A conversation that began innocuously enough during a garden tour years ago opened my eyes to an area of my garden that was out of context with its surroundings. One visitor shared that she could tell a lot about the personality and demeanor of the homeowner/gardener by looking at their front entry. Yikes. For me that was a scary pronouncement.
My only hope was that no one paid any attention to my front entry that day. Shovels, rakes and longhandled pruners leaning helter-skelter against the fence and arbor looked messy. Scattered on the front porch, bags of birdseed, a funnel, trowels, clippers and a pot of plant tags repulsed efforts to make it to the front door. Containers of plants waiting to go to clients’ gardens jostled for space adjacent to the stair landing. A narrow strip of lawn with uneven, randomly placed chunks of recycled concrete led to the back garden. The mayhem was symptomatic of a larger problem and my lack of focus.
The designer in me had long recognized that the transition into our garden and home from the sidewalk was dominated by two staircases, a pinched landing and the sheer scale of the building looming overhead. Entries are well-traveled spaces that knit home and garden together, offering safe passage from the outside world to the inner sanctum. Clearly defined walkways flanked by low plantings, discreet lighting, porches with room to accommodate several people, and sturdy stairs with railings welcome family and visitor alike.
Redesigning the narrow sliver of land between the front porch and the fence was transformative: Now a pre-existing arbor is the gateway to a small brick courtyard that embraces the house. Niches on either side of the stairs to the porch are inhabited by large urns that play to the height of the house, and a bench, table and chairs invite conversation. Repurposed fence sections painted to match one of the house trim colors break up a large wall. Along with offering easy access to the house, the revised entry also offers an invitation and shelter to all who venture through the gate.
Transform your home by reimagining your entryway
- The walkway to the front entry can be curved or straight. The most important considerations are that it be at least four feet wide, so that two people can walk comfortably side by side, and that the flat work material be even — no lumps or bumps. A narrow concrete path can be extended by adding stone edging to create more width.
- The front door is the cynosure of all eyes. Help direct traffic by painting it a vivid shade that contrasts with the house color.
- Think of the front porch as an anteroom and furnish it with a bench — or if there is room— a couple of chairs and a small table. Create a tableau that reflects and connects the architectural vernacular of the house to the garden.
- Pathway lighting is essential for safety and convenience. Navigating a walkway without any light other than the house light at the front door is a daunting task.
- Dress up a porch or landing that’s protected from the elements with an all-weather outdoor rug. They come in a host of sizes and patterns, and they are easy to clean with a hose.
- Vignettes of found objects, art or architectural salvage transform a blank house wall into a gallery.
- A cluster of containers brings the garden right to the front door. Pots stationed at the bottom of a staircase signal an impending elevation change, while a single pot marks the intersection of a secondary walkway.