What is Modernist Garden Style?

If you're into sleek, uncluttered design that emphasizes hardscapes and limits planting, Modernist style may be for you. Get to know it, here.

Asian Patio With Bamboo

Asian Patio With Potted Bamboo

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Cube pots lined together create a bamboo wall around this Asian style patio. A black modern chair with matching ottoman sits on the wood flooring next to a tall plant in a black planter.

Modernist gardens celebrate elegant leisure space where outdoor life can be enjoyed; they view planting as only one element of the whole composition, not the main reason for the garden's creation. Hardscapes are emphasized, in horizontal expanses of wood, stone and concrete, often complemented by water. Clipped hedges, specimen trees and large blocks of planting provide simple, sculptural surfaces or screens. The Modernist approach flourishes in temperate climates, where the garden can be used as an outdoor room.

Modernist Style in Detail

Crisp and clean, Modernist designs suit gardens of any size, and can provide welcome relief from crowded cities and hectic lifestyles. Modernist style relies on scale, proportion and open space to create drama in a deliberately sparse atmosphere. These gardens offer the perfect setting for outdoor living.

Most Modernist gardens are based on a geometric layout, with the horizontal lines of rectangles providing a sense of movement. The vertical lines of trees, hedges or walls provide balancing contrast.

Materials are selected for their surface qualities — decking, polished concrete, limestone and gravel make surfaces seem to expand, and they are often punctuated by reflective water or specimen trees. Fine lawns, clipped hedges and simple planting are typical of most Modernist gardens, although there's no reason not to use a more complex palette if it fits the desingn.

Key Element: Asymmetry

Although Modernist design may be guided by a central visual line, it is used as a subtle guide rather than a dominant feature. Rectangles of lawn, water, paving or planting interlock irregularly to create sharply defined but irregular patterns.

Outdoor Patio With Modular Ponds, Wooden Walkways, Modern Furniture

Modern Patio With Interlocking Ponds

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Modern Materials

The clean lines of steel, concrete, glass and wood emphasize the precision of the design. Lighting, whether natural or installed, is used to enhance the surfaces.

Metal Garden Sculpture with Orange Seating Area and Work Station

An Outdoor Office Inside a Twisted Metal Sculpture

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Planting in Blocks

The selection of plants is often limited and planted in large blocks or masses. Grasses and perennials are interplanted to catch the light and create movement.

Steps with Green Hedges and Purple Flowers

Backyard Steps Showcase Block Planting with Hedges

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Contemporary Furniture

Modernist garden furniture is architectural in style: sculptural chairs, elegant recliners, simple tables and matching benches.

Modern Outdoor Space With Wood Floor, Wood Recliner and Blue Table

Modern Outdoor Room With Table and Recliner

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Reflective Water

Reflective pools create unruffled surfaces and bring light into the garden. Their reflective surfaces contribute to the expansive feeling of the Modernist garden.

Reflective Pools Create Still Surfaces and Light

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Breaking Modernist Molds With Curves

Although many Modernist gardens are based on rectangular layouts, sweeping curves can be used to great effect, for example to create swimming pools and lawns.

Winding River Pool

Winding River Pool

2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK - Garden Design

DK - Garden Design, 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Next Up

Catch Up With Our Blogs

We're serving up the latest news, gorgeous style, crafty DIY projects, clever entertaining tips and more. Consider these your design digests.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.