Lawn Ornaments

By Chandra Orr

July 1, 2011 5 min read

From rusty farm implements and pink flamingos to garden gnomes and tchotchkes, lawn ornaments have gotten a bad rap, but today's offerings are far from tacky. Sure, you still can find figurines that will give your neighbors the willies, but you also can find stunning works of art that actually complement flower beds and gardens -- but the key to a classy display lies in the arrangement.

"Think first about the style of your home when determining the ornateness or the quantity of items to add," says interior designer Debra Lesinski, owner of Interior Style, a residential and commercial design firm. "Have a period Victorian home? That home's architecture calls for more ornate ornaments and can handle a bit more quantity because ornate is what's expected. On the other hand, throw ornate and a larger quantity of lawn tchotchkes at a very traditional colonial with simple architecture and it will overpower and detract from the home."

Choose one stellar piece as your centerpiece -- arbors, ornamental fences, oversize flowerpots and decorative benches offer a big bang for the buck -- and build your collection around that object. Opt for a few larger displays to show off your collection rather than randomly scatter ornaments, which can junk up a yard.

"Look at your home from the curb. Just as you do inside the home, you want to create a unique focal point in an area that needs some help," Lesinski says. "Create a grouping of your favorite things in one focal point. Instead of placing some gazing balls here and the arbor there and pots in another area, gather them into one large focal point."

Think of your family room, says Lesinski. "If you have some pictures on the end tables and some on the sofa table and the mantel is covered with pictures, then every surface in that room is stimulating the eye. But put all those frames on one table and leave the other tables clean and you have just created a more beautiful room. Why? Because the eye needs both stimulation and rest to understand good design. The same rules apply outside."

Go from tacky to tasteful using the same rules that govern interior design to incorporate lawn ornaments into the landscape seamlessly -- and spare your neighbors the eyesore:

1) Pick a theme. Whether you favor figurines of forest creatures or go gaga for gazing balls, choose a theme and stick with it. Consider each accent piece in relation to the overall vision for your home. If you crave that English country cottage vibe, for example, find those gnomes a new home and look to latticework, aged finials and wrought-iron accents instead.

2) Consider color. For a more cohesive look, group garden accents by hue and texture. A cluster of rusted metal lanterns and aged terra-cotta flowerpots makes a stylish centerpiece in the garden, thanks to the common earth tones and weathered textures. To get the look, paint mismatched ornaments in a faux finish, such as verdigris or aged stone. Be sure to add a few layers of matte clear coat to protect against the elements.

3) Play with scale. To really make arrangements pop, incorporate a range of sizes in your displays. One large focal point surrounded by several smaller complementary pieces is more dynamic than an assembly of similarly sized objects. Also, odd numbers are more pleasing to the eye, so arrange lawn d?cor in clusters of three, five or seven.

4) Blend the elements. Yard d?cor should be part of the landscape, not an afterthought. Don't drop that gazing ball in the middle of the front yard and call it a day. The best displays come from blending ornamental objects with the existing foliage -- a tentative rabbit poking out from under a hedge, a gnome hidden among the backyard blooms or a delicate fairy nestled in a cluster of ornamental grass.

5) Show restraint. When it comes to lawn ornaments, less is more. Too many knickknacks can overwhelm a garden, so edit your displays with a keen eye on subtlety. The goal is to add a few choice accents for a whimsical touch, not to fill every available inch with tchotchkes. That being said, sometimes more is more. If you just can't say no to yet another garden accent, then go big -- really big. Having a few pink flamingos seems dated and tacky, but for the right home, a flock of 12 or 14 of the giant pink plastic birds perched in a side yard makes a rather grand and kitschy statement.

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