If local building codes allow it, you can block the view of a busy street and gain a bonus outdoor room by enclosing the portion of the front yard just outside the front door. For this project in Austin, Texas, Tim Cuppett Architects used three-quarter-inch-thick panels of frosted glass to create a luminous screen that increases privacy without decreasing light. Another way to allow some light to pass through a fence is to choose a style that includes latticed panels or to leave small gaps between horizontally placed boards.
Note: Your municipality likely regulates how high a fence can be and how far back it must sit from the street. So check your local building codes before starting a project.
Design tip: Use a fountain to cover up the noise of traffic with the soothing sound of running water. If noise abatement is a priority, opt for a fountain design that has a “fall” that will create a splash, rather than a spill-over-a-container design that has a more subtle sound.
A front patio enclosed with lattice fencing is a useful solution for those looking for some privacy and security but who would also like to chat with their neighbors.
Designer Ian Moore used a concrete retaining wall in this Berkeley garden to bring the level of the sloped front yard up to the home’s foundation, creating room for a front gravel terrace slightly raised above sidewalk level.
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A combination of trees, tall shrubs and smaller hedge plants can be used in tandem to create a leafy barrier between the home and a busy street, or to selectively screen unwanted views. One of the advantages of using foliage to screen rather than fencing is that there are often fewer regulations on height and setback for “living fences” than constructed ones.
For this Northern California property, landscape architect Katharine Webster used a dense hedge of Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana) to screen passing cars from view.
Design tip: If you like the leafy green look of hedges but need more noise reduction or security than plants provide on their own, hide a noise barrier wall between two rows of hedges — if allowed by your local building codes. The combination of both a soft barrier (hedge) and a hard barrier (wall) is the most effective at absorbing sound.
Formerly a purely utilitarian building style used for retaining slopes, gabion walls have increasingly been finding other uses in residential landscape design. Made from a combination of wire cages filled with chunks of rock, these often 2- to 3-foot-thick walls make one of the best sound barriers around. The uneven surfaces of the chunky rocks in the wire cage absorb more sound than a more traditional smooth rock wall does, as smooth walls simply cause noise to bounce back.
5. Movable Barrier
Tall potted plants in the right spot can help create a visual separation between a public space and a private one, helping an entrance feel more removed from a busy street. Plus, they can be a useful solution for renters or anyone who is unable to build a fence or more permanent barrier.
Design tip: Choose hardworking evergreen plants or large-scale ornamental grasses, rather than flowers, to act as a moveable privacy hedge. Taller containers and dense foliage can also help with some noise abatement.
If security and privacy are primary concerns, opting for a wall or fence with a lockable gate is your best bet. The wall’s height and material, and the distance it needs to be set back from the street, are often dictated by local municipal codes.
Even if your local building codes do not require the wall to be set back, it can increase your curb appeal to do so. Leave at least 1 foot, ideally 2 to 3 feet, between the fence and the road or sidewalk to allow planting space for hedges, perennials and vines to soften the wall and provide interest to passersby.
Freestanding wall panels can reflect street noise and provide solid barriers for privacy while also leaving plenty of room for landscape plants. Depending on how you position your freestanding walls, you can also create a partially enclosed entryway courtyard.