings “read” as part of the house.  The very small front yard feels very small when there’s no mid-ground to give a sense of distance and perspective.

Here’s another house on the same block – an equally small front yard.  In this picture, again from Google where’s there’s nothing to distract the eye.

A Typical Suburban Lawn Takes Your Eye Directly to the House
A Typical Suburban Lawn Takes Your Eye Directly to the House
An intermediate fence & Plantings Pushing the House Back Visually
An intermediate fence & Plantings Pushing the House Back Visually

Here’s the home about one year later, also from Google.  The house takes up the same part of the frame in both pictures.  Notice how the fence – pushed 4-5’ back from the sidewalk – creates an interim threshold that “pushes” the house away from you.  It makes the small front yard feel much larger.

The typical suburban lawn wastes water, time and robs the neighborhood of habitat.  But it also, usually, robs the house of style.  I’m not opposed to grass.  Notice how in the back yard, below, the lawn contributes to the rhythm of the landscape and “reads” as a river within the larger plantings and hardscape.  And it’s more than enough for the family dog to hang out on.

Lawn as Design Element
Lawn as Design Element – It’s Part of the Rhythm of the Landscape

It’s admittedly not large enough for a game of touch football or other family game.  Then a large swath of grass is the best – but how few of us actually use our lawns.  In the front yard you can see from the first two homes, you can create greater interest, more privacy, a larger sense of space, and urban habitat with a thoughtful mix of plantings and hardscape instead of the ubiquitous lawn.

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