Outdoor living spaces are more than an extension of the home. The physical and psychological benefits of an outdoor living lifestyle are well documented. Yet many families limit the time they spend in their own backyard because they lack enough privacy from neighbors and busy streets.
Your lifestyle and personal priorities will determine the level and type of privacy that is important to you. Generally speaking, privacy is determined by what you want to see, hear, and feel while engaged in your desired outdoor activities.
When choosing a property people almost immediately get a feeling when a space suits their needs. There could be one overarching feature such as a magnificent view that wins them over. In most circumstances, there are variables that aren’t quite right that can be remedied, no different than inside the home.
A basic wood fence that keeps children and pets safe may do the job for some families, while others prefer more elegant landscape carpentry features. Landscape architects know there are always solutions that can solve multiple problems while also enhancing the beauty of the outdoor space.
Landscaping and Architectural Privacy Options
Fence and Plant Combinations
A fence is a quick way to add privacy and security, but many homeowners need creative solutions that complement the home.
Poet Robert Frost said, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Nowadays your neighbors also include municipalities and community associations and they usually have the power to remove fences and other privacy screening that does not comply with their rules.
Some types of fencing can feel too confining and many homeowner associations place restrictions on the types and height of fencing. Thus, it’s always best to discuss your plans with neighbors to learn what they know and to prevent challenges down the road.
When a fence is designed to reflect the architecture of the home, a smoother transition to indoor spaces is also achieved. The right fence can not only provide privacy and safety, it can also enhance the curb appeal of and resale value of your home.
Finials, lattice trim, vine-covered trellises, and other landscape carpentry details are ways to make an otherwise bare panel fence more attractive. Instead of a continuous length of fencing, alternating panels and non-linear combinations can be used to create the right amount of screening.
Combining alternating fence panels with tall-growing evergreens is another option. You may wish to work with an experienced landscape designer and master carpenter to refine the design. They will be able to suggest what works best for the privacy foreground and background.
They can also help you to incorporate nooks and private seating areas that punctuate the otherwise linear fencing or screening.
Evergreen hedges are sometimes referred to as living walls because they provide many of the same benefits of a traditional hardscape wall in terms of privacy and screening. There are numerous plants ideal for hedgerows that add texture, depth, and rich, green color to the landscape
A tall hedge planted along the border of a property can offer exceptional privacy from busy streets and neighboring yards. A shorter hedgerow can provide sufficient screening as long as it breaks the line of site for the intended activities, such as outdoor dining.
There are a number of evergreen plants that can be used to create low, medium, or tall hedges. Popular genus varieties include arborvitae, boxwood, and yew or juniper. The factors to consider when determining your choice are cultural conditions, such as light and drainage, as well as the necessary maintenance and desired height and density.
Tree, Shrub, and Ornamental Grass Groupings
Most homeowners realize trees, shrubs, and ornamental grasses can add privacy to backyard settings. However, they may not understand that when used in the right combinations they can achieve privacy quickly.
Layering trees and shrubs with smaller plants creates a privacy screen while providing color and texture throughout the changing seasons. The right combination of plants can provide year-round screening and unlike fences, their height is typically not restricted by homeowner associations or municipal ordinances.
Sometimes a strategically planted tree is all it takes to create a private backyard space. Mature maples, with their expansive canopies, can easily block out second-story views from neighboring homes. Shrubs and ornamental grass that extend from the base of trees provide ground-level privacy.
Over time these lower plantings will need to be thinned removed completely as the tree matures. For most this is a better alternative than waiting ten years for the tree to develop and spread its branches.
If you have a larger property you may wish to consider an allée. An allée (rhymes with ballet) is usually a formal, linear grouping of trees along a pathway that leads to a destination. Tree-lined driveways and garden paths are classic types of allées.
The allée concept is usually associated with large, expansive landscapes but can be executed in a garden of almost any size. The focal point of the destination could be a colorful flower bed, glade of small trees, seating area, arbor, or water feature. A well-designed allée creates a sense of privacy while guiding the eye to a distinctive focal point that highlights the outdoor space.
Noise Softening Features
Sometimes privacy is not just about hiding the view but also masking sounds that interrupt the experience of enjoying your outdoor space.
Numerous studies have proved that plantings do very little to dampen off-site noise, such as from nearby traffic. This would be best accomplished with a wall, fence, or solid structure that will push the sound upward.
Installing water features such as fountains or waterfalls can partially mask sounds and to make these space suitable for relaxing. This effect can be further enhanced by using plants such as quaking aspens and ornamental grasses that rustle in the breeze.
Plan Your Outdoor Environment For Privacy
Fences are the features most associated with privacy. Just the mention of them can bring up unpleasant circumstances because their use is often driven more by emotion than planning. This is why municipalities and homeowner associations have stepped in the preserve rights of everyone involved.
A fence or outdoor storage shed doesn’t have to be an eyesore. As you can see from the photo above, outdoor structures, fences, and plantings can be designed to complement each other. The trick is planning ahead for how you expect to live on your property and within the larger community.
Landscape planning is more than design. More important than the blueprint for building the landscape is the process of sorting through spaces and how they will be used.
When you consider what you want to see, hear, and feel within a space you are more likely to realize a better possibility for you and everyone concerned. To that end, it’s not uncommon for neighbors to share the same privacy goals and agree to share costs for creating that solution.
Architectural Landscape Design, Inc. specializes in creating outdoor living spaces. If you need ideas or have a vision and want help fulfilling that vision, our team can help turn your property into a private oasis for your entire family to enjoy.