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Think About Privacy Screens

Casandra Maier- March, 2022


Screening serves many purposes in landscape design.  Curated landscapes require boundaries, definition, and privacy.  Outdoor privacy screens offer this form and function.  They create a sense of personal space, delineate boundaries, and define areas within residential landscapes and commercial or institutional shared spaces.  These site elements have many uses and may be fabricated from a variety of materials.  In terms of eco-friendly solutions, almost any outdoor-grade material can be repurposed or recycled to provide screening.  Outdoor privacy screens add an artistic component to any landscape design.  The opportunity for aesthetic expression is limitless.  When looking to bring a functional design element to the outdoor space; think about privacy screens.            


Privacy Screen Uses

Outdoor privacy screens are used to claim space.  They block vantages so no one may look in, while softening unsightly or disruptive views we don't want to see when we look out upon the landscape.  These partitions express boundaries and bring definition to the outdoor space.  In a residential setting, privacy screens are an important feature for pools, hot tubs, spas, and saunas.  They shield outdoor living areas visually and offer some protection from the elements.  They create more personalized space in urban landscapes where homes and yards are situated in close quarters.  When a moment of peaceful reflection is much needed, a privacy screen makes the difference between a feeling of sanctuary or having to stare at the neighbors.  Outdoor screens also improve the view when a property overlooks something less than stellar.  In commercial settings, shared spaces, or institutional landscapes, privacy screens route and re-route the flow of foot traffic.  They draw people into a space, but also communicate boundaries that keep people out.  In bustling areas, screens encapsulate and shield outdoor seating and outdoor dining areas.  Both residential and commercial landscapes utilize privacy screens to highlight and define areas while adding aesthetic value.  These site elements provide form and function in the outdoor setting, regardless of the space's size, use, or style.                                                     


Privacy Screen Materials

Privacy screens are made from a variety of outdoor-grade materials.  The best choice depends on the property owner's needs, values, and aesthetic preferences.  Wood and vinyl panels, bamboo fencing, powder coated steel, corten steel, and aluminum are all used to fashion privacy screens.  There are an endless number of options and combinations.  Keep eco-friendly solutions in mind and consider choosing a panel made from re-purposed or recyclable materials.  Curtains and fabric-like material are another viable option for soft and breezy screening.  An example includes flexible shade sails made from high-density polyethylene, which may be positioned and anchored to buffer the view while offering some shade.   Vegetation is also used to create living privacy screens.  This is achieved with plants and shrubs that have a clumping growth habit, planted as a border or massing.  Climbing plants serve this purpose as well when planted against a trellis or fence line.  When choosing vegetation,  it is important to note the plant's growth rate and habit.  Deciduous plants drop their foliage during the winter months, making such screens seasonal.  This may or may not be desirable depending on the property owner's needs.  Evergreens are more appropriate for year-round plant screening.  With a little imagination, almost any outdoor-grade material may be positioned vertically or horizontally to serve as a screen panel or partition.    


Privacy Sail.jpeg

Other Considerations

There are many exciting and creative solutions to consider when implementing privacy screens.  These site elements add character and value to the outdoor space.  Proper screening may improve re-sale or contribute to increased business.  If added privacy is not the overall goal, they may be added to the landscape simply for their artistic expression and aesthetic value.  Consider attaching panels to walls and fence lines to create an accent or break up monotony. Sometimes outdoor furniture is outfitted with screening and siding built into the the furniture's frame.  Such tables and seating create a cozy personal retreat within the landscape.  Privacy screens also influence sunlight and shadows.  Solid screens provide shade, whereas panels with cut-out designs offer filtered shade while casting interesting shadows against the ground, building walls, or hardscape.  Cut-outs may be prefabricated or customized to create a unique design.  Consultation with a landscape designer is helpful in determining the best screening for the outdoor space, but also for assessing this site element's placement, orientation, and overall design.  In some cases, designers also offer material procurement services, providing clients access to exclusive options and custom-made screens that are not available via traditional landscape retail.  Consider booking a complimentary 20-minute consultation with a landscape designer to talk about potential solutions.         



Dodge, N. (February, 2022). Interviews with ND Design Services Inc. 

Taylor, Lisa Hallett. The Spruce. (June, 2021). "16 Ideas for Outdoor Privacy Screens and Backyard Retreats." Home Design and Decorating.

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