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  • Writer's pictureTom Cavan


Creating a welcoming walkway entrance to your residence or place of business or a modest pathway leading to your backyard is the 1st impression and lasting impression when engaging in any landscape. As a designer, I have always thought (and recommend) of this element as holding your arms out to welcome someone when developing this space.

The walkway has to be to scale, complimentary to the architecture and natural surroundings. In my opinion, it should always be open and inviting from all directions and never be less than 5' in width at its narrowest point. Imagine walking arm and arm with someone you don't want to have to dodge physical impediments like plants, they should invite, envelope, and cool the space, not repel anyone visiting. Another anomaly of so many residential applications is the great distance designers and builders place between the driveway/parking to the front door. Cumbersome when guest have their hands full not to mention 3+ months of shoveling snow. Whenever possible I recommend reconfiguring the driveway to provide for closer access but that's not always possible.

Below is the before picture, a 42" width walk with concrete slabs lined up for take-off (functional but not appealing for a country estate home) 2' from the house, shrubs shoe-horned and heavily sheared in an attempt to control and also baking from the proximity reflecting off the building and concrete.

This long, narrow runway looks utilitarian, and the perception of a greater distance. Definitely out of scale concerning the residence. You will notice in the above photo that I implemented curving lines and changing widths which makes the distance optically closer and less arduous to the eye and more appealing. The shade trees cool the space from the mid-day sun and frame the invitation along with a generous mulch to regulate the soil temperatures. The deciduous trees change colours in the fall then defoliate and allow the winter sun to warm the path. If it were not for the Portico you would wonder Is that the direction to the front door?.

Also, what's with the asteroid on the lawn?

On many occasions, I have encountered entranceways in disguise with old overgrown plants that send a very negative impression, like Honey we forgot the machetti. This renovation now provides a breath of fresh air and an inviting experience.

The surrounding plant material should compliment the space and also handle snow load every winter. Whenever possible if conditions are suitable to selecting fragrant plants is very desirable.

In many respects walkways are outdoor hallways where you have a consistent material(flooring) leading to the open room. In this case, narrow access alongside the garage for visitors was split up between the walkway(5' width) and softscape gardens(4' width) with groundcover and vines leading to the patio (outdoor living space) and a smaller walkway from the garage for daily use. Very functional and beautiful square-cut stone pattern for stellar results.

New technologies in modular concrete, bring new opportunities for creating and enhancing the walkway experience with patterns, banding/edging inserting art forms, heck you can even create an Ecsher painting with the stuff, but like most trends, some take the artistic license beyond balance and many look confusing and some offensively gaudy, but whom am I to judge. The world's your oyster so go shucking.

Applications for country estate, woodland setting and natural landscapes walkways/pathways are best suited and created with natural stone.

There are so many options in the marketplace to provide a perfect fit for your dreamscape no matter what the scale and budget.

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