In the Before Times, you might have hastily checked your peephole before dashing outside to take out the trash, just to ensure your neighbor, Gus, didn’t catch you in a 20-minute story about how your marigolds need watering and how his cat almost got out yesterday and hey, when you have a sec, can you see if that cut on his back looks infected? But after a year and a half at home, we’re appreciating human interaction on a whole new level, and chances are, you are too (bizarre stories and all). It’s no wonder that landscaping company Yardzen has seen rising demand for “social front yards,” aka spaces that encourage neighbors to stop by and catch up.
The concept itself is nothing new, Yardzen CEO and cofounder Allison Messner says:
“People have long congregated on their front porches and stoops as [an] in-between space between home and community. But, during the pandemic, as all of us lived our lives within the confines of our properties, we saw a 10x increase in the number of people who wanted to safely socialize with their community at home, and the front yard became the place to do so.”
And as many parts of the country combat drought, homeowners are rethinking what their front yards could—and should—look like. Suddenly, replacing a water-hungry lawn with a permeable hardscape or groundcover and a hangout seems more appealing than ever.
So what does it take to create a social front yard? It’s not too different than decorating your house, honestly.
1. Divide your yard into ‘rooms.’
For a lot of people, a front yard is basically…a lawn. With a driveway. But if can be broken up into multiple areas to serve different needs. Maybe you want a small garden by your front windows. Maybe a bistro set for a quick chat with a friend near the door. Or, instead of a big wraparound porch, maybe a pergola with a dining table underneath for alfresco dinners under the stars. (To that end, Yardzen’s received four times as many requests for pergolas in 2021 as they did last year. And it’s likely to boost your home’s resale value.)
2. Choose your flooring.
Once you’ve decided where you want to set up the hangout area of your yard, it’s important to think about what will be underfoot. You want it to be easy to pull out a chair or get around. “We often recommend a permeable hardscape, like gravel, pavers or decking,” Messner says. Gravel and pavers tend to be pretty low-maintenance and help conserve water, making them a popular choice right now.
3. Furnish your lounge.
Pergolas, plants, trees and low fences can all help define this space, Messner says, but what will really get people to stop and linger awhile is the furniture. “Adirondack chairs are a common request, but we’re also seeing a resurgence in porch swings and rocking chairs,” Messner says. “Hanging ‘egg chairs’ are trending—that’s what I have on my porch—as are gliders that don’t require mounting.” No matter what, Messner adds, you should focus on comfort. That might mean upgraded cushions or a fire pit for chilly fall nights; whatever makes the outdoor space feel as cozy to you as your living room’s sectional and the warm glow of Netflix’s “Are you still watching?” screen.
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