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7 Smart Ideas to Make Your Front Yard More Functional

By Sarah Finazzo July 17, 2023

functional front yard

A front yard doesn't just have to be about curb appeal. It can serve a number of purposes, especially if you are tight on space. From relaxation to a play space for kids or even an entertaining area - creating a functional front yard can change the way you enjoy your home.

What is a functional front yard?

A functional front yard is a front yard that is designed and utilized for purposes beyond just aesthetic appeal. Rather than simply being a an entry to admire, a functional front yard is also used for practical purposes such as outdoor activities, gardening, or as an extension of the home's living space.

Examples of functional elements that could be incorporated into a front yard might include a vegetable garden, an outdoor seating area on a patio or porch, a play area for children, or even a pollinator garden for attracting wildlife.

Read on to learn how to think about changing the layout of your yard to make it more functional -- and get inspired by some unique front yard ideas.

How do I make my front yard functional?

If your front yard isn't working for you or you are looking to maximize your space, here are some things you should consider before putting a shovel in the ground.

Establish How You Use Your Front Yard

Consider how you currently use your front yard and what works and doesn't work. Also consider who will be using the space? Do you have children, pets or visiting guests that you can carve out additional functional space in your front yard.

Prioritize Your Front Yard Needs

How do you want to use your front yard? Are you looking for a social front yard? Is a low maintenance design of utmost importance? Do you need more privacy? More space for the kids? Or just a place to relax and have a morning cup of coffee?

What are Your Barriers to a Functional Space?

Are there any barriers that prevent you from utilizing your yard as you hope that can be fixed through your landscape design? For example, is it sloped? Do you need a retaining wall to create more usable space? Is it on a busy street? Could you add a white picket fence for some separation to keep the kids safe? Is your backyard tiny and you could create a seating area on your front porch to double your entertaining square footage?

Once you've established any barriers you can then see if there is a good solution to reach your yard goals.

Determine Your Budget

What is your budget for creating a functional front yard? How much time and money are you willing to invest in your outdoor space? This will affect the size of the changes you make, the materials you pick or how you prioritize your list of wants and needs.

7 Ideas to Make a More Functional Front Yard

When it comes to creating a functional front yard, inspiration can come from a variety of sources. One great way to start is by taking a look at other homes in your neighborhood or online for ideas. Consider what features and designs stand out to you, and how you can adapt them to fit your own space and needs. Scroll to see some of our favorite Tilly plans with different functional front yard ideas!

1 // Add Privacy

If you are looking to add privacy to your yard there are many design ideas that can help. Different trees or hedges are great options depending on your local codes or HOA rules you can often solve privacy. Just make sure any plants you add to your yard are appropriate for your local climate.

functional front yards with tree privacy

2 // Maximize Your Outdoor Living Space

If your lacking room in the backyard, consider a front patio or a nice social space to entertain or relax. This can be as simple as Adirondack chairs placed by your front garden or could be more established such as a brick patio with a lounge seating area or couch.

functional front yards with seating areas and garden beds

3 // Vegetable Gardens Aren't Only for the Back

Vegetable gardens need a lot of sun! If your backyard isn't sunny you can consider adding a vegetable garden in your front yard. Just make suer you have an easy way to water and harvest your crops.

front yard designs with an herb garden

4 // Fire Pits Make Great Use of Front Yard Space

A fire pit space in the front of the house? Why not! Utilize all your outdoor spaces. The whole neighborhood can enjoy the fire while the kids bike down the sidewalk.

fire pit

5 // Treat Your Front Porch as an Outdoor Living Room

Style your front porch as an outdoor living room. Add a small seating area, such as a couch or chairs and turn your front yard into a relaxing space to read a book or enjoy a cup of coffee.

front porch with an outdoor living room feel

6 // Have a Clear Path to Your Front Door

For something to be functional, it needs to provide a helpful purpose. A path or walkway will create a sense of structure and organization in your front yard, as well as making it easier to access different areas of the space. Make sure your walkways are in the most functional places - such as to and from the garage, sidewalk or leading to a backyard gate.

front yards with a clear walkway

7 // Play Areas for Outdoor Living

Front yards aren't just about curb appeal. If you have children, consider incorporating a play area into your front yard, such as a sandbox, swing, climbing rings on trees. You can do a lot with a little space.

yard space for the kids

Tips for Planting in Front Yards

You don't have to be a landscape architect to create a beautiful landscape design, however we know it can be intimidating! Here are a few tips on how to think about updating your front yard:

  1. Consider Your Climate and Zone: Different plants thrive in different environments. Consider what zone you are in and the amount of sunlight and soil type in your front yard when choosing plants. Choose native plants to help your local wildlife thrive!
  2. Create Layers and Texture: Use a variety of plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers to create depth and texture in your front yard. Layer your landscaping with tall plants or shrubs in the back, then a middle layer and then lower plants in front. Having only two of three layers can leave a space feeling blank, varying heights and textures will add interest and dimension to your design.
  3. Keep Maintenance in Mind: Consider the amount of time and effort you're willing to devote to maintaining your front yard when choosing plants and a design. Opt for low-maintenance native plants, drought resistant or xeriscaping if you're looking to relax more than you weed!
  4. Sometimes Less is More: If you aren't sure where to start, go simple! Start with a small plant palette and color palette and place your plants symmetrically around your front door. If your front feels overgrown, remove plants you don't love - sometimes it's easier to see a vision when the space is less busy!
  5. Seasonality for Curb Appeal: The most beautiful designs make the most of the seasons. Work to have some greenery year round and then different plants blooming at different times of the year. Not only will people passing by enjoy this, but your local wildlife (as long as the plants are native) will thrive too!
  6. Remember the Mature Size: When planting, remember that you are not buying a full size plant. Check how large your plant will grow and place it the appropriate distance from its neighbor!

outdoor rooms
outdoor living room and dining area

About Tilly

Tilly’s easy online landscape design process has been embraced by homeowners across the country. Tilly breaks packages into the Front Yard, Backyard or Full Yard. We match you with a professional landscape designer who is familiar with your region to create the perfect custom plan for your outdoor space.

To start our process you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your property that helps our design team understand your goals, needs and existing landscape. You can add 3d renders, lighting plans or side yards to your design package. You’ll then meet with your designer on a video call, show them your space and discuss your priorities.

Whether you are just looking to add some curb appeal or transform your entire backyard - we have a team for you!

Read more about: Landscape Design Tips