A functional front yard is more than found indoor/outdoor space. It’s a place to gather with friends, family, and neighbors—and the trend is hotter than ever.

Family sitting on porch
Thomas J. Story

Last July, I had a simple idea: I knew I loved “porch life”—AKA hanging out on my friend Matt Eddy’s wide front porch and visiting with him and his friendly neighbors—so I figured others might be interested in the concept, too. I wrote a story about it, and yowza, did that turn out to be true. Not only was the story my most read of last year, it turned out that I’d stumbled upon a trend that’s still on the rise.

Yardzen, an online landscaping company, reports that 37% of customers want plans for functional front yards—an increase from last year. Meanwhile, many clients are looking at social spaces as “default requirements” in their front yards: They see porch life not only as a way to build a social life with their neighbors, but also consider it a way to elevate the value of their homes.

To create the feeling of a wraparound porch for this beach shack, architects outfitted an enclosed area with wood windows.

Thomas J. Story

Tiny space? No problem. Designer Tim Pfeiffer and his partner, Matt Carvalho, turned a covered front porch into an inviting window seat at their home in Vashon Island, Washington.

Thomas J. Story

“People have expanded what curb appeal should achieve,” says Kevin Lenhart, the design director at Yardzen. Traditionally, people have always thought of curb appeal as relating to home value, of course. “But,” Lenhart says, “we now also see people seeking curb appeal because it makes their homes feel inviting—and if a social space does not feel inviting, it will not get used. In this sense, curb appeal is now also seen as a critical ingredient to the success of a social front yard.”

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Are you considering designing your front yard so you can host happy hours and neighborly chats? What about an actual dinner party or firepit time? If so, here are the hottest trends and fresh ideas for porch life 2022.

Raise That Bed

A small plant bed anchors the front of this home in L.A.’s Topanga Canyon

Thomas J. Story

“Clients tend to use edible gardens to activate trickier parts of their yard—the little nooks that get enough sunlight but aren’t great candidates for more primary design functions,” Lenhart says. However, he adds, there’s been an uptick in requests for edible gardens as focal points. “People are placing them in full view in the front yard for all the world to see. They’re fabulous activity generators, fun conversation starters, and effective setters of a comfortable, welcoming feel.”

Cozy up to the Fire

Landscape designer Scot Eckley transformed this Seattle front courtyard with garden views by the firepit.

Miranda Estes

According to Yardzen, firepits are in major demand. After all, they’re social hubs, and great magnets for the neighbors. “Firepits are also stylistically agnostic,” says Lenhart. “They can look equally at home in an upscale paved patio or a rustic gravel bed.”

Space to Relax Is Key

Family on Front Porch
We love the furnishings on the porch of Adam Sher and Lauren Soloff’s restored 1908 family home.

Thomas J. Story

Recently, Monrovia plant nursery company did a survey on upcoming trends, and 47% of 1,500 homeowners said their main motivation for outdoor projects was to create a space to relax and unwind. But just like with an indoor living room, Monrovia chief marketing officer Katie Tamony says people are investing in better furnishings, lasting materials, and upscale cushions. (She points to Restoration Hardware as a high-end line that sells outdoor furniture.)

That said, according to Yardzen, Adirondack chairs are having a moment, too—especially in a “fun color” like orange or turquoise.

Low Water and Native Plants Are In 

Porch
Succulents add to the allure of this front porch.

Jessica Alexander

“Some people want to save on water bills, others are ecologically motivated,” says Lenhart, but aesthetics are important, too, and native plants deliver. “People love the look of ornamental grasses layered against perennials with silvery foliage like Artemisia, and tall forbs with delicate flowers like Achillea [also known as yarrow],” he adds. “There’s also something beautiful about the motion of grasses, especially when juxtaposed against sculptural trees or succulents, or when framed by crisp hardscape boundaries.” 

Sunset Plant Collection, meanwhile, focuses on regionally climate-appropriate plants, which play well with native selections. The team recommends rosemary ‘Chef’s Choice,’ which is low-water and good for pollinators, for social front yards. “This culinary rosemary can provide enough fresh cuttings for the entire neighborhood to cook with,” says Janet Sluis, director of Sunset Plant Collection. “My neighbors know they can head over with their pruning shears anytime!” 

Rosemary

Sunset Plant Collection

She also recommends Salvia ‘Killer Cranberry’, a California native with red flowers that attract pollinators and hummingbirds, and won’t get so tall that it will screen out a social front yard from the street.

Salvia microphylla 'Killer Cranberry' plant

Sunset Plant Collection

Eating in Public

This Joshua Tree home‘s large front porch was designed with a hanging swing to enjoy the view, and built-in plaster seating was added for enjoying breakfast and coffee outdoors.

Swiley Interior Photography

When I wrote about this trend last summer, dining was still a backyard activity only. However, front yard dining tables are moving the party to the front. “Requests for front door dining areas are notably up from previous years,” Lenhart says. After all, if you’re going to do front yard social hours, why not do what one of my neighbors recently did—throw a barbecue into the mix?

Architectural Topiary Keeps Things Classy

“There’s a hot new topiary trend that’s all about architectural simplicity,” says Tamony of Monrovia. “By choosing a few well-structured topiary plants, you instantly give your front yard an elegant and finished look.”For a social front yard living room, she recommends creating symmetry with topiary at entry points or in the corners. Au courant shapes include globes, pyramids, and spirals—like the ones sold at Botanik in Summerland, California—along with “patio trees.” (As in, “shrubs that are shaped with the party on top,” she says.) The plants to use include boxwood, juniper, and cypress. Monrovia’s special recommendation? Its new juniper topiary, Limeade Spartan juniper, which has yellow highlights. 


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