10 Key Elements to Ensure Your Contemporary Garden Looks Inviting
Keen for a crisp, modern garden design, but one that also feels lush, welcoming and full of life? Try these ideas
Clean-lined chairs are more suited to a contemporary garden than traditional chunky wood furniture, but to keep them from looking too stark, choose designs that sit lightly in the landscape.
In this garden by Natasha Nuttall, the string chairs – which nod to Sixties Acapulco classics – have a contemporary feel, but allow the lush greenery to show through, which softens their presence. The orange colour also adds gentle warmth.
Greenery bursting through the cracks in paving is a classic country garden image, but you can also apply the idea to crisp, contemporary slabs.
Perfectly illustrating the idea, designer Charlotte Rowe has here created a beautiful gravel garden, with pale limestone strips – something we’re seeing in lots of modern garden designs on Houzz – and low-growing, drought-tolerant Mediterranean planting.
The look is decidedly modern, but separating the slabs helps to create meandering routes and the plants ensure the hard landscaping looks anything but stark.
Breaking up your garden into different areas will help to tackle any potential sense of sterility, as smaller spaces nearly always feel more intimate.
This design is very contemporary, with horizontal slat fencing, sleek paving and two rendered blocks at the rear, yet the dining space feels cosy. Mid-height plants and plenty of soft grasses partially screen the area, giving it a secluded feel.
Ready to revamp your outside space? Find garden designers and landscape architects in your area on Houzz.
Opting for a low chair or bench will help you to feel immersed in the planting when you sit down, cosying up the feel of a contemporary space.
A built-in bench can be a good way to achieve this. In this garden by Charlotte Rowe, the painted render, smart cushions and dark fence keep the modern feel, while the abundant planting blurs the hard edges.
Go as big and as dense as you can with the surrounding plants for the full effect. Here, mid-height plants and a lush climber behind envelop the area.
More: How to Start a Garden Redesign
Soften a contemporary space with texture and colour by introducing Corten steel, a beautiful metal finish deliberately designed to rust to a rich burnt orange as it ages.
Although this metal has been around since the 1930s, when it was introduced for use in the American railway system, it’s had a resurgence in popularity in recent years in modern garden designs and exterior architecture, because the oxidized surface adds interest.
In this striking example, garden designer Tom Howard has used it on a large scale in the form of vertical panels at the back of a compact courtyard. The panels are flanked by sections of lush, living wall and paired with benches in wood of a similar shade. The warm tones and rough texture of the metal contrast beautifully with greens in the planting.
Use Corten steel on a smaller scale with pots, planters or water features.
A modern garden that’s also naturalistic? If you thought these two concepts clashed, think again.
Inviting nature in is key for creating a modern garden that feels welcoming and relaxing. In this plot designed by Robert Hughes Studio, soft, textured planting and wildflowers take away any hard edges without disrupting the contemporary aesthetic of the garden.
Robert has incorporated a modern take on a bug hotel next to the circular log store. The back wall is made from reclaimed timber, which adds character without feeling incongruously rustic.
A kitchen can add life to a modern garden, but such a functional space can slip into sterility if it’s not carefully designed.
Take a couple of good tips from this set-up by piqu. Firstly, the colour: the soft matt charcoal finish is a good choice, since anything shiny or white could risk looking severe under the glare of the sun.
Next, a small detail – but one with a big impact – is the simple addition of a couple of open shelves. This allows the owners to add planting and accessories to the kitchen, bringing movement and colour into the space.
There’s also texture in both the Silestone marbled worktop and the decorative panels behind, which are laser-cut in a flower design.
Adding any kind of water feature to your garden will bring in movement and reflections, but an ornate stone birdbath might clash with a modern backdrop. So how about this example instead, in a garden designed by Gold & Wild, in clean-lined Corten steel?
A pond or water bowl is also is a brilliant way to bring wildlife into your contemporary space, as it will attract birds and insects, and provide a drink for thirsty bees. Be sure to choose a design with shallow, sloping sides – or place rocks and pebbles around the edges of your container to create a ‘shore’, so creatures can easily get in and out.
This decorative fretwork screen provides a beautiful backdrop for a small urban courtyard designed by Georgia Lindsay.
The lacy fretwork, which forms two sides of this compact garden and hides a parking space and bin storage, helps to dapple the light in the manner of a leafy shrub or tree, softening the space.
Check out also the tiled ‘rug’ on the floor. Colourful or geometric tiles will add bags of character to a modern outdoor space.
More: How to Make Your Garden Feel More Private
Jungly leaves add architectural interest to a garden that might otherwise feel flat and formless. Aesthetically, they also work brilliantly in a contemporary context.
Try tree ferns, banana plants, yuccas (seen here to the right of the sofa) and bamboo (behind the long side of the sofa). All can go a long way towards transforming your garden into a lush oasis like this one designed by Barbara Samitier.
Tropical planting won’t necessarily be the most nature-enticing, so be sure to mix in visually compatible flowers for bees and butterflies, as well as ground habitat for invertebrates and other creatures. Your garden pro will be able to give you excellent advice on this.
Which is your favourite garden here – and which tips might you take for your own outdoor space? Let us know in the Comments.