We most commonly consider patios and all outdoor living spaces to be the exclusive domain of the backyard. After all, it is out back where we entertain our friends and relatives or just our own family in privacy, “far from the madding crowd.” Keep in mind that the back yard may have the swimming pool, the hot tub spa, the horseshoe pit, the volleyball/badminton/tennis net, the children’s playset with its swings and slides and monkey bars.
Furthermore, here in the back, we can create an outdoor kitchen, dining area, sitting area, and outdoor bar; this outdoor living area becomes a natural extension of the comfort and privacy we enjoy indoors.
However, why should the back yard be the exclusive domain of an outdoor patio? Of course, we would not want most of these elements out front fully exposed to passersby but what about a simple sitting area at the front of the house?
If we take a drive or stroll through any older, well-established neighborhoods in any community across the country, those grand old houses with their large porches and verandas will be sitting there surrounded by large shade trees soaking up the appreciative glances cast their way. There may be homeowners sitting on porch swings or rockers or gliders or other types of patio furniture just whiling the day away, relaxing or reading or simply watching us pass by along the sidewalk. They may be doing the ironing or putting together a puzzle or building an antique model car or airplane. They may nod or wave or even say hello and comment on the weather as we pass by. These grand old houses already have built-in front yard patios of a sort that project an old-fashioned romance that has its own rules of etiquette and procedure; they are warm and welcoming venues but we are only allowed to appreciate them from the sidewalk unless we are invited closer. We are allowed though to appreciate what these outdoor living areas offer their owners and consider how we can create or at least approximate the same kind of ambiance at home in our houses.
The problem we face of course is that most moderately priced houses (if there is such a thing) built over the past twenty years in new surveys are not designed to contain this kind of grandiose patio setting on a large porch or veranda. This trend is a result partly of modern urban planning which attempts to make the greatest use of available land and partly as a means of creating affordable housing (if there is such a thing) in the face of today’s skyrocketing real estate and construction costs
The front yard patio is probably best incorporated into the front entrance of the house itself. Think of the hacienda-style of the southwest where the entrance of the house leads first to an open atrium or courtyard. Our version need not be this elaborate but the concept is there nonetheless. If there is a sidewalk or pathway from the garage and the street incorporate them as the entrance to the patio. The floor can be a raised deck or rest at ground level using interlock brick, poured concrete or quality pavers. One option for framing this outdoor living area is to sink corner beams tied together by 2 x 10 joists at the top; stringers could be run across the ceiling to create a degree of shade. Another framing option is to simply use planter boxes and trellises connected by plank benches to create a border. In any event, we want to try to establish our patio as a defined space. Cedar garden accessories such as arbors, pagoda arbors or trellis arbors serve well as inviting entranceways into our patio and ultimately our home. Some type of garden feature is definitely another plus; the planter boxes, trellises, and arbors function ideally here to add color and living walls. The front wall of our patio though should, to some degree, be open to the street, perhaps as a large open picture widow framed by roses climbing the trellises; after all, approximating that porch or veranda effect was the original goal.
Finally, we want to consider the best furniture options. The porch swing idea can be achieved with an A-frame swing or pagoda swing set. Cedar garden benches, gliders, rockers or a scattering of Adirondacks also work well, helping to create that feeling of relaxation and comfort. Cedar patio furniture is an excellent choice because it stands up to the weather and its rich color adds to the beauty and warmth of the approach to our home. Passersby will nod with approval at the inviting and friendly ambiance we have created; they may even be inspired with a desire to add a front yard patio to their own home.