Modern garden designs are most successful when furnishings, hardscape, creative artworks, and automated systems come together to create a space that you, the owner, can feel connected to. However, adding personality to your garden while balancing the minimalism of modern design can be challenging. At Milestone, we are experts at designing any style of garden, but our specialty lies in modern garden design. Our gardens are unique and thoughtfully designed keeping in mind the lifestyle and needs of our clients. Our expertise lies in translating these needs into a viable modern aesthetic that will make you want to come home and relax in a garden that is structured, beautiful and supremely relaxing. Please contact a member of our design team for a free consultation to get you started on your dream modern garden design.
The word ‘modern’ gets thrown about a lot when we talk about indoor or outdoor spaces, but not everyone understands its actual meaning. What are modern garden designs and what are their key features? We discuss this and a lot more in the post below.
Read on to discover how you can design a garden that is modern in its look and vibe.
What Defines A ‘Modern’ Space?
Whether we’re talking about interior or exterior spaces, the word modern means something that is recent or futuristic; it will not be dated for at least another 10 to 15 years. Modern designs are relevant in the present time and are current in their use of technology and materials. They use new technologies to make you aware of the era you are in rather than drawing inspiration from a classical, historical, cultural or traditional past.
Another popular material in modern gardens is concrete. Concrete is extremely versatile, comes in a variety of monochromatic colors and is clean and neat to look at. As the emphasis in modern design is on the ‘honest’ use of materials in their pure form, natural grey concrete is often the most popular choice. Avoid using stamped concrete to mimic flagstone as this goes against the principles of modern design.
Key Features Of Modern Garden Designs
Modern garden designs are defined by simplicity, elegance, and sophistication. Their use of new, automated technologies makes them contemporary in today’s world. Modern gardens are kinesthetic; moving through a modern garden is an immersive experience that involves all the senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and feeling. Hence, such spaces use automated sound and lighting controls to enhance your experience.
Simplicity is the key to making a garden feel modern. Modern garden designs advocate straight, clean lines. This might apply to furniture, structures, layout or paving. Refined forms, unadorned materials, and clear circulation contribute to organized planning. This in turn reinforces simplicity within an outdoor space. The adage ‘more is less’ serves well in modern designs. It is important to ensure that your garden is clutter-free so that it looks open, spacious and inviting. Introducing clutter, through garden ornaments or plants, can completely change the style of your garden.
Repetition is an effective way to keep things simple; use a few materials for your hardscape and keep your plant palette simple. Avoid cramming the garden with too many plant species or materials. Let’s take the example of a classic English garden. Typically, an English garden has figurines, hedging and uses natural materials – tiles, stones, and pebbles – to replicate the countryside.
The planting mostly consists of boxed plantations consisting of a variety of riotous flowering plants. Since a strict adherence to structure is not the primary focus of an English garden, the color becomes all important.
The overall look is one of charming chaos. Now, if you want to modernize an English garden style, you need to simplify its design. You may incorporate clean rectangular pavers, replace arched arbors with more orthogonal structures and adopt fewer colors and species of plants in your garden. Eliminate the element of chaos and focus on creating a space that is controlled and organized.
The way we use materials in modern gardens is the most important contributor to keeping things simple. Fortunately, we have a huge selection of materials to choose from.
In an effort to remain clean and uncluttered, modern garden designs often feature neutral colors such as beige, off-white, grey and brown for paving. You may fringe these with subtle beige or silver travertine, used minimally to provide visual interest. Light, natural colors not only add to the simple aesthetic of a garden, but also make the space feel visually expansive. Owing to the restrained use of color in modern garden designs, these gardens are sometimes accused of being sterile and lifeless. The subtle use of color can help bring warmth to a modern garden without compromising on the principles of modern design. For example, if you decide to use concrete, you might want to opt for a light tan or sandstone color. Pair it with wood or corten steel for added warmth. The colored concrete still reads as concrete and is monochromatic in appearance. However, when paired with a brighter material, it can make the space feel warmer and more inviting.
Garden structures in modern settings have clean profiles, minimal ornamentation and are simple in design and form. Modern pergolas, for example, would have slim profiles, with sleek beams and rafters. They could be white, off-white, grey or simply made of wood. For a modern look, you would keep the edges of beams and rafters straight cut. Avoid adding a fancy edge profile. The energy of nature is also instrumental in elevating a simple, modern design aesthetic. Water features, by themselves, are structural focal points and can add a dynamic quality to static gardens. The clean, crisp lines of an orthogonal water feature can give the garden a flawless, sophisticated look. The soothing sound of trickling water makes for a more relaxing vibe. A swimming pool in a modern garden would be a simple rectangular affair without curved edges. Keep it flush with the surrounding grade for a clean, uninterrupted view. This will add to the structured look of the garden.
Modern sculpture and artwork can add style to a garden by creating artful focal points. While choosing a sculpture or artwork is a very subjective decision, your choice should enhance the modern aesthetic of your garden. Opt for artworks that have strong geometric forms, combine unique materials and add sculptural value to your garden. Your chosen sculpture should unify the design by tying together art, nature and the space it occupies.
Modern garden designs rely more on structure and materials for their organization. However, planting can elevate a modern design by adding vibrancy and dynamism that make the garden come alive. Simplicity is the key; use plants that have a sculptural quality to emphasize the lines of the hardscape and furniture. Group plants in large swathes to highlight their structural quality. This also makes the garden appear neat and organized.
Repeat plant combinations throughout the garden so as to keep plant selection to a minimum. Don’t underestimate the power of color in plantings. Nothing can change the mood of a garden like plant colors. Just because a garden is modern in its design, does not mean you cannot use color. It just means that the choice of color needs to be subtle and carefully placed to create deliberate and thought-out focal points.
Anytime you introduce color into a garden, you also add a new focal point. As with material colors, limit yourself to one or two plant colors. Brighten your garden up with shades of green and textures rather than a profusion of color. As a general rule, purples and blues are cheerful and inviting, while bold hues of reds or oranges are dynamic and energizing. White plants in a garden add a feel of sophistication, so choose your colors wisely to create the mood you want.
Modern garden designs use subtle lighting to create a mood. Soft diffused lighting is ideal for a relaxing, intimate vibe when you want to enjoy a romantic dinner under the stars. Directional lighting may create a more energizing vibe that is best for parties. Remember the mantra of modern design – ‘less is more’. This particularly holds true for lighting.
Sound systems are the life of a party. When planned correctly through a central server hub, you can operate the sound system effortlessly using your iPhone or iPad. At Milestone, we recommend using Quest Audio for outdoor sound. Their high-quality outdoor speakers are sleek and very different from older generation speakers that used to resemble garden rocks. When thoughtfully designed, the same sound system can be used for parties as well as regular audio requirements for the family. You can make speeches or sing karaoke at parties with the same sound system that is used daily at home, because the sound is distributed evenly.
The Use Of Automation
No modern garden is complete without good sound and lighting systems. In today’s computerized world, there are a variety of integrated systems that can tie into your home’s lighting and sound systems. Automation in the modern world is no longer a luxury; it is quickly becoming a necessity.
Overlighting your garden can create high contrast that will detract from the simplicity of the garden.
Opt for subtle lighting that highlights interesting features of trees and plants. Draw attention to steps and walkways as a safety measure. Use directional lights for pergola columns and concealed LED strip lighting for features such as benches and garden seating. Remember that fixtures are as important as the quality of light they emit. Choose fixtures with clean, architectural profiles that blend seamlessly with your planting.
Natural Stone Or Travertine
Modern garden designs also sometimes use natural stones or travertine. However, these materials require ongoing maintenance to ensure longevity. You should waterproof travertine at the bottom and seal it on top before installing it. The sealant is not UV protected and will evaporate in the sun, so you will need to reseal it every year. Therefore, people are hesitant to use it because of the high cost of maintaining it. Owing to time constraints and environmental considerations, more people are opting for low maintenance gardens that will look good throughout the year with minimal effort.
The modern garden is a cohesive expression of material, form and color put together. Equally important in a modern garden is the choice of furniture that artfully combines these qualities. Furniture should have a sleek, minimal profile, without compromising on comfort. For this reason, I love the Talenti furniture collection from Italy. Playful and unique in its expression, it combines unusual materials in unique blends. Geometric patterns and luxurious fabrics add a touch of glamour to the outdoor environment. Also well suited to the local climate of Dubai is the Fiore Rosso collection, also manufactured in Italy. The furniture is extremely durable and ideally suited to the hot, humid conditions in Dubai.
Additionally, there is a huge variety of luxury furniture brands to suit your personal aesthetic and style. Click here to browse the top 10 outdoor luxury furniture brands. At Milestone, we have our own in-house joinery department. We can manufacture furniture to match a modern setting and customize it to suit your needs and the style of your home. Our furniture designs are stylish, elegant and designed for your outdoor space with a focus on luxury, comfort, and sophistication. If you are looking for made-to-order furniture that is long-lasting, please download our catalogue to see the wide range of products on offer.
My personal favorite is exterior grade porcelain tiles. These have evolved over time to include a high-quality selection that can withstand outdoor conditions with minimal maintenance. Newer technologies have given us the option of large format porcelain tiles that minimize the presence of joints. These are available in many different sizes: 60cm x 120cm, 75cm x 75cm or 60cm x 60cm. Fewer joints give the garden a neater, more structured appearance. The other advantage of porcelain tiles is that they are available in different thicknesses.
Therefore, you can use them for varied applications within your garden. You could use 18mm or 20mm thick tiles for your driveway and use the same colored tile in a 10mm thickness for your patio. This would give your garden a more homogenous look, thereby emphasizing the simplicity of its design