torstar file photo
Good fences make good neighbours, but only if they’re stylish.
The design team loves fences when they enhance your outdoor living space. Fences do other things as well, like provide privacy and security, but we beg you to consider style as well as function when you choose one.
For instance, while we understand the need for privacy, especially in a back yard, we dislike high, concealing, front lawn privacy fences. The look is definitely prison-like, in our opinion, and not appealing or inviting to the neighbours or anybody else. Design crime? We say yes.
Decorative, four-foot high fences, on the other hand, can look great around the perimeter of a front yard, whether it be white picket, stone, wood, or lovely wrought iron. In the backyard, a higher fence is perfectly acceptable to ensure privacy.
In both cases, fences or screens can work within the yard, as dividers, concealing devices for air conditioning units or plastic water barrels, or simply to mark borders and add interest.
Gates can be an important part of the fence system, and they can be absolutely stunning works of art, especially in wrought iron. A wood gate embellished with a wrought iron window or lattice can also be fetching.
Sometimes home-constructed fences, in stone or brick or wood, can be quite charming, particularly in the front yard. Just keep it tasteful, and not too overdone. Or you may go with store-bought fencing. The cheapest fencing, chain link, is also the ugliest in our opinion. Avoid it. But wooden pre-made panels at Home Depot can be good-looking and price-effective, and range in price from $54 to $84 per panel, including a top section of lattice.
Metal fencing is another option. Omega fence system, www.omegafence.com, based in Quebec, sell contemporary design ornamental fences with an urban, modern look. Newmarket-based Nuvoiron, www.nuvoiron.com, deals in cast-iron fencing with lovely heritage designs.
Whatever you do, remember the look and scale of the fence must be in line with that of the house. Traditional wrought iron looks great with Victorian-style houses, but closely-set horizontal wooden fencing is a new trend in fencing that looks absolutely smashing with modern-looking homes or a minimalist style. As for scale, avoid a grand fence if you have a modest house — it will just accentuate the difference between the two.
Bamboo or woven grass strung up on posts is another hot idea which can work in a variety of settings. You may have to be prepared to replace them more often in our northern climes, but if you are going for a unique or eye-catching look, this may be for you. See www.calibamboo.comor www.islandthatch.comfor ideas.
If you have a cottage-y feel to your home, consider the exciting new look of wattle screening. This is a simple fence made of flexible willow or other pliable shoots woven through a series of posts. The look is charmingly rustic, and has a pleasing organic quality to it. It is not especially long-lasting or sturdy, but you can attach it to an older fence for more stability, or just use it as a screen. Check out local nurseries, or try your hand at making one. See www.thewillowfarm.comfor ideas.
If you’re certain you’ll be staying at your house for some time to come, you could even attempt a living wattle fence, an absolutely fascinating idea which involves planting saplings in a line and interweaving their limbs so you grow a living fence. Bluestem Nursery, www.bluestem.ca, in BC, provides good insight and links. Click on “Willows,” then “Living Willow Structures.”