What does an interior designer do when faced with the challenge of converting an expansive space into a cozy living room that still allows people to flow through? One solution is to add area rugs and furnishings that will visually break up the space. Greenville, South Carolina, landscape architect Tom Keith followed this same line of thinking when he redesigned the driveway of Andy and Carolyn Anderson.
"Originally this was a typical, straight-shot, down-the-side, dead-end driveway," Tom recalls. "At first we looked at the possibility of doing a 90-degree pull-off parking spot, but Andy didn't really like that. So I said, 'All right, let's get down to what we really need to do.' "
Tom drew up plans for a circular driveway that would allow guests to stop at the front door, then continue around to the street without having to back up. The old driveway running down the side of the house was torn out and rebuilt so that everything connects smoothly and the new colored concrete and brick detailing match. The Andersons still use the straight section to reach private parking in the rear, but their guests have no trouble figuring out that the front is for them. To help tie the concrete drive to the brick house, Tom added a rectangular brick pattern beside the front steps.
"I use the term 'area rug' when I'm trying to explain it to clients," Tom says. "It's like having a big hardwood floor, and you want to lay a rug in there to break it up without covering the whole thing."
Additional brick paver strips crossing the driveway approximately every 15 feet serve as expansion joints and help dissect the long expanse of concrete. A dark stain, mixed into the concrete before it was poured, helps to tone down the attention-grabbing, bright finish the material usually has.
Three wide and gracious new steps linked to the base of the old steps create an easy transition between house and driveway during arrivals and departures. A low retaining wall running parallel to the front of the house makes the driveway level. Two lampposts atop the wall light the way for nighttime visitors. Simple plantings blend with the elegant, symmetrical architecture of the home.
"I try to start with the face of the house and work out," Tom says. "I wanted the architecture to reflect in the landscaping. Then as we came forward, we loosened up with perennial borders flanking the drive and an annual bed in the center." Verbena, sedum, black-eyed Susans, variegated miscanthus, and daisies form a casual, colorful mix in the perennial borders. Dwarf cannas and other tough annuals stand front and center between an evergreen combination of tree-form Burford hollies and low-growing dwarf yaupon hollies.
"Dropping the grade and adding the wall also gave a little visual lift to the house," Tom says. The result is a driveway that flows well, welcomes guests, and looks good. It actually complements the home. And there aren't too many driveways that can make that claim.