FRONT PATIO PANACHE
Want to make your neighbourhood friendlier? Consider adding a front-yard patio ... some pavers, a few plants, a couple of comfy chairs — and, voilà! — instant summer socializing.
That’s the way it seems to be working in one St. Louis Park neighbourhood, Minikahda Vista, where front-yard patios have become contagious in recent years.
Beth and Gerry Gunderson added one in 2015, inspired by a neighbour’s new patio a block away. “We just loved it!” recalled Beth, whose enthusiasm for entertaining has earned the couple a nickname: the Fundersons. “I walked home and said, ‘Let’s do it here.’”
Last year, the Gundersons’ next-door neighbours, Bobbi and Mike Deeney, also added a front patio. “We used to have chairs on the grass,” said Bobbi, an avid gardener. “But it was hard to move them to mow. Now there’s less to mow — and more for me to plant.”
Just a few months later, Mary and Trent Steffy added their own front patio, inspired by the two across the street. “We needed to redo our front landscape, anyway — it was overgrown,” said Mary. And as a teacher who relishes her summers off, she was eager to create another outdoor space to enjoy. “I try to spend as much time outside as possible — I literally bring my laundry out and fold it!”
Backyard patios — secluded and private — have long been the norm, but upfront patios are currently trending, according to Diana Grundeen, owner of Trio Landscaping, the Minneapolis firm that designed and installed both the Gundersons’ and Deeneys’ patios.
“We have been doing more front-yard projects. They’re more social,” she said.
That nostalgia for old-fashioned neighbourliness also has fuelled the revival of the front porch in recent years. “But not everybody’s architecture lends itself to a front porch,” Grundeen noted.
A front-yard patio creates an easy, natural way to mingle with neighbours, said Bobbi, who likes to spend time on hers at the end of the workday when people are coming home. “They walk down the street, sit on the wall, and we’ll chit-chat.”
Some gatherings even migrate from one patio to another, picking up neighbours as the evening progresses. “My husband likes to start in front,” said Bobbi. “Depending how many people we accumulate, we’ll move to the back.”
Bobbi Deeney, left, and Beth Gunderson with their dogs, Oliver and Nelson, on the patio in front of Deeney’s house.