10 modern landscaping ideas to enhance your outdoor space

Makeover your backyard with these modern landscaping ideas

Modern landscaping with sloping garden
(Image credit: David Thorne)

Modern landscaping ideas are about designing a garden that's equal parts relaxed and chic. It's like bringing the best of indoors — clean lines, and cool materials like stone, wood, and metal — out into your backyard. 

Geometric shapes and alternative layouts that make your outdoor space pop with personality. It's not just about plants and paths; it's about crafting a whole design that's as stylish as your living room but way more outdoorsy. 

So, whether you're dreaming up a serene sanctuary or a party-ready paradise, use these modern landscaping ideas and make your backyard as gorgeous as the inside of your home!

Modern landscaping ideas for a contemporary look

Give your garden a contemporary makeover with these modern landscaping ideas. Get inspired by everything from water features to statement lighting. You can even find landscaping ideas for a small backyard if you're in a tiny space.

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1. Using upcycled materials to keep costs down

Drift wood fence with rocks and bushes in yard

(Image credit: Jo Thompson)

Using upcycled materials in landscape garden design is not just good for the planet, it's also super smart and stylish. Think old bricks, wooden pallets, or reclaimed metal jazzed up into garden paths, raised beds, or walls. Salvaged wood is perfect for creating a fence structure or rustic benches. 

If you’re feeling creative, turn discarded containers into quirky planters.  It's all about reducing waste while adding loads of character and creativity to your garden. If you're looking for beautiful yet budget front yard landscaping ideas, think vintage tools or industrial bits—they can really up the garden's aesthetic game. 

So, whether you're pinching pennies or just love a good DIY landscaping idea, upcycling is your ticket to a sustainable, personalized landscape. 

2. Create unique, interesting pathways

Curved pathway landscaped garden

(Image credit: Jo Thompson)

Practicality meets creativity when you opt for curvy or uniquely shaped pathways in your garden. Instead of sticking to straight lines, imagine pathways that twist and turn and lend some adventure to your backyard retreat. 

Whether you choose natural stone, gravel, or stylish brick pavers, opting for curves rather than a straight shot transforms a functional necessity into a striking design feature. 

To take it up a notch, consider lining these pathways with lush borders filled with ornamental grasses, low shrubs, and vibrant flowers. Not only do these elements add texture and a burst of color, but they also create a picturesque setting that enhances the overall beauty of your garden. 

3. Set the mood with great lighting design

Pergola in backyard with lights

(Image credit: Matthew Wilson Gardens/ Photographer- Steve Wooster)

Garden lighting isn't just practical, it's a game-changer after the sun goes down. Carefully positioned lights cast a gentle glow that enhances architectural features, highlights recreational spots, and guides you along winding pathways. LED fixtures are your trusty sidekick here, offering energy efficiency and long-lasting performance. 

Uplights add drama to trees and garden sculptures, while downlights create a serene moonlit effect on pathways and garden beds. For the eco-conscious, solar-powered lights provide a green alternative. 

4. Create abstract walkways with creative paving stones

Paving stones in modern garden

(Image credit: David Thorne)

Paving stones are a practical addition to any garden but they are also a versatile canvas for creating dynamic walkways in your garden. With a variety of shapes and sizes to mix and match, they're perfect for sloping gardens, providing both functionality as stepping stones and defining the garden's shape. 

For a creative twist, leave gaps between the stones for ground cover plants or moss to peek through, adding natural texture and softening the hard edges. Whether they're defining garden zones, guiding paths as stepping stones, or standing out as decorative focal points, paving stones bring a cohesive charm that ties your entire outdoor space together beautifully.

5. Add a serene water feature

Stone water feature in garden

(Image credit: David Thorne)

Water features are a garden staple, offering a unique space of calmness and serenity. For a modern twist, consider a minimalist fountain or a reflective pool and use materials like natural stone or stainless steel to give it that contemporary edge. Beyond bringing a spot of tranquility and enhancing visual appeal, a well-designed water feature adds elegance and charm that elevate your outdoor space to a whole new level. 

It's the ultimate touch that transforms your garden into a peaceful retreat you'll never want to leave. For those who see their outdoor spaces as an extension of their home, consider using LED lights to illuminate your water feature after sundown. We've included a few top tips to help you on your way to designing the perfect water feature for your garden. 

  • Simplicity: Think geometric shapes or minimalist sculptures. A cool, rectangular basin or a cascading water wall can really work well with a contemporary garden vibe.
  • Integration with surroundings: Make sure your water feature blends seamlessly with your garden's overall look. Pick materials like stone, stainless steel, or concrete that mesh well with what you've already got going on. Throw in some greenery and strategic lighting to tie everything together
  • Functionality and maintenance: Keep it practical! Opt for features that are easy to maintain, like recirculating pumps that save water and hassle. Choose tough materials that can handle the elements with minimal upkeep.

6. Vertical gardens for smaller spaces

Vertical garden with red planters

(Image credit: Adolfo Harrison)

Creating a vertical garden in a small modern landscape design is a game-changer for city dwellers with limited outdoor space. A compact garden doesn’t have to mean compromising on style! 

A vertical garden adds lush greenery and elevates the aesthetic, making your small garden feel like a cozy, green oasis. Think about using powder-coated steel planters for a sleek, decorative touch that complements modern designs. These vertical planters not only save space but also bring a burst of life to your walls. Before you embark on creating the perfect vertical garden you’ll need to consider the following:

  • Choose the location: Start by scoping out a wall or fence that gets plenty of sunlight. This is super important for your plants to grow strong and healthy
  • Select a Structure: Next, consider what kind of structure you’d like to use. Maybe a trellis, some pallets, wall-mounted planters, or even a modular vertical garden system. 
  • Choose plants: Pick ones that do well in vertical gardens, like ferns, ivy, succulents, herbs, or some colorful flowering plants. Mixing trailing and upright plants can really make your garden pop. Tony O’Neill, CEO of Simplify Gardening recommends, "Choose plants like ferns, ivy, and herbs for a lush and practical vertical garden. Herb plants don’t just look great  but also provide fresh ingredients for cooking.”

7. Opting for an all over evergreen garden

Small evergreen garden with paved patio

(Image credit: Getty Images Photographer- Roberto Westbrook)

While bursts of colorful flowers are undeniably beautiful, some people prefer a more unified color scheme in their garden spaces. By using only green plants in your modern garden landscape, you can create a sophisticated and serene vibe. Focusing on various shades and textures of green helps achieve a rich, put-together look. 

Try incorporating a mix of evergreen shrubs, ornamental grasses, succulents, and leafy perennials for diverse and interesting foliage. This fresh palette emphasizes the garden’s structure and design elements, allowing any architectural features and hardscaping to shine. Plus, this approach is a pretty low-maintenance garden idea that provides lush greenery all year round and creates a tranquil, modern outdoor space that feels both fresh and timeless.

Tom Bruzek Co-Founder of Selling Land Fast finds that “Fully green gardens are gaining popularity for their simplicity and sustainability. These gardens, featuring only greenery without flowers, require less maintenance and water, making them eco-friendly and cost-effective. Fully green gardens also provide excellent natural insulation and improve air quality. By incorporating diverse textures and shades of green, these spaces can be visually stunning and soothing!"

8. Adding a spot for outdoor dining

Al fresco dining with canopy

(Image credit: Bridgeman)

Outdoor living spots are a must for large families and those who love year-round entertaining, especially during the summer months. When planning your modern landscape design, be sure to factor in an outdoor dining area. This addition significantly enhances the functionality and enjoyment of your space all year long. A stylish patio or deck equipped with comfy seating, a dining table, and perhaps even an outdoor kitchen or barbecue for alfresco dining can work particularly well. 

This setup will ensure your garden is ready for summer gatherings and casual get-togethers. To make the area even more versatile, add an awning or pergola with a retractable canopy or a simple structure that you can build upon as and when needed. This will provide much-needed shade during the hot summer days and shelter during rainy or cooler months. Want to further enhance your outdoor social space? 

 "Installing a fire pit or outdoor heater can extend the usability of these areas into cooler evenings, creating a cozy atmosphere," says Tony.

9. Sculptural planting for hot climates

Cactus garden

(Image credit: Zettere Garden Design)

Cacti are perfect for modern garden landscapes. They bring that sculptural, minimalist look and are incredibly low-maintenance. Cactus and succulent plants thrive in sunny, dry climates with well-draining soil, and their ability to store water in their stems and leaves means they can handle droughts better than most plants, which means less watering for you. 

If you're into unique plants, cacti and succulents come in all sorts of fascinating shapes and sizes allowing you to mix and match tall columns, round globes, and varieties with wide, thick leaves. They add texture and a stylish contrast to contemporary gardens, and once they settle in, they pretty much take care of themselves making them a perfect choice for a low-maintenance garden idea

Modern landscaping design combines simplicity, functionality, and sustainability, infusing traditional garden concepts with a fresh contemporary edge. As you begin to design your modern garden landscape, it's crucial to consider the garden landscaping costs and how it can increase your home's value. Investing in high-quality landscaping not only boosts your property's curb appeal but also increases its overall worth — a smart move for both your enjoyment and financial well-being in the long run. 

Freelance Writer

Isabella is a freelance interiors journalist based in the vibrant city of London. With a passion for home and design, she specializes in creating engaging features, compelling news pages, curating buying guides, and exploring the latest trends in shopping within the realm of interior spaces.

Her journey in the world of interiors began as a stylist assistant and researcher. Working with some of the leading interiors stylists she honed her skills and developed a keen eye for aesthetic details.