For this homeowner story, we traveled to Mid-City on a mild March day to talk with Chris Freeman. Chris finished his DIY Front Yard Initiative (FYI) project a few days before we visited. Though the project is only 215 square feet, it has a big impact. Before, looking down from the porch, all you saw was paving and two seemingly out of place brick planters. Now colorful plantings and a winding path add interest as well as manage water onsite.
Chris, a graphic designer, and his wife have been in their Mid-City home for three years. They had always wanted to work on the front yard, but it took a backseat to home repairs and remodeling. As the before and after photos show, they repainted their house in intricate detail. The Freemans drew from the vivid stained glass scene on their front door to pick the unique colors. Chris mentioned that the previous homeowner was from Mexico and had the stained glass and many pieces of tile work imported from there. The tile adds character and detail to the home; the peacock hidden on one of the brick planters seems particularly pleased with the landscaping that now surrounds him.
Once Chris received notice that he had been accepted into the FYI program in October, he began the search for a contractor. After some consideration, he decided the project was small and simple enough to complete on his own. He had a friend who gave him advice on his design and plant ideas and helped out with labor. In the end, they created a design that included a path from the street to his home and the plants he wanted.
One challenge Chris faced came about from his move from design to construction. Half way through, Chris realized the planters were not centered on the house. He originally intended to have a straight path, right in the middle of the house and planters. Having the path centered on the house made the planters look crooked, and having the path centered on the planters made it uncentered on the house. The compromise was a curved path that adds interest and movement to his design. Sometimes challenges can lead to unexpected successes!
Chris spent some time researching the types of plants that best fit his garden. The multitude of choices was daunting, but he knew from the beginning that he wanted sweet olive trees: “They smell amazing when they bloom and the thought of sitting on the porch and smelling that was a big draw.” With some advice from his friend and FYI, the Freemans’ garden ended up containing sweet olives, azaleas, some blooming annuals, and muhly grass, all plants compatible with Louisiana’s climate.
All together Chris estimates his project cost $2000, including redoing the sidewalk in front of his house. His FYI reimbursement was $530 ($2.50 per square foot of paving removed). It took about 20 hours to complete the project because he worked on his yard during breaks between taking care of his daughter and freelancing.
Chris couldn’t be happier with his project and the fact that he completed it himself, with help from friends and other experts, of course. He said that his neighbors have noticed the transformation and love the results. Chris anticipates that with all the concrete gone now, his afternoons on the porch will be much cooler. “I’m happy with the way our front yard looks for now,” he says, “but I plan to add to the project as time goes on.”
Chris wants others who are embarking on their own small home improvement project, “You don’t necessarily need a landscaper, just some guidance.” And with every completed FYI project, homeowners have one more great resource to turn to for guidance and encouragement.
Written by Blake Allen, Edited by Felice Lavergne