Outside the Not So Big House

I bought this book last fall intending to spend the winter planning the front courtyard of my house. It didn’t work out the way I wanted, so now I am finally getting around to it, looking for helpful ideas.

The originator of the concept of The Not So Big House, architect Sarah Susanka, teams up with landscape designer, Julie Moir Messervy, telling us how to work with those principles to open the relationship between a house and the land it was built on. They call it “the landscape of home.”

A sampling of their most important ideas:

Embracing the habitat of home -- using the natural setting of your site to your advantage.

Shelter -- you should feel protected and comfortable in your garden. A wall or canopy of trees or an upward hillside will increase your sense of enclosure and safety.

Framed openings—every window, or door, or gateway should have the most interesting view framed through it. Making connections between the inside of your home and the outside, entices people into the garden.

Flow – composing journeys for your visitors. Paths and stopping places make traveling through the landscape pleasant. Create “events” along the way, a fountain, a statue, a birdbath.

Light intensity variations – bright sunlight, dappled shade, and the relief of deep shadows should be available.

Outdoor rooms – separating activities by creating rooms, some big and some small, either public or quiet sheltered spots for private contemplation.

Details – crafting your landscape using materials and plants that compliment the house and the garden. Softening the hard edges of the landscape with plants.

Certainly a lot to think about. If you are going to do more than place a few plants around the yard, this book offers a new way of looking at your home landscape.

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