Take Back Your Front Yard: 8 Ways to Make It Social If only trees and squirrels gather in your front yard, you’re missing out on valuable socializing space. Here’s how to remedy that

Many of us are used to having backyard gathering spaces for family parties, cookouts and cocktails with friends — but why relegate all of your gathering areas to behind your home? Whether you have sprawling acreage or a more efficient townhouse, your front yard is an opportunity waiting to happen. While backyards offer more privacy, front yards are more public, with opportunities to welcome neighbors and connect with your community. Here are some ideas to inspire you.
Add a deck. Decks may not be the first thing that come to mind when considering front yard options, but if they work well in the backyard, there’s no reason to exclude them from the front. Extend one from your house or create one that is freestanding, but be sure to check your local building codes before breaking ground.Use pressure-treated wood or a composite material for durability and low maintenance, but be aware that composite material can easily triple your materials cost up front. Composite decks are organic looking just by virtue of the wood tone and grain, and are a great option for those wanting to warm up the more public part of their property.

traditional patio by Van De Voorde Elemental Design Group

Enclose a courtyard. Courtyards are brilliant options for small and large yards alike. For small yards, a courtyard will be your focal point, and for houses with larger front yards, a courtyard can be a little secret getaway.Courtyards by their nature have walls that are a bit higher and create a sense of enclosure and privacy for more intimate gatherings or a quiet cup of coffee. The walls can be stucco, brick or wood, but be sure your chosen material complements the style of your house. Add some soft plantings so the walls don’t appear imposing and stark — that is the last thing you want when you’re creating an intimate space.

traditional landscape by Paradise Restored Landscaping & Exterior Design

Create two gathering areas. You may already have a porch, deck or covered patio, but that doesn’t mean you need to stop there. If you have the room, create a secondary area for gathering by adding a simple paver or gravel patio with complementary furnishings. Make this secondary area smaller, so the two areas don’t compete for attention, but be sure to coordinate your materials for a disjointed look.
traditional patio by Mike Porwoll - Bachman's Landscaping

Extend a patio. Have a patio already? Extend it out into the yard, like a courtyard without the walls. Use the same flooring materials as on your existing patio (pavers, concrete, brick) or create a contrast with a different material. This is a great idea for those wanting a smaller, more intimate front yard space for coffee or one-on-one conversation.
traditional porch Traditional Porch
Take advantage of your porch. I’ve always loved houses with porches, even if they are tiny ones. Porches say “welcome” in a way that few other structures can. They used to be the way people socialized regularly with their neighbors — just pour a cold drink and sit on the porch, waving at people walking by or inviting friends up for a chat. If you have the room, create different seating areas on your porch and add homey accessories to make it feel like an outdoor room. If space is an issue, opt for a charming bistro table with two chairs.
farmhouse porch by Crisp Architects

Enclose your porch. Do you have a porch but don’t like to use it because of bugs or weather issues? Consider enclosing it or screening it in. This is also a great way to make your porch more of a four-season feature in your front yard. I grew up in an area of the South that was rife with mosquitoes in the summer, and our screened-in porch was a much-visited area of our yard. Add an overhead ceiling fan, and you’re ready for weather- and bug-busting gatherings.How to banish the bugs on your porch

traditional exterior by Westover Landscape Design, Inc.

Consider simple gravel areas. There’s a reason the French and Italians use gravel so extensively — it is organic, is charming, works with a number of different house styles and is easy to install. Instead of a structure for a focal point, gravel merely creates a base for your furniture to shine against. You can add some oversize pieces of flagstone as stepping stones, as shown here, or leave it simpler. Add an edging material around your gravel area to keep the surrounding grass from growing in — steel edging, bender board and mortared stone are all great options.
modern landscape by Peter A. Sellar - Architectural Photographer

Add a privacy screen. While you want your front yard to be more open and friendlier, you still want to balance that with a bit of privacy. After all, no one really wants to be on stage or display, do they? There are ways to create some friendly privacy so that your message is still one of, “Hello, neighbor!” and not that you’ve built a stockade. Try some soft plantings near the street or sidewalk, and aim to have the overall height of these beds hover around the waist or the chest. Anything taller, with the exception of an occasional small tree, will be too overpowering and send the message to keep out.
traditional landscape by Le jardinet

Another way to add privacy and separation is to create an arbor or trellis system — these structures are naturals in the garden, but because of their semitransparent construction, they are still hospitable. Plant some flowering vines to soften the look and add color.
contemporary patio by Carson Arthur Design

Consider creating some low walls with openwork panels. This is especially effective in smaller townhouse front yards, where the only option for seating is directly adjacent to a neighbor’s space. You can still see over these walls and actually through them, but their construction provides a bit of separation and delineation from the neighbor’s yard.

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