New house. Design feedback needed.

david_in_mn(4)September 6, 2012

I'm hoping to get some opinions on a portion of a landscape plan we got for our home. The plan is linked below.

Here are some details that may help:

- House faces North

- House is at the bottom left of a cul-de-sac, so the "all garage" house is the first thing you see as you approach the house.

- Bottom of windows is approx. 6 1/2 feet above the ground

- Height of steps is 2 feet.

- My objective is to landscape in a way that will reduce "fortress" appearance by the windows and work to balance the weight of the garage.

- Below I have included photos of the house along with the aforementioned plan. You can click on the thumbnails to see them bigger.

Thanks in advance for any feedback you can offer on the plan in general or more specifically how you think the plan works in achieving my objectives.

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Why fight it?

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 9:10AM
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rosiew(8 GA)

Tell us please where the landscaping shown on the plan will be sited.


    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 4:42PM
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Looking at the photo of the house, it's to the right of the driveway and the right of the front door.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 5:05PM
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I've blocked out some plant masses as they would be sillhouetted against the house. For the plantings that are along the right lot line I've used outlines of rectangles so that you can see "through" them.

#1, foundation plantings in picture and plan, I think that the tall portion comes too close to the porch. It would be better to back off a little with the height and keep the plants adjacent to the stoop low. I question if Calimagrostistis will be happy up against a north wall.

#2, plantings adjacent to drive, in plan and photo. In general, the beds that flank paved areas on the way to the front door rub me the wrong way. I see them as barriers and the bigger and taller they are, the worse they are. They usually end up obstructing the view to the primary place on the house that people want seen: the front entrance. They make the driveway and walkway space seem confined. It seems pointless to me to separate adjacent "floor" areas with a barrier just because one is carpet (grass) and one is hardwood (concrete). The only way I can see these beds justified is as more space for growing plants. But that's not necessarily enhancement for the house. Oftentimes, it's the opposite. I can accept a similar bed with a tree if the purpose is to add a sense of shelter, so long as the tree is limbed up to maintain view beyond it and the island does not extend too long so as to overwhelm the paved areas. If grass is beautiful and well kept, there's nothing unpleasant about having it next to a walk or drive.

#3 Plantings below Oak. I don't see the need to extend the Viburnum hedge to below the oak. Chances are, there will be no need to screen the neighbor's front yard in that particular area... so close to the street. The linear arrangement of the plantings below the oak will be weaker and busier looking than having a singular, simpler, circular (or "D"-shaped) planting below.

#4 hedge and bed along lot line shown on plan... The hedge will look sloppy unless installed in an orderly line. The arbitrary wigglyiness of the bed it's in looks contrived and busy. Straight lines or smooth flowing curves are better.

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 6:34PM
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Thanks for the observations ... especially #2 which never occurred to me, but makes a lot of sense.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 10:30PM
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Thanks for the observations ... especially #2 which never occurred to me, but makes a lot of sense.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 11:45PM
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Not at a computer where I can mock this up but I wonder... On the two garage doors in the center... if you painted the trim under the garage door windows, including the door trim up to the windows. Then painted the trim around the windows black. Could it possibly disguise that they're garage doors a bit? Might work since your windows are small. Why did they make the windows so small?

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 1:02AM
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I need an understanding of the general area around this new home. Is this the beginning of a new subdivision? Will there be streets and houses behind the house in the future? Or, is this a project under development fronting a cornfield(?). I'm fishing here with no understanding as to the possibility that this house may be the beginning of a 'prairie style' housing development. Understanding of the surrounding property and its future development should probably be considered in the design.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:21AM
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I had a neighbor once whose house had black trim. It looked ghoulish... like black lipstick and fingernail polish does.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 8:52AM
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nandina: If I had all the money in the world I would love to have more 'prairie style' in this house. The fact that you notice a little makes me happy.

This is the end of a relatively new subdivision. There may be streets and houses behind this one in the distant future. Until then, the view to the south is a peaceful cornfield which is one reason I wanted to live here.

The home itself is a custom design that is somewhat unique in the neighborhood. Each home is quite different in the amount of landscaping from very many plants, trees and beds to very few. Each lot is about an acre, so there is plenty of space for those who are interested in planting. Mine is the only one with nothing in the front and it's high time I change that. I do have a large vegetable garden in the back.

TomNorthJersey: About attempting to make the garage windows look bigger by using dark paint ... been there, done that. It fools the eye at a distance but looks terrible up close. Ghoulish is a good description.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 3:42PM
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I didn't mean try and make them look bigger. I meant try and make them look more like the other windows. It would look better from far away.

Did a quick mockup and eh... Though I do like the look with the garage panels painted a different color. Helps make the doors not look as out of place to me. Filled in random plants. I'm guessing the plants will fill in some of the siding. Click to embiggen.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 9:39PM
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Garden beds along walks and driveways are meant to provide you with a feeling that you've entered someplace once you step off the sidewalk or pull into the driveway. They help make you feel at home before you even walk in the front door. I like grass and I'm still just learning about plants but even the best lawn doesn't give you that feeling.

It can be done poorly. Many wind up looking like landing strip lights or shrub tunnel. But if done right it creates a cozy feeling.

I would probably put a garden bed at each corner at the driveway entrance. Maybe even with two columns that match the base of the entry post. With lights on them.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2012 at 10:10PM
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"Garden beds along walks and driveways are meant to..."

Tom, I understand their intent. I admit trying to create "cozy" using this method in my early work. I'm okay with cozy, but I don't think these planting strips actually do that. They try, but it's usually at the expense of something of greater importance... like presenting a welcoming entrance. I can show you a thousand "cozy feelings" that look like oppressive, smothering barriers. Instead of cozy, they often create the feeling of confinement, being trapped and creepiness... especially when wet. I'll accept that there can be islands that may present a sense of shelter (and coziness) if done correctly and in the right place. But what's here---as is typical--is not one of those.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2012 at 10:58AM
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