Garden Gates

The trick to a great gate is to make people want to go through it. When you get that right, nothing will present such a potent lure as the suggestion of what surprises lay beyond.
Related To:
a gate makes a bold artistic statement to a home

a gate makes a bold artistic statement to a home

A simple gate transformed with violet paint. (Photos courtesy of Maureen Gilmer)

Highbrow designers call them portals. You also might hear them referred to as transitional spaces. But in the language of the ordinary homeowner they are, quite simply, gates. Yet, too often the gate is the last thing you consider when adding a fence to your home site. It should be among the first.

A gate is a functional outdoor doorway, but it can also be a bold artistic statement. The size, shape and material you choose for the gate can literally make or break the fence you have in mind.

If you are installing a low-cost board fence with little decoration, then use some of the money saved to give yourself a great gate. If it's in a side yard that's visible from the street or front garden, then a creative gate becomes an important part of the house's facade. As such, its design should more reflect the architectural style of the building than match the fence boards. If the gate is a work of art, it can become a valuable accent to upgrade the overall landscape aesthetic.

Not all fences are the 6-foot barrier type. Shorter fences, usually pickets or wrought iron, are fully visible when they enclose front yards. The little gates that open onto the entry walk to the front porch are a focal point themselves and worthy of special consideration. They must match the fencing material perfectly and should be a bit more decorative because of the high-profile location. Their role is to call attention to this point of entry.

Some of these gates are left open all the time, while others are left closed. Knowing how you'll be keeping the gate will guide you in choosing an appropriate design.

The width of a gateway, and therefore the size of the gate itself, is often governed by use. A side-yard gate may require a much wider opening, say a minimum of 4 feet, to move wheelbarrow, lawn mower or garbage cans through easily without dinging the posts. You can split this width and give yourself a saloon door-style gate that offers many more design options than one big gate. And double gates are lighter weight and less demanding of the hinge hardware and post footings.

Do not underestimate the importance of painted gates. You can upgrade an old rundown gate, or make over a raw looking new one with color that will completely change its appearance. A bold effect is created when you paint with cobalt blue or crimson red. If those colors match trim on the house, the result is spellbinding. Or you can try faux painting techniques to give a wood gate a mossy or rustic woodland patina. It's affordable and risk-free, too. If you don't like how it turns out, just paint it again.

Use creative hardware to dress up an existing gate. Rather than standard galvanized hinges and latches, spend time hunting for more decorative options. The rustic appeal of hand-hammered iron hinges from the blacksmith is a timeless look.

Try a transparent iron gate for a glimpse of the space beyond. The trick is to choose the gate first and then create a fence to match. You can use an authentic salvaged antique gate or a new one made to look just as old. These can be the shabby chic peeling white look or the old rusty patina that is so at home in old gardens. The benefit of reproductions is that they are less expensive to buy and more widely available. Though reproductions share that rusty appearance, rust has not had time to weaken the metal.

Next Up

Homegrown Hint: Garden Focal Point

Looking to add a bit of charm to your garden bed? Consider adding a water feature or wind chimes.

Vertical Gardening

Learn all about vertical gardening, which is becoming more popular as yards get smaller and horizontal space gets more scarce.

Plants for a Small Urban Garden

Check out these plants perfect for a small garden and the planting information for each zone.

Raised Bed Gardens

A raised bed garden remains neat and tidy all season long with well-defined walking areas between the beds.

Ready, Set, Grow! When to Start Your Garden

Does winter weather have you itching to dig in the dirt? Get tips on when you can safely start planting veggies for spring and summer.

Combining Vegetables and Flowers in Your Garden

Small gardens need to look their best year round and usually have no room for a separate vegetable garden, but with a little imagination, vegetables can look striking alongside flowers and produce a tasty harvest, too.

Making Good: How to Garden Like a Diplomat

What the rooftop garden at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC can teach you about gardening.

Garden Smart with Simple Stone Labels

Take the guesswork out of gardening with clearly labeled fruits and vegetables.

How to Plant a Kid-Friendly Garden

Encourage your kids to embrace their inner gardener this season.

Garden Gifts so Good You Won't Want to Fork Them Over to Mom

Think outside the box with these creative garden-centric Mother's Day gifts for moms, wives, daughters or you!

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Discover Made + Remade

See the latest DIY projects, catch up on trends and meet more cool people who love to create.

Make It. Fix It. Learn It. Find It.