Driveways occupy a prominent place in home design from both an aesthetic and practical standpoint. Typically set in front of the house, a driveway offers guests and neighbors their first impression of the overall property. We believe a well-designed driveway should complement the home’s architectural style and create a sense of anticipation for what lies ahead.
Driveway design is often determined by the home’s locale. The character and tone of a country house differ from an in-town dwelling, and the driveway design should properly reflect each location. For example, when designing driveways in Edgartown Village Historic District on Martha’s Vineyard, we frequently use brick, which complements the classic brick sidewalks throughout the village. Generally speaking, brick is also a low maintenance paving option. Because each brick is pre-cast and self-contained, if one becomes damaged, it can be easily replaced without re-paving the entire driveway. Additionally, from a design perspective, brick affords paving patterns to create architectural interest and offers a softer, more timeless look than alternatives like concrete.
While brick driveways work beautifully in settings like downtown Edgartown, designing driveways in more rural settings—on or off the island—calls for a more casual material. One of our favorites is pea stone gravel, which is 3/8” to 1/4” rounded stone and is softer to the touch than standard crushed stone. Many clients appreciate the sensory experience of hearing the sound of crunching pea stone as they enter their driveway by car or foot. In fact, one family recently told us, “There’s nothing better than the crunch of gravel to welcome us home.”
Although pea stone is an attractive and environmentally friendly driveway option, it requires raking maintenance, and it is difficult to shovel or plow after a snowstorm. One alternative—especially practical when clients want the look of gravel without the maintenance—is a treatment called Chip Seal. In this surface finish, the aggregate is rolled into asphalt, offering the charm of a stone driveway experience, while providing the strength to stand up to plows and shovels. When snow removal is not an issue, but homeowners prefer a more tailored look to their pea stone drive, we may introduce metal edging along the border to keep the stones in place or a hardener below the gravel to help reduce tire divots.
While it is important to choose the appropriate driveway material, creating the overall design is equally significant. We believe driveways are critical in terms of the sequence and presentation of the house. Whether it’s a graceful, meandering country drive, or a compact, urban driveway sited on the edge of the property, it is important to create an inviting design based on the context of the home. For example, we often use landscaping such as trees and privets to help define and warm the space. Creating an allee of up-lit trees, for instance, provides a processional sensibility for anyone entering or exiting the space. When appropriate, we also like to design square or round motor courts to create a sense of arrival at the front of the house.
A well-designed driveway sets the tone for the property and is guided by both the locale and context of the house. We believe the driveway should be a welcoming transition space between public and private realms and recommend that the surface material complement the home’s architectural character. We hope these ideas are helpful with all of your future driveway designs.