As the saying goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” That adage also applies to the entrances of your home and garden. Thresholds set up a feeling of anticipation and give hints of what guests can expect as they move into your private realm. Here’s how to make sure your entry extends a warm welcome:
Start at the property line. You may think of a garden gate or front door as your entrance, but guests get their first impression the minute they step onto your property. Place clear directional guides—such as a wide walkway, an arbor, a pair of containers, or large matching shrubs—at the perimeter of your property to direct visitors’ attention to the entrance.
If the door or gate is not in immediate view when visitors approach, help steer them in the right direction with additional points of punctuation along the way, such as rhythmically spaced shrubs lining the walk or a prominent focal point that draws them to the next turn in the path.
Create a smooth transition. When guests reach your door, greet them with an area that mixes indoor and outdoor elements. By placing a chair, bench, or cushioned settee near the entry, you help soften the line between your home and garden. Weather-resistant fabrics and rugs, outdoor lamps, and decorative containers filled with colorful plants create a look that blends interior comfort with the beauty of nature. The mix offers a relaxed, “sit-a-while” feel that also draws your family outside to enjoy the scenery. These in-between spots enlarge the feeling of adjacent areas indoors and out, making both feel larger.
Build continuity. To strengthen the connection between your home and garden, repeat the same materials, colors, and architectural elements. For example, if your home’s porch has columns, duplicate that element in an arbor at the entrance to your garden. If your home is brick, incorporate the same material in steps, pillars, or planters in the entry. You’ll be amazed how this technique unifies the look of your property.
As you assemble plants, containers, furnishings, and objects to accent your home’s entryway, choose items that match the style of the house. Two wooden half-barrel containers would be as out of place in front of a Victorian home as a pair of highly ornate iron urns at the entrance to a rustic cabin. When the décor at the entrance complements the colors and style of the house, it makes the transition between indoors and outdoors smooth and cohesive.
Make it personal. Surprise and delight guests by displaying your personality and sense of humor in your entryway. Since people often stop at a gate or door before they enter, they are more likely to notice things there. Add items that reveal something about you, such as a plaque with a favorite saying, a memento from a trip, a colorful hat, or a handmade object. One of my clients had a large ceramic goose that welcomed guests to her front door. All year long, she costumed the goose with seasonally appropriate outfits for the amusement of her visitors.
Keep it easy. For gardeners with limited time, there are many new products that take the work and worry out of dressing up your doorways. Beautiful outdoor furniture that can stand up to the elements is available in styles and materials that complement interior furnishings. And striped awning fabric is no longer the only choice for pillows, cushions, and tablecloths. Rugs, lighting, clocks, and art all come in weather-resistant materials. Self-watering containers, lightweight faux stoneware pots, and low-maintenance plants make amplifying your entryway even easier.
Layer Your Look
Here’s how to use containers as a quick and easy way to enhance your entry:
• Lead visitors up flower-strewn steps to your doorway by positioning colorful containers along the way. Make sure your stairway is wide enough to allow visitors to get past the containers as they enter your home.
• Welcome guests with an eye-level bouquet of fragrant and colorful flowers in a hanging basket near the door, or on a table just outside the threshold.
• Frame the entry with a pair of matching containers to give it more importance and architectural interest.
P. Allen Smith (www.pallensmith.com) is a professional garden designer, host of two national TV programs, a regular guest on the “Today” show, and author of P. Allen Smith’s Container Gardens (Clarkson Potter, 2005) and other books in the Garden Home series.