How to create a sense of arrival

Here’s a great example of creating a better first impression. The new entryway practically beckons guests to the door. Before, an expansive asphalt driveway butted directly against the stark white walls of this unadorned Mediterranean-style home, and there wasn’t any attractive landscaping to soften the appearance and draw the eye.

Landscaper and contractor Mike Thomas created a gracious sense of arrival by adding layers of plants and hardscape at various heights along the approach, defining a clear path to the front door. He reduced the amount of asphalt with curved planting beds close to the house. These beds direct guests to the entry path, which is framed by a pair of tall terra-cotta planters. A trellised gateway rises from low garden walls and is partly covered by wisteria and clematis.

Drought-tolerant trees, vines, and naturalized and native plants, as well as architectural details―including a high trellis near the roof line of the formerly blank wall―add texture and definition to the entrance. Beyond the gateway trellis, a new stone path leads to an expanded entry stairway. The impact of the remodel is friendly and immediate, as if the host has rushed out front to welcome you with a cheerful “buon giorno.”

The designer used a variety of elements to make the entrance more welcoming.

Soften the hardscape. An earthy color palette, layered plantings, and a trellis at the top of the long house wall create a softer first impression.

Use color. A light-hued concrete border contrasts with the dark asphalt to create a strong visual boundary for the driveway.

Make it easy. A passenger drop-off point is one step above the pavement.

Create a focal point. Urns flanking a gateway establish a clear entrance.

Use natural borders. Plantings spill over the edges of the path, defining it in a naturalistic way.

Lead the eye. The gateway frames part of the curving balustrade, helping to point the way to the front door.

Design: Mike Thomas and Jason Bowman, California Horticulture Landscape Construction, Campbell, CA (408/364-3190)