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Before and After: Creating A Private and Inviting Front Yard

A revamped facade and lush border plantings deliver street-side charm.

Front yard entrance with flowers and gate
Flowers, shrubs, and a picket fence shield the homeowners from passersby without feeling unfriendly. Flagstones form a rustic path from the street to the front door.
John Gruen

Favorite outdoor spaces usually have two things in common: comfy seating and a little screening. The front yard at Leni and Fred Wiener's lacked both. Add in heavy shade and the traffic of their New Rochelle, New York, neighborhood, and it's no surprise the couple went decades without using the space. But when a nor'easter took out a few old trees, they seized the chance to start over.


Photo of house with little privacy
The 1920s Dutch Colonial lacked privacy from a busy street.
John Gruen

"The yard went from total shade to full sun," says Leni, who realized she now had a perfect site for the naturalistic garden she'd always wanted. Robert Welsch, a Tarrytown, New York–based landscape designer, pushed Leni's vision even further. His design—a smaller lawn with a circular gravel seating area, exuberant borders, and a low fence—gave the space purpose and privacy as well as beauty.

When he suggested extending the house's front landing to tie it into the garden, Leni was inspired to design a new portico and an art-glass transom and sidelights. A charcoal-gray roof followed, along with a darker paint palette that shows off the plantings. "The backyard is more secluded, but the front is more peaceful," says Leni. "When we close that gate, the space becomes ours. It's where we go to relax."

Garden Room: The Plan

Illustration of garden plan for private front yard Ian Worpole

A patio with seating, shrub-based plantings, and a fence for privacy turned an uninspired front yard into an enclosed garden room.

  1. Installed a gravel seating area with chairs, a focal-point sculpture, and a curved stepping-stone path to the driveway.
  2. Traded a tired concrete walk for a rustic path of irregular flagstones.
  3. Reshaped the portico and extended the landing into the garden.
  4. Lined the reduced lawn area with beds of flowering shrubs and easy-care perennials, such as astilbe and heuchera.
  5. Shielded the house from the street with a natural-wood fence engulfed by rows of dogwoods, hydrangeas, and daylilies.

Matching Portico and Door Arch

Matching Portico and Door Arch and Handcrafted Custom Transom John Gruen

The white portico echoes the arch of the new transom and pops against the gray siding. Paint (siding): Sherwin-Willliams's Gibraltar

A glass artisan in the neighborhood handcrafted a custom transom and matching sidelights for the remodeled entryway. Art-Glass: Giacomo's Stained Glass

Street-Facing Floral Fence

Floral fence in front yard John Gruen

'Limelight' hydrangeas, Ivory Halo dogwoods, and daylilies soften the street side of the fence.

Shrubs Screen The Driveway

Shrubs Screen The Driveway in front yard John Gruen

More shrubs screen the driveway, while the sculpture, made by a Connecticut metalworker from RF Steelwork, commands attention in the quiet space.

Pro advice: "I use three-quarter-inch crushed stone for patios and walks because it doesn't slip underfoot." —Robert Welsch, landscape designer, Tarrytown, N.Y.

Year-Round Yard Border

Year-Round Yard Border John Gruen

Hydrangeas and dogwoods backed by doublefile viburnum make a showy border year-round.

Carefree Garden Beauty and Street Buffer Plantings John Gruen

Carefree Garden Beauty

Shrubs give this garden its lush, carefree beauty. Here, a flowering 'Limelight' hydrangea mingles with the cream-rimmed foliage of an Ivory Halo dogwood.

Street Buffer Plantings

A Japanese maple underplanted with doublefile viburnum, hydrangeas, and 'Francee' hosta buffers the yard from the street.

Flagstone and Crushed-Stone Surfaces and Adirondack Garden Seating John Gruen

Flagstone and Crushed-Stone Surfaces

Flagstone stepping-stones leading to the driveway provide an easier-to-navigate surface in a crushed-stone patio. They are also easier to keep clear of snow come winter.

Adirondack Garden Seating

This pair of Adirondack chairs serve as an invitation to enjoy the garden.

Colorful Window Dressings and Urn Turned Garden Fountain John Gruen

Colorful Window Dressings

Window boxes offer pockets of color and texture. In this planting, the plum foliage of 'Silver Streak' heuchera plays off purple petunias and red calibrachoa blooms.

Urn Turned Garden Fountain

Landscape designer Robert Welsch converted this urn into a fountain by drilling a hole in the bottom and inserting a pump inside. It runs day and night, yielding the soothing sound of flowing water.