When I started fencing there was one main reason that I began focusing on wood fences exclusively; the joy I receive from working with wood. Wood is such a warm and welcoming material to work with. In conveys a warmth in the structures that have utilized wood in a more active roll in the design. There are countless ways in which wood can be used. It can be cut and molded to make truly inspiring, contemplative, and relaxing spaces. This is true for indoors too, but my focus here is on outdoor design. The focus of this article is how to use design to create a wood fence that enhances an already existing or planned outdoor space. It’s not going to be a how to article, but more of a discussion to get you thinking about what you enjoy most from your outdoor space and how that can be enhanced by the final design of a wood fence.
More of the fences I focus on these days have to do with builds that are beyond your standard fence. There is certainly nothing wrong with the regular privacy fences you see on a regular basis. They serve a utilitarian need for those who need them. However, my joy for building has lead me further into the more interesting builds. Fence builds and gate entry ways that are more a part of the homes architectural elements and/or as a component of a larger landscape concept. This allow me to work on building projects that are enjoyable and allow my creativity and love for craftsmanship to come through.
I was recently reading a landscape design book titled, “Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love” by Julie Moir Messervy. A particular sentence stood out to me, “Good fences can make your backyard a sanctuary of beauty and meaning–a personal piece of of paradise that you’ve carved out on your own.” In this context a fence is a part of a greater whole. Designed and built well, a wood fence contributes to a greater vision of a space; your vision. My role is simply understanding that vision and building in a way that reflects that vision.
This reminds me of the build I did in Fall 2019. The client had recently redesigned the landscaping and had created a very intimate, personal outdoor space in Norton Commons. The fence was the last piece of the project. They weren’t exactly sure of what they wanted, but after several conversations and sharing photos of various styles, we were able to create something that was more than they were expecting. This is not always an easy accomplishment, but it’s far easier if you listen deeply to what is wanted and needed by the client. I’m not a landscape architect, but I do love the outdoors and find respite from the world during my walks and time spent simply being in nature. This has often made it easier for me to understand the unspoken in my clients wants. To know the peace and recuperative energy that comes with a space to simply be with the elements. This is often a difficult need to convey, sometimes even to ourselves, but it definitely enhances my understanding…
If you’re just beginning the process of working on planning your outdoor sanctuary and are considering adding a fence, sitting area, or entry way there are a few questions I ask my clients when working on these types of projects. First, take some time to sit in the area. Make a note of what you enjoy most. Is it a specific view? Are you most likely to use the area in the morning or evenings? Where does the sun rise and set in relation to the space as a whole? Take a moment to “feel” the energy of the space. Begin from this place of understanding. There will be plenty of time to decide on various trees and plants you would like to have around you. Whether a water feature is desired. What hardscapes you would like. However, if you understand your “why” then all the other elements will fall in to place. Planning from this place, this understanding of your being in a space, will go a long way to creating a space that enhances those joys instead of diminishing them.
Julie’s book is a great read for anyone seeking to add to their outdoor space. I’ll leave you with a few tips she has as they relate to fences:
- When deciding on the style of fence, take your cue from your house. Each home has it’s on style. If you really want to bring harmony to the space choose a style of fence that compliments the type of home you have.
- When creating a design, think about proportions. There are several suggestions she gives here, like attempting to keep post spacing the same as the spacing between columns on a porch or window spacing on a house. I’ve found that paying attention to proportions, especially creating pergola or arbor entry ways, really makes a difference in the final outcome of a project.
- Balancing privacy while welcoming interaction with neighbors. Choosing an open concept fence, such as a picket fence, and combining with a privacy panel in the areas where privacy is wanted is a good balance. For some, having an inviting space is more important than maximum privacy and this should be given consideration early in the design process.
How we design our outdoor spaces is just as much a reflection of who we are and what we value as the interior of our homes. If your design includes a one of a kind wood fence, arbor, or transitional entry way then send me an email and let’s discuss your ideas. I’m always happy to help with these kinds of projects.