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4 Front Yards That Went From Sad to Stunning



1. This Storybook House Has A Happy Ending

The front yard of Meryl Phillips’ 1920s storybook home read “really bland” — a flat, tired lawn and a few uninviting step stones to a plain concrete patio.

So the shelter blogger spent about $1,000 and installed strategic hardscaping to boost the curb appeal of her Oakland, Calif., home. The goal was to upgrade the front yard with landscaping that required only 15 minutes of maintenance each week, and almost no watering.


Before the front yard hardscaping makeover


Storybook After

Image: Picardy Project

Here’s what Phillips did:

  • Replaced the lawn with drought-tolerant plants, including native perennials such as Shasta lilies and shrubs.Upgraded the concrete patio with salvaged brick pavers.
  • Built up a section of the front yard with leftover soil from the backyard and surrounded the area with a retaining wall of interlocking landscaping bricks.
  • Widened the walkway and installed stepping-stones on a pea gravel base.
  • Refurbished and installed the home’s original iron gate.

The topper was a pair of mosaic planters flanking the gate, which Phillips constructed from plywood and covered with salvaged tile.

A year later, Phillips has an infant daughter and an easy-care front yard that looks great.

“We can still tend the yard without taking much time away from our child,” she says.

2. Combining Concrete and Grass Brightens a Historic Property

Driveway Before

Image: Madson Design

The sad-looking house in Rocklin, Calif., was, in fact, a historic gem. Built in 1946, the home originally was constructed with salvaged walls from an old railroad boxcar.

James Madson, a residential designer, worked with his brother on the renovation that included sprucing up the front yard by replacing a drab concrete driveway with stamped concrete pads separated by aisles of grass.

Driveway After

Image: Madson Design

Madson says the stamped design gives the concrete interesting texture, and the grass growing between pads “breaks up the monotony” and gives everything more curb appeal.

The project required labor-intensive framing of forms for each pad, and installing a drip irrigation system to keep the grass green. Total: $7,200.

Madson topped off the hardscaping with a concrete path to the front door and a brick mailbox that resembles a birdhouse for a touch of whimsy.

3. Front Yard Patio Invites Neighbors to Sip a Spell

Front Patio Before

Image: The Bicycle Garden

Susan Tomlinson says front lawns don’t foster neighborly relations.

“People go into their homes, and never come out except to mow their lawns,” Tomlinson says. “It’s really important to create a sense of neighborhood by sitting out front.”

So the Texas Tech professor ripped out the lawn in front of her Lubbock home and installed a flagstone patio where she can sip wine with neighbors and chat about their day.

Front Patio After

Image: The Bicycle Garden

The hardscape upgrade was cheap and easy; it cost about $600 and took about four days.

In a nutshell, Tomlinson:

  • Dug out the lawn.
  • Covered the soil with landscaping fabric.
  • Added a sand base.
  • Laid flagstone on top.
  • Filled in spaces with crushed limestone — it has sharp edges that lock together and form a permeable barrier which lets in water and keeps out weeds.

Tomlinson also replaced her Bermuda grass lawn with drought-tolerant buffalo and blue grama grass. She planted airy flowerbeds mulched with limestone aggregate to make them look more like the surrounding Texas prairie and less like a suburban yard.

4. Driveway Pavers Create a Grand Entrance

Pavers Before

Image: Julie Orr Design

From the street, the Palo Alto, Calif., ranch home was nearly swallowed by a wall of overgrown greenery. Massive junipers created a visual barrier and provided a home for rats and rabbits; the concrete driveway was cracked and narrow.

So, the retired homeowners hired landscape designer Julie Orr to raise the home’s curb appeal. Orr:

  • Tore out the juniper.
  • Widened the driveway to fit a third car.
  • Installed semi-permeable pavers with a mix of grey and taupe, echoing the home’s roof and exterior paint color.
  • Created a mini-island in the driveway that opens a pathway from the street to the front door.

Pavers After

Image: Julie Orr Design

“Pavers create a beautiful look that will stay nice for the next 20 to 30 years,” Orr says.

The front yard facelift, which cost $25,000 (putting down pavers cost about $13,000 for material and labor), even inspired neighbors to update the curb appeal of their homes.

Says Orr, “All the neighbors said how much they appreciated the new front yard, and how they wanted to do theirs.”

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