Driveway tells when you've arrived

An upfront status symbol that's expensive but has an obvious practical use

October 26, 2003|By Gary Dymski | Gary Dymski,NEWSDAY

As Americans continue to spend money on improving, expanding and upgrading to larger homes, the driveway has become a featured element of landscape design. Big houses often call for grand driveways - in courtyards, estate-like curves and grand circles - with price tags from $10,000 to $100,000.

For some homeowners, large driveways provide a surprising measure of seclusion and the pride of visual presentation. For others, the end of a long driveway signals a grand welcome, like rolling out a red carpet that leads visitors to the front door.

Reasons for wanting a large driveway range from status to wanting more room to park cars, SUVs and minivans. In the grand scheme of landscape design, a properly constructed large driveway can offer a bit of each of these elements.

"These larger driveways are especially popular with newer home designs," says Tim Thoelecke, owner of Garden Concepts Inc., a Glenview, Ill., landscape design company and a former president of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers. "Many new homes have three-car garage bays, and for these big garages, you need bigger driveways."

Almost every homeowner thinks circular when considering a big driveway, says Gary Blum of Schlick Design Group in Greenlawn, N.Y. "The reality is, not every homeowner can have a circular drive. In many cases, it's because of the property layout or size," he says.

Blum and other landscape designers say using a variety of design techniques can give homeowners all the elements of a circular drive without the circle.

"A large driveway should give visitors a sense of arrival and access to the front of the home," Blum says. "You can achieve that sense of arrival with designs other than a circular drive."

Parking spurs, courtyards and entry courts are common options. A drawback in a circular drive is that one car parked anywhere on the circle can often block the entire driveway, experts say.

Michael Opisso, president of Ireland-Gannon Associates, which has offices in Long Island, N.Y., says the enormous driveway should contain three design elements: a welcoming sense of arrival, a sense of transition from the main road to the front door and functionality - "where visitors can park, where the homeowner can park and how to get to the front entry door," Opisso says, explaining the third design element.

When Emery Bogardy and his family decided to build a home in Bel Air 27 years ago, they knew immediately that they wanted to have a circular driveway. Bogardy says the driveway, which runs in front of his home and has a spur that curves behind the house, helped improve his real estate's curb appeal immediately.

"When you put in a circular driveway, it just does something for the house," he says. "The only drawback is if you have snow, there's more to shovel."

A Sun staff writer contributed to this article. Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper

You'll need at least half-acre lot

How do you know whether your property is right for a large or circular driveway? One criterion is lot size.

"Usually, we won't consider a circular driveway unless a lot is a half-acre or larger," says Gary Blum of Schlick Design Group in Greenlawn, N.Y.

Other important factors include zoning restrictions.

One rule of thumb for Michael Opisso of Ireland-Gannon Associates, of Long Island, N.Y., is simplicity. Driveways that are too large and integrate too many materials don't achieve the desired result of a warm welcome for visitors, he says.

"A large driveway should not overwhelm the architecture," Opisso says. "A landscape architect has to employ some discipline in terms of size and materials. Less is more."

Finally, many landscape architects say that 90 percent of clients who want large driveways at first envision circular designs for their properties.

"Be open," Opisso says. "In most cases, we can achieve all the benefits of a circular driveway with other designs."

When a large driveway fits, it's instantly pleasing to the eye. The key, says Opisso, is that the design should work for the homeowner using the least amount of "hardscape," or paved areas.

Newsday

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