Good Fences Make Good Neighbours In Charlottetown, PEI

Architecture, Design, House And Home, Landscape, Tales Of Upper Hillsborough

Welcome to my blog on housing, culture and design by a cross-country Canadian and Toronto realtor obsessed with all matters of housing & home.

Back in the autumn – my favourite season because I love wearing cable-knit sweaters and jaunty caps, smelling wood burning in a fireplace, and looking at the deciduous foliage changing into their cacophony of colours – I started processing what kind of fence I would design for my back yard. Why? Because the property to the north of The Black House – my design incubator and Home Away From Home in Charlottetown, PEI is being substantially transformed and the new owner approached the bestie and I who co-own the property about replacing it.

I LOVE it when serendipity drops a design project in my lap. Especially when – in this day and age – one of the benefits of technology is the ease with which one can find design inspiration on Google. In fact, before I even go to specific shelter sites I often begin by inputting keywords to see what comes up because it invariably leads me down the interweb rabbit hole to uncover something I’d never fully considered. I enjoy the surprise that comes with this so much that it’s always the first step part of ‘my process’.

When I started thinking about designing a fence, my brain immediately leapt to American poet Robert Lee Frost‘s use of the folk proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors”. Ruminating on proverbs drew me to Wolfgang Mieder’s 2005 book, entitled, “Proverbs Are The Best Policy: Folk Wisdom And American Politics“, which includes a chapter about “The Sociopolitical Significance Of An Ambiguous Proverb”. In it, Mieder refers to the ‘good fences’ proverb as a lesson in “the irresolvable tension between boundary and hospitality.” 1

I love that phrasing because nothing cuts like a metaphorical knife than constructing a fence around one’s property that keeps people out (unsavoury types, curious busybodies, precocious tweens) and others in (energized children, cute pets, a loved one suffering from dementia).

Here are some of my favourite fences in downtown Charlottetown that surround some of the many vernacular ‘chocolate boxes’ of visual delight:



Fences should be constructed following the social graces of inclusivity and transparency, but also, on a more practical level, building code. Code often dictates physical parameters like height, which, in most urban residential areas in Canada is around 1.2 metres high on a front or side yard abutting a street, and 2 metres high (more or less) in a rear yard.

(However, given my growing propensity for reclusiveness, perhaps I should consider buying the properties around me and installing a moat filled with snapping Ninja turtles! Hmmm… !)



The Design Challenge

This is in its infancy but the fence-to-be-built in question is on a side yard that already has an elevated deck with four 6 and 8-foot tall cedar and metal screens with a planting strip containing a maple tree (two of three did not survive a harsh winter unfortunately), and some bayberry which are only a couple of years old. Here are couple of pics:



Because the screens create separation and privacy, replacing the existing deteriorating fence is mostly about delineating ownership and ensuring the garden is protected ‘defensible space’. This idea of defensible space has its roots in a theory by architect and city planner Oscar Newman (he published his book Defensible Space in 1972) that encompasses ideas about using landscape design and materials (both manmade and plantings) to mitigate crime prevention and promote neighborhood safety, including using fencing to visually communicate whether portions of any property are communal, semi-private or private.

Keeping this in mind, I rather like the idea of building a low fence constructed with translucent screens like the photo below that is a bit more ‘architectural’ to complement the existing screens and, with the counsel of my friend and landscape designer Dan Nuttall who designed the Black Garden at The Black House, plant a hedge of evergreens on the neighbour’s property (presuming they’re willing) that will create a verdant parklike sightline. This makes a lot of sense, if our owner next door is receptive.


Let’s see!


As a designer and realtor, my quest to create beautiful spaces – both indoors and out – while remaining cognizant of ‘future resale value’ is important. In fact, just this week The Walrus published an article called Why Is Canadian Architecture So Bad? and asked “Why don’t we take good design seriously?”. It’s a great question because, as far as I’m concerned, there is always an opportunity to elevate our living environments. Even fences!



Did you enjoy this post?

If you did, here are some additional blogs related to design and real estate on Canada’s East Coast:

–> Going East: A Toronto Real Estate Exodus To Atlantic Canada

–> I Love The Houses In Historic Charlottetown, PEI

–> How I Came To Transform A Vintage Home In Charlottetown, PEI

–> A Black House Bedroom Takes Centre Stage In The Fall Issue Of PEI Living Magazine

–> A Black Garden At The Black House In PEI By Dan Does Design

–> Dear Urbaneer: How Can I Make My Outdoor Space More Eco-Friendly?

–>The Increased Desire For Outdoor Space In Toronto Condos During The Covid-19 Pandemic


Incidentally, if you’re a fan of Black Houses as much as I am, here’s two of my posts on my University Student Mentorship site called which you might like:

–> Black Houses In Canadian Urban Settings

–> Black Houses In The Canadian Landscape



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Thanks for reading!

-The Urbaneer Team

Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-8000

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*Love Canadian Housing? Check out Steve’s University Student Mentorship site called which focuses on architecture, landscape, design, products and real estate in Canada.

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