court/house wedding

June 19th 2012 Comments: 3 Topics: , ,

First impressions are of great importance. A house is no exception.

In residential design, much emphasis is given to the entrance sequence, mainly the door and the foyer just for this reason. It’s the designer’s opportunity to play an overture to introduce the play within. In most instances, however, the visitor’s welcome to the home is not arrival by foot at the front doorstep; the introduction is done in the driveway.

The advent of the automobile certainly revolutionized the way we travel but it also changed the way we experience a house. The designer’s ever-consistent vision should be evident as soon as the visitor enters the property and that’s usually in a car. Regularly, though, the lowly vehicle is not given the same reverential design treatment as its passenger; they’re usually relegated to dull driveways or quickly squirreled out of sight of the front door. We rely on them heavily but they’re design eyesores once abandoned.

In many of the grand country homes of Europe, the outdoor arrival court was a splendid and bustling spectacle of visitors, servants, chauffeurs, luggage and pomp. When one arrived by car or carriage to one of these homes, one had, indeed, “arrived”. The welcome mat was spread broad and wide in firmly packed gravel. In today’s suburban world, we slump through a garage, enter a service door, go past the laundry room to visit a friend. A dismal journey, but one all too familiar in contemporary homes.

I submit the modern motor court should be designed with the same theatrical spirit of those found in European country homes. It should greet the motorized caller and owner equally with open arms and be as wonderfully experiential as any part of the house’s interior. House and court sensibilities should be seamlessly wed. Besides, after suffering through miles of the visually offensive interstates, streets and bypasses of our daily lives, we should be graciously escorted into quiet respite as we return home.


  1. Jon Blunt, ASID says:

    I love this concept and think the examples are beautiful. I also wonder how we put this into use in the many more modest homes in our country. How do we redesign the 2 bedroom ranch house to not just have the appearance of a concrete slab and big garage door as the only thing you see when you approach the house.

  2. In reply to Jon above a lot of times the appearance of any home can be fixed simply with plantings. Most people plant evergreen shrubs to close and in front of their homes and call it good. Most place small plantings such as annuals in spots that should have taller flowers. This excellent post is a start but for those that don’t have a long drive or gates should think about pulling their plantings away from the house for definition. Plants should be thought of as the finishing touch like a pillow on a sofa.

  3. Nancy says:

    You are so right! What a pleasure it would be to come home to such a welcoming entrance.

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