The first thing a passersby notices about any residence is its curb appeal, but finding the right combination of landscaping, exterior colors and pathways can be tricky. The owners of H3K Design, Kevin Kemper and Howard Hawkes, are experts in creating truly eye-catching renovations, both inside and out. These remodeling specialists share their knowledge to help you create a jaw-dropping front yard.

A mid century front yard showcasing a blue door and cacti.
The geometric planting of barrel cactus in the driveway turnaround of this home was inspired by the repetitive landscaping at Sunnylands. Breezeblock adds privacy from the street and provides texture against the white stucco.


While it may be tempting to begin an extensive renovation by rushing to the store for paint samples, Kevin and Howard advise taking your time before tackling the exterior.

Do you have a large list of interior changes? Start there first before focusing on the outside. It’s important to spend some time in the living space before making any decisions. “Even just a week or two of going through the house at different times of the day,” says Howard. He advises observing morning light versus evening light when choosing exterior colors.

From Flaw to Feature

“Sometimes in construction or when you’re working on a house, you have an issue that comes up and you have to deal with it and work with it. Basically, we like to say, turn a flaw into a feature,” says Kevin. Faced with the challenge of a yard with large boulders—extremely heavy and difficult to move—they incorporated one into the pathway up to the home.

The placement of the pathway itself was designed to “direct your eye to the front door to the center of the house, where the highest peak of the roofline is,” says Howard. On the same home, the carport had been converted to a living space during a previous renovation; however, the driveway still went straight to the nonfunctioning carport. “We did kind of a risky design move and did this offset driveway at an angle so your eye doesn’t look at that façade of what was once a garage,” states Howard.

A mid century front yard featuring a blue front door stone walkway.
“When you look at the house, your eyes are drawn to the bright color of the ‘pool party’ blue and it draws you in. And the steps leading up also pull your eyes toward that focal point,” Kevin says. To tie in the rock work, a darker brown color was used for the trim.

Where to Start

“If you have some architecture or some kind of focal point on the house, maybe go a little bit more minimal. And have your pathway or some of your landscape direct your attention to that focal point. You could do it with plants, concrete work, boulders or things like that. If you don’t [have a focal point], sometimes you need to create a bit more of an interesting front yard that will sort of pique [people’s] interest, for the eye to look further to the house,” says Howard.

“Having the house’s architecture speak is very important,” says Kevin, “and keeping the clean lines and keeping it open are very important too. What we like to do with the landscaping is pick out plants that are interesting to look at, but not necessarily distracting in terms of drawing your attention,” he continues.

No matter what your landscape includes, remember that less is more. Howard advises starting small because you can always add more plants later.

Front Yard Landscaping 101

Create the perfect setting to accentuate your home’s exterior with these tips from the experts.

1. Use plants that work in your environment. In the desert, cacti and succulents will thrive; plus they have an architectural quality that provides visual interest. In other parts of the country, try Sansevieria or Equisetum.
2. Pick plants that have visual interest, but not so distracting as to draw attention away from focal points.
3. Sometimes less is more! “Don’t overdo it. You can always add more later. So maybe do a first wave of planting to see if that’s enough to satisfy the look of the yard,” advises Howard.
4. Keep the interesting parts of the landscaping and the yard close to the house. This creates a clean buffer of simple décor, allowing visual interest to focus on the home.


To go along with your newfound landscaping prowess, find a color combination that properly speaks to your MCM home, right here!

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