A graceful fountain or reflection pool for the front yard is on the must-have list of many upscale clients these days, says Michael Schneider, principal and director of Orange Street Studio in Los Angeles.

Schneider should know: Most of the properties he designs feature homes worth $750,000 to $7 million, on lots measuring 1/4 acre or less.

“There’s definitely been an increase in these projects in the past [few] years,” Schneider says.

The rise in the aquascapes’ popularity is traceable to a number of factors, experts say.

Custom home builders like to put front-yard waterfeatures on their spec projects to help sell them, whereas homeowners who request these fountains often simply want enhancements to their living spaces.

A well-designed fountain provides an attractive lure toward the front door or side gate, or forms a courtyard area where people can enjoy each other’s company.

Other clients are motivated by sound and the “wow” factor. A strategically placed front-yard waterfeature can mask roadside noise while impressing visitors who enter a driveway on a large property.

“Most people consider the front yard a place to show off,” says Rick Driemeyer, principal at Both Sides of the Door, based in Oakland, Calif.

Shallow water

Front-yard waterfeatures can provide an opportunity to come up with imaginative designs, but they do have some limitations.

It’s important to remember that unless the yard is securely fenced, a fountain is directly accessible to the public. Therefore, these projects must be designed for safety. Usually that means shallow water and low flow.

Logistics also come into play when designing a front-yard waterfeature. If placed incorrectly, it can impede foot traffic, or splash water onto walls, windows and even cars, in the case of a driveway fountain, says Jeff Kearns, president of Wildwood Aquatech Pools, a Pool & Spa News Top Builder in Fresno, Calif.

To avoid such problems, it’s a good idea to keep the designs shallow. You can even create a stream that flows into a remote surge tank rather than a deeper pond, Driemeyer says. Or consider constructing a bog with a small amount of water and a few marginal plants. In some cases, Kearns moves water through cobbles for a rippling effect.

Reflection pools and formal fountains are a good match for driveways and courtyards. They’re shallow and move little water. They’re also small, so you can easily integrate them into the paving pattern. Schneider often uses reflection ponds, but adds some form of water movement for interest.

For a front-yard environment, consider a Mexican courtyard fountain, in which water glides out of a sculpture or urn for easy containment. When building formal fountains — especially those that shoot water vertically — resist the urge to undersize the basin. Splash-out can overshoot its confines, or the pump could empty the pool and run dry. If necessary, use an underground surge tank, so you have a safe depth in the fountain, while running enough water through the system.

Sometimes architectural waterfeatures make more sense. Working with the home’s lines, you can create a shallow moat around the structure. In a similar vein, you could also bookend the front door with shallow ponds outfitted with low vertical fountains. Use a wall from the house or hardscape to form a water wall, sheet fall or rain curtain.

Dry-deck fountains allow you to use vertical nozzles without accumulating a pool of water. The basin is hidden beneath grating or a perforated deck. When water flows, it leaves a relatively dry surface.