Understanding the Charming Picket Fence

Shannon Lee

Are you trying to figure out which fence styles work best for your old house? The classic picket fence is often a homeowner's first choice because it provides visual charm to the landscape, added security for children and pets, and a clear determination of property boundaries in more urban areas.

Choosing Picket Fence Styles

Matching your new picket fence to your old house might require some research into the types of picket fences that were popular when your home was originally built. How did fence styles evolve over the years?

  • Simple designs and simple wood. The first wooden fences were very simple in design and meant for very specific uses. Wooden logs were stacked and braced to create fences that kept in livestock and provided some measure of security against threats, such as bears or other wildlife that would enjoy the fruits of human labor. Split rail fences were often used to define property boundaries.
  • The classic picket fence. The first picket fences were found around Federal or Greek Revival homes, and tended to mimic the architectural details of the house. The top of the fence often boasted a decorative element that visually tied the fence to the home.
  • Rustic and romantic designs. Gothic Revival homes or those inspired by Italian architecture often were surrounded by fences of flowing design. They were often painted a neutral color, so as to not detract from the home and landscape. The pickets became more ornate, with polished finials and other artful details. Many fences were thin and rather than providing privacy, were meant to be seen through.
  • Understated fences. Picket fences around Victorian homes were often very simple and painted neutral colors. Though Victorian homes were often covered with ornate details, the fence was usually very low-key and was never meant to compete with the home's visual impact.
  • Modern fences. Today's picket fences are made of all sorts of materials, including the very popular vinyl. With less need for practical uses, such as containing livestock, fences are increasingly used as a way to beautify the landscape and the house, as well as provide a bit of privacy in more urban areas. Picket fences might be simple in the backyard of the house, but more elaborate in the front, where most passersby would see the fence.

Ultimately, the picket fence you choose should reflect not only your specific needs for the fence, but the time period of your home as well. A bit of research into your particular home style can help you decide which fence styles are perfect for an authentic feel.





About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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