The American front yard is often regarded as useless space. It serves as a formal entry for guests and, when perfectly manicured, it presents an idyllic image of family life to the public at large. Aside from visual impressions, the front yard tends to remain static, undisturbed by the activities of human life. To relax and unwind, people tend to retreat to the privacy of their backyards, unengaged with their neighbors and the world around them.
But really, isn’t that whole idea antiquated? What’s the purpose of having space that you can’t enjoy? And what’s the harm in getting to know your neighbors a bit? In the spirit of being communal and inviting, here are four ideas to activate the front yard:
1. Create seating areas – My friends Cara and Adam have the most enchanting front yard (see above photo). I love how the tiered site and landscaping form distinct seating areas. From this elevated vantage point, the couple can sip cocktails while observing the comings and goings on the street below.
2. Plant a garden – A big movement exists to transform wasteful front lawns into edible gardens. Check out Fallen Fruit and Edible Estates for ideas about how different types of land use can be used for the public good.
3. Make a fire pit – At first, my husband couldn’t understand why I wanted a fire pit in our front yard, but after a night of chatting with our neighbors while handing out Halloween candy, he appreciated the way it stimulated conversation (and kept us warm!).
4. Install a water feature – In the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, water is a good way to attract positive energy into the home. Moreover, water appeals to the senses – the soothing sounds, the refreshing feel, the magical reflections. It makes for a peaceful transition between the street and home.
So next time you think life is passing you by, you don’t have to look very far. The stimulus you need might be right outside your front door.