How Do You Define Modern Landscape Design?

We hear the term ‘modern landscape design’ often used in conversation or talked about in trendy coffee table books. But, how do you define a modern landscape design? Which elements of the design give it a modern vibe?

The elegance of a modern landscape can be achieved in various ways. Like any other style, modern landscape design is influenced by current trends. Busy lifestyles, greater environmental awareness and a changing design aesthetic all impact the contemporary landscape.

However, there are some features of design that all modern gardens have in common. The two cornerstones of modern landscape design are balance and symmetry. These are expressed through the use of materials, colors, clear definition of space and a preference for geometric forms.



Modern landscapes are characterized by the innovative use of materials both old and new. Pair seemingly incompatible materials for a unique aesthetic. Hence, you could pair board form concrete with corten steel or stone paving with grouted pebble joints for a streamlined look.



Color is extremely important in a modern garden. Use neutral colors that are everlasting in their beauty and will not go out of style when trends change. You can introduce pops of color with colorful accents and accessories. These can change as trends evolve, but the basic color palette is always subdued. Think timeless fashion basics; a neutral colored blazer is a must have for the modern woman’s wardrobe. It will never go out of style and you can dress it up with a variety of stylish accessories to suit your mood.


Definition of Space

Clear definition of space is essential for modern landscape design, which prefers clean, sleek lines. Hence, pathways, patios and decks are clearly edged and separated from planting areas. This is what gives the garden its structure. Surround plants with a hedged border to keep them contained for a neat, uncluttered look.





Modern landscape design favors bold geometric forms and shapes over free form organic ones. These contribute to the clean, uncluttered look that we associate with modern design. Straight lines give the space a more formal and organized appearance. Therefore use linear pathways and hedge off planting beds.

The bold forms are highly functional with very little in the way of unnecessary ornamentation.



Current Trends That Influence Modern Landscape Design

Modern day living and lifestyles have made a noticeable impact on modern landscape design. Modern landscapes are constantly evolving to keep up with the changing times. Here we take a look at how this could impact your modern landscape desig


Busy Lifestyles

Times are changing because life is fast paced and people have less time to spend tending to their landscapes. Therefore, modern landscapes typically require much less maintenance than their classic counterparts. You want your garden to look beautiful year round with minimal effort on your part. To reduce the amount of maintenance your garden requires, try these strategies.

  • Use plants that are adapted to the local weather conditions
  • Invest in new smart equipment that will save time and money
  • Use exterior materials that are hardy and suited to the local climate such as travertine, concrete, granite and porcelain tiles
  • Use contemporary outdoor furniture that weathers well in the hot, humid climate

Focus On Sustainability

With the current focus on global warming and changing climatic patterns, you cannot ignore environmental considerations when designing your garden. Sustainable practices are good for the environment. They can also help save time and money in the long run. Things you can do to make your modern landscape design more environmentally friendly are:

  • Use energy efficient LED smart lights rather than traditional halogen, which has high power consumption. LED lights are versatile and come in different colors. They are long lasting and use a fraction of the energy of halogen lamps.
  • Avoid hand watering. Install drip irrigation systems, which are better adapted to the sandy soil in Dubai. Hook up your irrigation system to a smart controller so you can adjust watering times and frequency based on the weather.
  • Plant plants that thrive in the heat and humidity here in Dubai. When designing your planting layout, group plants with similar water requirements together. This will minimize over watering of plants with low water requirements.
  • Opt for artificial grass. With high summer temperatures, natural grass might fade and die, leaving you with a patchy lawn. UV treated artificial grass does not lose its color. It can withstand high temperatures and is not water thirsty like natural grass. The latter needs to be watered three to four times daily during the hot summer months and to to three times when the temperatures drop.

Impact of Technology On Modern Landscape Design

Technology impacts every aspect of our lives; the landscape is no exception. It has slowly, but surely, influenced how we design outdoor spaces. It has also given us the tools to maintain them in a way that was previously impossible. How might technology shape your modern landscape design?

Irrigation Systems

Smart irrigation systems use real time data from satellites to monitor soil pH and moisture levels. Hook your irrigation system up to a smart controller to help regulate the amount of water you give your plants. This can lead to huge cost savings and will also help plants to thrive.

Plant Sensors

These are nifty little gadgets you can stick into the soil around your plant. They monitor your plant’s health including moisture levels, nutrient levels and exposure to sunlight. You can use this data to help locate your plants and adjust water and fertilizer levels.

Pool Pumps And Filtration Systems

Pool pumps and filtration systems help your pool to function effectively. With the newly developed technology, you can opt for SMART pumps. They are quieter, use less electricity and significantly reduce CO2 emissions. You can monitor these remotely thereby maintaining your pool even when on vacation.

Smart technology also allows you to connect remotely to your pool filtration system. This enables you to control the quality of water by monitoring chemical content and water temperature. Therefore, you can keep your pool water clean and safe.

Smart systems operate on much less electricity than their traditional counterparts, hence are more energy efficient.


SOURCE: Recent Milestone Project

When Should You Opt For A Modern Landscape Design?

Modern landscapes are not everyone’s cup of tea. Ideally, the landscape is an extension of the home.  You can’t delete looking at the house when you are sitting in your garden. Therefore, it is preferable that the vibe of your outdoor space matches that of your home.

Modern landscape design best complements modern architecture. The overall design is more cohesive if you match the clean lines of the architecture with contemporary lines in the landscape.

That is not to say that you cannot have a modern vibe if the architecture of your house is not modern. It just means that the feel and structure of your garden expresses a contemporary vibe, while still using materials and accessories that reflect the architecture of the house.

Take the example of modern Mediterranean architecture. Classic Mediterranean architecture uses warm colors, vibrant contrasting accents and tactile combinations of materials. But you can still retain the Mediterranean flavor of your home while giving it a modern feel.

To make your Mediterranean home feel more modern, you might introduce tonal complements rather than striking contrasts. Polished, white exterior plaster for walls blend seamlessly with clean cut beige terracotta tiles. Add a touch of contrasting blue accessories such as cushions or blue and white cutlery on a table.


SOURCE: Recent Milestone project

What Do Modern Garden Elements Look Like?

When it comes to modern landscape design, less is more. Keep it simple and elegant. How does this advice translate to elements in your landscape?



Modern landscape design focuses on tonal variations and textures, rather than a profusion of colorful plants. Monochromatic planting is the way to go; the shades of green complement the neutral colors of the hardscape. This gives the landscape a sophisticated, polished look.

You can also use plants with sculptural forms; the strong geometry of these plants reflect the geometry of the house and garden. Use structured or hedged planting to define areas of softscape; within these defined spaces you can still use free flowing plants for a balanced look. Use linear planters that reinforce the geometry in the landscape.

A modern landscape design utilizes few selective plants. These are strategically placed to create planned focal points. You can repeat planting patterns to create a rhythm in the landscape. Avoid using too many plant varieties since this tends to give the garden an informal, messy look. Plant in large swathes for a clean look.

Avoid plants such as topiaries in animal and geometric shapes. These are out of vogue and make your garden look old and dated. Stick to a simple plant palette that emphasizes tonal and textural variation.

Water Features

Modern water features tend to be sleek and linear, utilizing geometric forms. In a modern landscape design, the water feature is often custom built and integrated into the hardscape.

It might be a trough of water that is set flush with the surrounding paving. It might take the form of a projecting, horizontal slab that is part of a landscape wall. You can design a water wall as a landscape feature, using a material that complements the surrounding paving. For a monolithic look, carry the paving material up the sides of a raised water feature as cladding.

Mix and match materials for an innovative composition. Finishing is  important; polished black granite will give your water feature a sleek, minimal look, like a reflective mirror. Go for natural grey concrete or a corten steel trough for a more industrial look.

Sleek, elegant and geometric is in; tiered fountains, gargoyles, rock waterfalls and overly ornate water features are out! The modern water feature is highly functional; form follows function and there is no additional ornamentation. Each element has a purpose. The materials, proportions and attention to detail makes all the difference.


Perhaps more than planting, modern landscapes focus on paving and hardscape. Install straight edged paving with uniform joints for a clean, modern look. Paving materials create outdoor ‘rooms’; you can use these spaces for sitting, dining or entertaining. Use paving to break up a large mass of planting and create balance between hard and soft landscaping.

Have fun mixing and matching materials for an eclectic look. If you are trying to cut down on future costs, opt for artificial grass. This is easy to maintain and can withstand high temperatures.

Use can also carry your interior paving through to the outside for continuity to tie the two spaces together.


Outdoor Furniture

Outdoor furniture can be built-in to the landscape or can be store bought furniture. If you prefer the built-in option, go for simple concrete benches, wooden benches or a combination of the two materials. Choose hardy materials that are weather resistant as they require less maintenance.

Pergolas With Music And Lighting

Pergolas are great for Al Fresco dining or just chilling out with family and friends. You can either connect a pergola to the main house or have a freestanding one in your garden. Wood, wood composites and metal are frequently used in modern pergola designs.

You can also use pergolas to mount lights or speakers for music. Opt for  contemporary outdoor lights that are made with non-corrosive exterior grade materials. Use light fixtures with LEDs as they are long lasting and consume less energy than conventional lamps.

Modern day outdoor speakers are compact, sleek and weather resistant; avoid fake looking rock shaped speakers or big black boxes that are difficult to conceal.

Swimming Pools

A central feature in many landscapes, modern swimming pools are linear in shape and form. Rectangular pools are much preferred, in today’s day and age. Organic forms such as kidney shaped pools, which were once quite popular are outdated. The latter have limited usage and are more costly to build.

Your pool can incorporate a bench, steps or a baja shelf for the perfect spot to sunbathe.

Think about the function of your pool; is it primarily for swimming, exercise or more as a play pool?

Lap pools and pools designed for walking are trendy in modern landscapes. Hot tubs and jacuzzis are also great for relaxing. Install one if you are looking to enjoy some drinks while lounging in the water.

Personalize Your Modern Landscape

If you’re going for the modern vibe for your landscape, think about your lifestyle and day-to-day usage. Do you entertain often? If so, you might want to incorporate a dining area, bar and/or barbeque into your modern landscape design.

Even if you do entertain frequently, design your landscape for everyday use and then glam it up for a party with lights, music and accent pieces.

Although style is important, it is more important for a modern landscape to reflect your personal aesthetic. This will make your modern landscape design unique and will make you feel like spending more time outdoors than inside!

With so many factors to consider when designing your garden, you need the expertise of professional designers. This will ensure that your modern landscape design is beautiful to experience, functional and customized to suit your lifestyle.

Contact a member of the Milestone Design team to get your landscape design just right.