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.
1. Opt for a natural
planting style for your modern garden
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
2. Bring warm hardscapes
to your modern garden
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.
3. Modern garden layout
and lighting ideas
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
can bring a natural, rugged beauty to any yard, including those with
steep hillsides or other difficult growing conditions.
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
4. Artful touches for your
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
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
5. Modern garden
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.
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.