Designing the right garden space for your living situation can sometimes be challenging. What elements should you include? What plants? What colors should you design around? What if you like a contemporary garden, not the traditional English gardening style?
While I can’t provide you with an extensive how-to on each of the designs, I can offer a beautiful selection of ideas for a contemporary garden with some tips and specifics about what makes something modern in style. Hopefully, one of these will spark some ideas and help you on your way!
Clean Cut Patio with Modern Furniture and Minimalistic Designs
For your garden space out back, consider mostly clean-cut shapes, modern furniture, and minimalistic designs. Instead of flooding the space with many planters and colors, pick one more neutral tone and theme everything around it.
Squares and Cubes – Straight Lines
The thing with modern designs is always squares and cubes, straight lines. If you’re looking for a truly fresh look, consider flat edges, squares, straight lines, and cubes. The patio shape? Square or rectangular. Planters, same. Also, avoid bright, vivid colors and go for those clean, smooth, neutral shades like black, white, and gray.
So, technically, Zen gardens are ancient in concept, but they’ve become popular in contemporary times thanks to the heightened awareness of the need for self-care and mental health needs. These gardens may take up the whole backyard providing plenty of meditative spaces or can be a small corner of the lot dedicated to this place of self-care.
Not unlike the Zen garden mentioned earlier, the yoga garden also focuses on meditation and all things wellness. The difference, though, is soft surfaces or flat platforms designed specifically for performing your yoga routines alone or with a little help.
For the yoga garden, you can create a small section of your outdoor space with this in mind or turn the entire backyard into a fitness garden space – your choice.
If you’re looking for a contemporary garden without much upkeep, then consider the cactus garden. You’ll plant the cacti, manicure the sand initially, and then just water occasionally and sweep the sand off the path.
Similar to the cactus garden, but a little “lusher” in looks, you’ll find the succulents garden requires only a little more maintenance. The beautiful plants do well in a wide range of environments and can be planted either directly into the soil or kept in pots for those climates not quite so warm in the winters.
Raised Planter Boxes with Contemporary Art
This image is from a public space, but the principle is similar to your home garden. Create elevated flower and planter boxes, filling them with the plants you’re in love with. Before they grow up, place some unique, modern, or contemporary-looking outdoor art to add that contemporary feel.
Chic Multi-Level Patio Garden
If you don’t have a lot of space or just happen to like multi-leveled spaces, creating your unique tiered garden is a beautiful idea. Build the garden up with planters, platforms, decks, or practically anything to create a gorgeous, modern-style garden. Be sure to keep clean lines and boxed edges, though, for that distinct modern look.
Recycled Materials Garden Art
There’s nothing more contemporary and “in vogue” than doing the planet a favor. So, with recycled or upcycled materials turned into garden art, you’re winning on both fronts: a beautiful space and helping the planet. If you’re artistic yourself, you’ve got a world full of materials to work with. If you’re not so much, there are great places to find these works of art, like Etsy, eco-conscious gardening shops, and even thrift stores.
Chic Raised Garden with Pools and Fountains
When you look at this photo, it’s been taken in a large, non-private location. But that doesn’t mean we can find inspiration here. Using the same concepts of raised planters on pedestals, fountains pouring down into precisely shaped pools, boxes, and squares – they’re all perfectly suited to a contemporary garden.
I see this design spilling out from a modern home into a well-manicured backyard (or front yard, even), edged with hedges at the back kept immaculately trimmed and shaped into boxes.
Though this photo also clearly comes from a commercial or public space, the inspiration is there, nonetheless. For this contemporary garden idea, think boxy shrubs against any brick or concrete wall you’ve got. If you don’t have one, this can be part of your installation. Build a simple backdrop from concrete blocks, paint it white, black, or gray (if you want to keep to truly contemporary styles for this neutral yet gorgeous look), then plant unusual but boxy shrubs directly against the wall. It’s a little like ivy just with a contemporary twist.
A unique take on the contemporary garden is using modern hybrids only. Find flowers and plants like this Blue Moon rose that have been created in the past two decades and plant them. Just make sure you keep things tidy, minimalistic, even. Don’t overcrowd the plants, spacing them fairly far apart, and using clean lines for the design.
Bohemian Chill Zone
Though the Bohemian vibe has been around for quite some time now, it’s definitely a contemporary choice once again. From casual throw pillows on a comfy couch in unique, vibrant patterns to a cozy “cage” seating area like this, a few simple touches can turn any garden space into a contemporary paradise.
Small Sculpture Garden
Most of us don’t have the budget to commission high-end artwork like this. However, we can find some unique pieces we could sculpt our modern gardens with. Add a few larger pieces and maybe some smaller works, then a few simple, smooth boulders, garden rocks, and clean-line plants.
A Blend of Elevated and Sunken Garden Boxes
Closely related to the multi-level garden is the elevated and sunken garden box design. If you can build patios and paths like this with elevated steps, you’ll find sunken gardens are just lower boxes than the rest. If you’re not, you can dig some trenches and finish them with beautiful planters like these.
Go with Artificial Grass
It’s a simple concept and doesn’t flesh out the whole idea for your garden, but adding artificial turf is a simple, reasonably fast way of upgrading a lackluster garden to a modern chic look. The grass is always bright, you don’t need to water it, and it works perfectly with the square edges of modern design.
Add a Clean, Smooth Patio and Fireplace
One of the most stress-reducing, comfortable things you can do to upgrade that plain old garden patio area is a fireplace. If you don’t already have a square-edged patio, install one of those, along with some sharp, neutral furniture and a beautiful, clean-line fireplace like this one. It transforms garden spaces from spring and summer only spots to nearly year-round places for gathering.
Center Around a Modern Water Fountain
Whether you have a lot of space or a small garden zone, adding a modern fountain with metallic touches and square edges will upgrade the garden. Center in on the fountain and create outward, ideally, to create the perfect, modern garden.
Build a Concrete Garden
If you’re someplace where a traditional garden doesn’t seem like a great idea, or you just don’t want a lot of maintenance, follow the lead on this “concrete garden” set on a city high rise. Concrete planters for a well-manicured hedge privacy fence, beautiful wooden boxed table, and chairs. You can use this basic design for the city, suburbs, or countryside.
“Pave” It in Gravel
Whether you’re going for full-on xeriscaping or just don’t want to mess with a lawn, “paving” your backyard with gravel is a great, modern twist to the backyard garden. Secure plants in chic planters you love, deck out the space with comfortable lawn furniture, and voila. An almost zero-maintenance garden your neighbors will wish they’d thought of doing.
Go Simplistic and Elegant
Okay, so most of us don’t have mansions like this one and no tennis court and 8-car parking spaces. But the concept of this beautifully manicured garden and yard space could be applicable anywhere. Focus on a few specific plants – gorgeous trees and shrubs, maybe a flowering bush or two – and otherwise, keep things open, fresh, and clean.
Squared, Even, and Clean – Contemporary Gardens
Whether you combine a squared-off water fountain and a sculpture garden or go with a combination Zen and yoga garden, you’ll find mixing and matching touches will take your contemporary garden to the next level. I’m eager for the day when I can mix it up again myself, and I might try talking my mother into letting me redesign her backyard with some of these ideas.