Taken to its extreme, the simple use of materials and minimalist approach of modern landscaping can sometimes seem cold or uninviting. Clean, minimal lines don’t have to be boring though; modern design’s emphasis on crafting an organized space has the potential to create a setting which feels not only friendly and inviting, but also personalized and artful.
Gardens are naturally aesthetic to the eyes, and while the greenery can sometimes be overwhelming, taking it back to a sleek and modern feel may bring a fresher vibe to your home without losing its appeal. Here are tips on designing a contemporary landscape that is more suited to the welcoming indoor-outdoor lifestyle that modern gardeners are trying to create.
Neatly organized lines of stiff, sculptural plants are the norm in many contemporary landscapes, as the architect opts to impose the minimalist structure of the house on the exterior spaces. Though this type of planting style may seem to utterly reject any relationship with the natural world, there’s no reason to feel stuck with rigid, architectural plants. When your plantings have a loose, alive appearance, they bring a sense of playfulness, liveliness, and warmth to your garden.
In a modern landscape, there is enough organization in the hardscape that you have the option to go more natural in the plantings. The flower color warms things up a lot, and combines well with the color from ornamental grasses. Moreover, perennials can get a little loose and messy looking, so you need to use them very strategically, but they can really soften a corner or a walkway.
A sterile, lifeless appearance is a common pitfall in modern design. There’s an emphasis on the use of honest materials, which is to say they aren’t pretending to be something they are not. For example, a simple concrete patio is more honest than is concrete that has been stamped and colored to look like flagstone. Yet the natural colors of concrete, steel, smooth stucco, and some types of stone have a cool appearance which can be uninviting if overused. The obvious solution is to add color, but color can take you away from a modern aesthetic.
One simple solution is to use color, but with subtlety that it barely reads as such. You can incorporate two concrete colors like pebble and sandstone, which provide just enough lightness to make a large concrete patio feel more inviting, and show its natural character as concrete. When the mild warmth of the colored concrete is carried through the landscape in the plants and other materials, the coloration of the patio fits intuitively and seems a perfect choice.
Oiled wood or weathered and rusted steel also introduce a warm, rich tone to the landscape which softens contemporary materials in black, gray, and silver. A backdrop of horizontal wooden retaining walls or a low horizontal fence of steel organize and define a space, while floating wooden benches placed within a smooth stucco wall are a decorative accent which can double as overflow seating during gatherings.
The layout of the landscape also plays a part in adding warmth. A good tip is to pull the plantings into the hard spaces by using planters, either elevated or on the ground plane, within patio areas. When the planters are raised up, the plantings within become a more tangible and focal part of the design. When confronted with a slope, seek an opportunity to use retaining walls to elevate the plantings or make rock gardens so they are a stronger visual element. Rock gardens can bring a natural, rugged beauty to any yard, including those with steep hillsides or other difficult growing conditions.
Contemporary landscapes are designed to act as an extension of the home, and with busy modern schedules, the ambience at night is as important as during the day. In contemporary garden design, night lighting is applied to give the garden a completely different look. By picking out areas of the garden with light frames and highlight plants or design lines, you can give you garden a majestic vibe. Cool-toned lighting gives off an eerie, off-putting glow, and should be avoided. Try setting up LEDs as they bring warmth to the garden and can look like incandescents.
Of course, the fixtures are as important as the quality of light they emit. Shiny, stainless-steel ultramodern fixtures that have been a staple in so many high-end contemporary landscapes may become such a focal point during the day. Light fixtures can be more of a sculptural piece to your garden too. Simple bronze fixtures blend more seamlessly into the plantings.
Modern design comes together most fully when the focal points, furnishings, and artful touches combine for a space that is customized and connected to the owners and the surroundings. However, adding personality without disrupting the minimalist aesthetic inherent in contemporary styling can be a challenge. When in doubt, keep it simple. Picking out furniture that incorporates wood is always a safe way to add warmth as it won’t go out of style. You have the option of adding color using cushions, but anytime you introduce color, it demands your attention and is going to be a focal point.
While it’s sometimes fun to follow trends, the lime green and orange cushions that are so popular in modern gardens right now can easily overwhelm the design of a space. Instead, look to your planting palette for cues. Repeating a color found in an ornamental grass or flower is more personal to your landscape, and won’t be out of fashion next season.
The liveliness of nature also elevates the elegance of a simple design. Water features are sculptural elements in gardens and of themselves, and it is greatly encouraged to put fish in the water features to create an exciting ecosystem and introduce color and life. Think of water gardens and fish ponds. Native plants and pollinator-attracting perennials also play a part in bringing balance and connection to a structured contemporary space. The warm visits from birds, butterflies, and bumbling bees are lighthearted additions to the garden which keeps it from becoming static.
Contemporary gardens are known to be clean and minimal when it comes to the materials used and the furniture set up, which is why they are low maintenance. Because of this, an average contemporary garden is designed in such a way that it will not be hard to maintain.
Self-irrigation methods are implied. Self-watering planters and raised beds are common and the plants chosen are mostly hardy, usually, grasses are used. It is rare to see a contemporary garden planted up with delicate flowers and part of the reason is to bring the ease of maintenance.
Gravels and barks are used on top of weed proof matting to reduce the need for weeding and the custom built planters or built in raised beds make it easier for the matting to be locked in place.
Building a small, easy-install garden shed is also a good component of the garden to keep all your garden tools and equipment. The design of the shed should be in line with the sleek, contemporary style of your modern garden, thus, fine materials and neutral colors are good tips to keep in mind.