Privacy without walls

How to create neighborly seclusion
Sharon Cohoon

Front-yard screening

When Billy Spratlin and Alex Kochnuk created a semihidden dining alcove in their front yard nine years ago, they started a trend in Bayshores, their Newport Beach, California, neighborhood.

As is typical in properties close to the beach, lots in this community are tiny. Yet, with the help of Tustin, California?based landscape architect Dale Waldo, they were able to carve out a delicious retreat in a pocket-size space.

The curved wall-planter that wraps around the dining area is only waist-high. But the judicious placement of plants ? a strawberry tree in the planter and several liquidambars screening a corner ? makes the space surprisingly private. "It feels sheltered without seeming unfriendly," says Spratlin.

Other Bayshores homeowners have copied the front courtyard idea since, he says. Linda and Russell Jacques, who also live in Bayshores, took a different approach with their front yard. Linda's main concern was making the shallow space feel more like a garden. The Jacques have a corner dining nook and a side patio that overlook this area. They wanted to see greenery and flowers from these vantage points, not pavement and cars. "But this is a neighborly community," says Linda, "and we didn't want to look unwelcoming."

Jay Rodriquez of Upper Crust Landscaping solved the problem through strategically placed berms and multitrunked pink melaleuca trees. The Jacques have the screening they want now but haven't walled themselves off from their neighbors ? and they have a prettier view, says Linda.

Page