Lack of curb appeal is a problem for many homes. But the attractiveness of how a property appears from the street is not enough. The functionality of the home in terms of the flow of circulation both pedestrian and vehicular is important as well.  Here we have a case study I will call Sedona curb appeal problem solved, of course located in Sedona Arizona where the clients approached me to consult with them about how to fix an issue they realized they had after purchasing the home some six months earlier.

The house was designed on a sloping lot where the garage is situated towards the rear of the lot and accessed by a long driveway off to one side of the property. The front door is on the upper main floor and does not face the street although there is a sidewalk that leads to the entry.

The “before” picture below shows how the house looks from street view.  As you can see, there is not much curb appeal. But the aesthetics are just part of the problem.

Here we see an aerial photo showing the issues with this property in terms of front entry, curb appeal and circulation.  The problem is when new visitors come to the property, they pull into the driveway and are taken down to the lower level garage where the front door is not visible. People are lost not knowing where the front door is and end up knocking on the garage door.


Although the sidewalk at the upper street level leads to the front door, it cannot be seen and there is no shoulder to park on along the street. It can be confused for the side of the house given the driveway is the alternate entry point. People would believe that driving into the driveway, the entry will be revealed, but unfortunately, they just get confused.

The problem with the front entry curb appeal is that the concrete sidewalk alone is not enough to tell people that it leads to the front door. The plantings are so boring that the eye keeps looking for signs of “welcome, you are at the right place” or other signals.

One idea the homeowners thought of was a very straightforward solution to build stairs from the lower level accessing the second floor and front door. A small sign would be added to further guide people up the stairs to the entry.

I agreed that was indeed a solution, but when I approached the property for the first time as a visitor knowing their issue, I immediately noticed that they had no curb appeal and that the entry must be embellished to call attention to it so that it was obvious where to go whether you were walking along the street or approaching in a car.  The front yard was virtually unlandscaped with a large gravel expanse which was conducive for a semicircular driveway.

With the inclusion of the mailbox in the middle of the driveway island, the property address clearly visible on the corner of the house near the front door and additional plantings to draw the eye towards the entry, the front yard now successfully invites people to drive up and enter through the front door and not get lost in the lower garage level.

We did include a paver sidewalk from the new circular drive that leads to a set of steps connecting the lower and upper areas. Plantings were used on both levels to unify both spaces. The stairs were added not only to unify the separate levels, but to act as a back up in case some people try entering through the old driveway and not the new paver driveway.

Below is the front yard at the completion of the new paver driveway. The plantings will take some time to mature, and will only add to the overall curb appeal.

The homeowners are most pleased with the solution. Another Sedona curb appeal problem solved.

As a landscape designer, I am brought in to help a new owner deal with the existing landscaping that they inherit in the process of buying their new home. Sometimes the landscaping really helps convince buyers to go ahead and purchase the property as they would not have to put a lot of work into making changes.  Other people are not concerned about the landscape or consider it a low priority to address soon after the purchase.

I recently completed a project where the new owner purchased a property and had no intention of keeping the existing courtyard as is.  The landscaping needs much work as the past owners did little to fix some of the inherent problems that the original owner created. Apparently they were do it yourself types and created some issues that from a design standpoint, are difficult to deal with without costly improvements.

The front courtyard had a rather bold structure that the original owner had built himself — a koi pond built of concrete that was about 7 feet deep and a very large biological filter that was about 4 feet above the pond. My clients had no intention of assuming maintenance of the pond and the 36 koi still living in the pond.

They found a new home for all of the koi, but were left with a huge concrete shell that they felt was out of scale for the courtyard. It dominated the space and so it had to be removed.  Sometimes, a homeowner who has a passion for gardening, or in this case raising koi, can lose sight of the impact of creating such a structure. But who knows, they may have had the intention to live there forever. But things change.

My client called me in to help them transform the courtyard into a more low maintenance, useable and pleasant sitting space so they could view the magnificent red rocks to the north. They did want a ‘water feature’ but were not sure about what it would look like. They did want a naturalistic feel and perhaps a hint of Asian influence if that was possible. They also had a set budget and so designing this new courtyard with a fixed amount was easy for me to accommodate their desire for a unique design that they could afford.

Fortunately, the infrastructure of the courtyard was decent. There was a wide expansive walkway leading to the front door and wooden deck as well as a river rock swale that handled most of the drainage from the rear of the property that had to remain.

After we completed the project, we stood out in the courtyard and realized they could have an even better space if the walls forming the courtyard were moved out or modified in some way. Maybe after a few years, they will see the benefit, and want a follow up transformation. But for now, they have what they wanted within budget and are very pleased with the outcome. I hope they find the time to enjoy it as often as they can.

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