If there’s one thing we took away from the past year, it was appreciation of home and our own spaces. Being forced to spend more time in our abodes than ever before, home has become a more happy spot than it once was for a lot of people. Many of those who were constantly ‘out’ or going places, found themselves with serious home time and as a result some took the opportunity to create something more cozy and appealing.
In our own little cul-de-sac in Northern California, that has meant using all the spaces of the home, and that includes our front yards as well. The previous ‘just for looks’ front yard has shifted to a space people want to be out in. It’s gives you an opportunity use a previously underutilized area, and also connect with neighbors in a socially distanced or closer way!
I’ve been meaning to write about this trend for a while since we decided to add a front patio to the home remodel in the late stages. I knew I wanted French Doors in the front, but they made no sense if there wasn’t a patio for them to open out onto. After looking at many homes in the Willow Glen section of San Jose, I decided I wanted a small patio and a Mediterranean type of low wall that could be used for seating as well. We figured we might as well use some of that front yard for actual enjoyment, instead of more plants. We removed the grass and added new native landscaping and the patio seemed to work well with that. We feel lucky to have put it in just before the pandemic.
This is few photos of the before and after of our front yard.. We lived here for ten years before remodeling. Taking out a huge Sequoia that was dying and also lifting the foundation, created an uneven look, so with the remodel it was an opportunity to rethink the whole space.
This was right after plants were put in..
And today the plants after almost 2 years..
Coincidentally, three of our neighbors also added front patios, two in the past year. Our neighbors Ben and Becca were the first. They have a great corner lot. Their rounded and slightly elevated patio/entry just sets off their house beautifully, which has also been updated with all their pretty landscaping.
Before and after..
Isn’t this lovely? They really use their patio and enjoy being out there, having a coffee or a glass of wine after dinner on just keeping watch on their three kids having fun on scooters and such on our street..I just love the pretty stone they used on the patio and their fireplace here.
Our neighbor Wen, who is studying design, besides working, created her own space too. Wen has school age kids who often did their class work outside during the pandemic. Previously, it was a small porch and lawn.
Before and after..
They have enjoyed the views of the mountains from the front and being outdoors the past year. It is a very spacious area now, and she still has plenty of yard.
Next door, my neighbors Ginger and Tao have two younger ones and spend evenings and weekends with their small tykes taking their first steps and learning how to ride a bike, while they garden, or chat with family. Their parents often come for extended visits and enjoy the sunshine out there too!
Before and after..
I like the modern furniture and clean vibe of their home. This space was previously part of the driveway!
One benefit of having a front patio is the ability to relax, and if you have kids you keep an eye out while children play. Another is grabbing a bit of sun or fresh air. For us, it’s our cooler months patio as the backyard is darker in winter, but the front porch is an enjoyable place to savor a book and a cup of tea to just warm up on a cold day.
What I love very much about these front spaces is the ability to connect more fully with your community. Thanks to the patio, we know our neighbors even better since this pandemic began.
The other benefit- using the property you own! How crazy is it that some of us sit in a small house, and have a spacious front yard that sits looking like country club and filled with fertilizers to keep it like a carpet, and is going unused? Why not use the space? If you can get rid of the grass, even better. My neighbors all kept some grass for their small ones to play. You can have both if you want to.
You don’t need a house to do this. Even just placing a chair or bistro set in the front of your patio, in a condo or apartment looks inviting and you’ll be tempted to take a break out there and get social.
When I was last in Europe, this is a big thing, a ritual each evening I noticed. Rome was one place that people dragged chairs out to each doorstep and each night enjoyed a bit of conviviality with neighbors and passer bys. They say people who live in cultures where they socialize daily live the longest. Just love this article about Italians.
Here are other inspiring front spaces that have been transformed..
My talented friend Annie, creator of the blog, Most Lovely Things has always done inviting front porches and her new home in Connecticut is no exception. It’s a beautiful home just four houses from the beach, and Annie created a space to hang and also connect with the neighborhood. Annie says, ” People are always out on their porches and neighbors know each other and help each other. I feel like it builds community.” Annie lives on Long Island Sound and her front porch is a lounging space, but she has also used it for dining with friends on colder days. I love how Annie made this feel cozy and inviting.
Annie even set a table out here on a day there was a chance of rain last fall. It is always so much more fun eating outdoors…
Sometimes it’s easy as adding a chair to front to give your home more curb appeal- and a reminder to use the area! This Home of actress Minnie Driver’s in Elle Decor is made so inviting by these chairs…
This home on Houzz, Brandon Pass architect, has the roof extended with a pergola and a whole living area built.
This contemporary home in Orlando has a ready to socialize vibe..
This front patio below, is so simple, just slightly elevated and surrounded by plants and lawn from Newport Beach based, Black Band Design.
I also love this patio added to the update of a 1969 ranch home in Denver.
This Orange County home was updated and given a space with a simple roof extension.
When searching for front patio spaces, I found the inspiring account of the talented Kelly Vandenberg on Instagram and love her whole house! The front patio is especially lovely..I love how inviting this looks in an entry area.
I hope this has been helpful and a little inspiration if you are planning to remodel..or just use the front spaces of your home more!
The landscape on my house by The Garden Group and design by Carla Olivet.
Here’s a few items for the front patio I love..
Photos NorthernCalStyle, unless linked to another source.
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Wonderful! And the more neighbors like you all do this, the more we can gravitate to being a walking culture, so good things all around:).
Lisa, You are so right, and I believe this is one step toward a better walk/bike lifestyle! Thanks so much. xx
Annie Diamond says
Kim! I love the idea of using our front yards and making it a space that’s inviting and comfortable! It really does connect you with your neighbors! I love how you landscaped and used all native plants! Your space is so welcoming! I know I would sure like to join you for an iced tea out there someday! Thanks so much for including me in your post, Kim!
Annie thanks so much. Your front porch has inspired me so much..I would love to have a cover too so we could have cozy meals out there like you. Thank you for letting me share the cool things you do! xo
Your front patio is so inviting, and it adds so much to the appeal of the house from the street.
In my head I’ve designed so many of these spaces: for the house where my parents used to live, for our former rental when we were rebuilding our house, for a cottage I rented when I was just starting out, for a ranch house I lived in out in the country. I love being able to sit outside and watch the world go by! We have big decks on both sides of our house and they are used constantly.
Annie’s porch is really welcoming and looks so comfy!
Hope you had a great weekend,
Thank you Heidi. I was hoping it gave to a little more interest and appeal. I mean it’s a small ranch! It’s kind of fun imagining how these patios can change up a house right? You are so fortunate Heidi to have those decks! I would be out there all the time. xo
LA CONTESSA says
I thought this was a VERY GOOD POST!
I ESPECIALLY LIKED THE BEFORE AND AFTER SHOTS!
AGAIN this has a more Southern California FEEL TO IT!I THINK ITS LOVELY ESPECIALLY WHEN YOU LIVE ON A CUL DE SAC LIKE WE DO!
I WOLD LIVE OUTSIDE ON YOUR PATIO AS I BET YOU DO!
AGAVE are FINE!!!
Thank you so much Elizabeth. I always like a good before and after! Yes we are lucky to be on courts aren’t we? Okay good to now my agave guys are fine! I think you need a front porch too! xo
Such an interesting post Kim and a great use of space! I love the idea! All the patio areas look so fresh and modern. Plus the resulting effect of more socialising with your neighbours is wonderful.
I’d love a house with a front patio like yours or a porch like Annie’s. I especially like the wrap around ones, that continue along the side of the house.
I don’t have as much space as you do, at the front plus we built forward a little when we did our building work. We do have a small porch area the width of the house but it’s not really spacious enough to have a table etc there. I’ve often thought about a bench or similar though, as it gets so much sun.
You’ve certainly encouraged me to have a re think! I can certainly think of houses near to me where it would work beautifully as they have larger spaces at the front, that aren’t really used at all … other than for cars on the driveway.
I agree completely with Lisa’s comment as I love that I can walk to most places that I need or want to go … one of the main reasons we chose to live where we do. 😊
I hope you’re having a lovely weekend and that the sunshine shining in your gorgeous patio!
Hi Rosemary, Thank you! I had fun with this post. I love the wrap around porches too. I know isn’t it funny how you can have a space and just take it for granted that it’s as it is.. So many porches just sitting the same for ages, but as you say a re-think could make it a useful space… I always find it interesting looking at the potential of other’s homes too..LOL. You are so lucky to be in a community that is so walkable. We are hoping ours gets that way. Thank you was a lovely weekend. I hope yours was too. xo
Oops not sure what happened there, but I guess you knew what I meant lol … “ the sun is shining on your gorgeous patio “ ☀️☀️☀️
Those are some very pretty patios. It’s definitely nice to spend time outdoors in warmer weather. Here we get eaten alive by mosquitoes unless we have the citronella candles going.
Lorna Thanks ! I didn’t realize you guys had a lot of evening bugs. We are pretty lucky in California it’s not an issue usually..
Kim, I don’t think I’d ever seen a before photo of your house … now I appreciate your vision and the transformation all the more. This front patio trend is one I can get on board with … it’s rare for those of us on the West Coast to have a traditional porch so turning our front spaces into living areas is the way to go. I love what your neighbors did too … how fun for all of you to be out on warm summer evenings chit chatting away from those inviting spaces. We use our front patio a lot … and keep a small dining table out there. Our house sits a bit elevated from the street and is screened by tall shrubbery … but we still enjoy the option of sitting and eating out front as well as in back. When I was growing up we often sat on our front step in the summer and watched the neighbors go by on their way to and from the bike trail … waited for the ice cream truck or for other kids to come out and start a street game. As for Annie’s front porch … well, its amazing and I love it. I dream of a traditional front porch, but what you and your neighbors have created is just as beautiful and functional. Love it. xo
Elena Gilbert says
This is a great post! I’m in the process of remodeling my patio and this is exactly what I’m looking for. Thanks for the inspiration!
Hi Kim! I stumbled upon your blog upon searching for front patio ideas and love your post and beautiful transformations! I’m also in the Bay Area (Willow Glen) and wondering if you can recommend a landscape design company. Since we’re in a drought, our lawn looks terrible and we are thinking of making our front lawn into usable space with trees/drought-resistant plants, instead of having a lawn. Did you and your neighbors use a design company to help come up with the plans? I appreciate it greatly and look forward to hearing from you.
Hi Christine, I love that we did this!! I would do its again.
We used the Garden Group, and Cristobal Torres is the head guy/owner. Wonderful team of competent people who show up, do great work! They get booked, so it could take time to get them. He has a few designers that work with him and he referred one to me!! I hope that helps! Best of luck!
Thank you so much for your reply, Kim! I really appreciate it! I will give them a call for a referral of a designer, as my husband and I will need the help. We have a general idea in mind, but don’t really know how to execute. I really look forward to getting this started. Thank you again sincerely.
Sure! So happy to help. Wishing you the best with this. You’re going to love it.