Blue spruces once screened an extraordinary water feature in the front yard of this Eden Prairie, Minn., home from the street and neighbors. But the 30-year-old spruces started dying, and the homeowners weren’t willing to wait years for a new row of trees to mature and fill in. Since the city wouldn’t permit the family to put up a tall privacy fence, we replaced the trees with a series of freestanding timber-framed architectural panels and a space-saving barn-door entry gate.

We built the timber frames using rough-sawn cedar that we custom-distressed on site, and we infilled them with 1⁄4-inch-thick aluminum Parasoleil panels ( These have a copper-patina finish and are laser-cut with what their manufacturer calls a Dublevey pattern, for which 14% of the material is removed from the panel, creating a whimsical shadowing effect while blocking most of the view.

We also used Parasoleil panels for the 8-foot-wide entry gate, which is topped with a circular timber-framed arch that mimics a large pergola structure framing the home’s front door. We chose barn-door hardware for the 4-foot-wide door panels to avoid having an awkward hinged entry. And while we kept the original pond, we shrank its size. This cut down on maintenance and made room for a new sitting area with a wood-burning masonry fireplace and a pair of timber-framed modular living walls equipped with drip irrigation and removable planters.