Imagine scaling more than 20 steps from the street to the front door over and over again. You'd have to be a Himalayan mountain guide to enjoy it. Of course, mountain guides rarely come calling in Dallas, so the homeowners here opted instead to make the experience pleasurable for ordinary people. Beckoning landings now partition the walk. They create friendly gathering areas and destinations, while also making the ascent to the door seem less daunting.
Sloping front yards such as this one are uncommon in the Highland Park section of Dallas. Because these homeowners like to entertain, landscape architect Paul Fields of Lambert Landscape Company took advantage of the unusual grade change to add a series of terraces where people can congregate, pause, and enjoy the views.
Starting from the street, you first arrive at a large stone landing surrounded by lush plantings that include azaleas, hydrangeas, ferns, and seasonal color. An iron bench to the side provides a nice place to sit and glimpse the park across the street. Three steps bring you to a smaller rectangular terrace and a different viewpoint. Ascend four more steps, and you come to a circular stone terrace just a short distance from the front door. Paul chose the circular shape because it provides a sense of order and arrival without being too formal. "It blends the lines of the architecture with the landscape's more natural setting," he explains.
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Have a Seat
Climb three final steps, and you reach perhaps the nicest gathering spot of all, a small limestone terrace right in front of the house. It features a low sitting wall--the perfect place to linger in the shade with a cool drink. From inside the living room, the wall serves an even more ingenious purpose. It is just high enough to block the view of the street, while preserving the view of the park beyond.
The Big Picture
Now return to the street to see the big picture. A mixture of colorful plants growing atop a stone wall separates the yard from the street. Paul took the idea from little towns in the English countryside where planted walls separate front gardens. Here it frames another welcoming space--a soft, green lawn with the terraces just behind. The slope that started out as a burden has become a beautiful asset.
"Happy Landings" is from the March 2008 issue of Southern Living.