Designing Driveways

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For good or for ill, we Americans do love our cars, our garages, and our driveways. We site our mailboxes so we can drive up to them. Many of us own homes that present the garage as the prime architectural feature. If you are in the fortunate position of being able to choose a driveway, I could make these suggestions.

drive4Consult a landscape architect or landscape designer about the drive; be clear about your needs. Do you entertain frequently, and need extra parking? Do your kids need a place to shoot hoops, and skateboard? A driveway that doesn’t work well for you can be an irritation you have to visit every day. Once the plan for the drive addresses your needs, then you are ready to plan for a beautiful driveway.

drive6Scale is an important issue; even a big vehicle is only 8 feet wide. A driveway at 11 feet wide needs thoughtful visitors and service people; plan to keep people on the drive and off the landscape. A driveway at 13 feet wide is wide enough for most. At 16 to 18 feet wide, you are in danger of looking like a store rather than a home. If you entertain a lot, a drive court of a beautiful shape and material can provide the parking you need in a graceful way. If you need a large drive, designing the surface with multiple materials can provide texture and interest as well as utility. But the key here is the idea that we don’t really own the planet, we are stewards, for a time; pave accordingly.

drive7The architecture of the home does play a big part in determining the size and materials and layout for a driveway. If the architecture of your house is derivative of European design, or American Arts and Crafts- look at pictures of existing homes, and pay particular attention to how vehicular traffic is handled. Many European homes feature gravel drives. Properly done, they have a soft and beautiful appearance.

Very formal European homes feature symmetrical landscapes, and centered driveways. Vertical and horizontal lines in compositions are formal. Lines on the diagonal have a much less formal feel, and are appropriate for less formal homes.

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I make scale cutouts of my client’s cars, potential service and delivery vehicles, so my clients can drive the plan. Driving the drive on paper-a good idea.

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