5 modern front yard ideas that prove the standard lawn and white picket fence look is out of style for 2024

From high-end lighting to sculptural plants, this is the way to give your front yard a contemporary refresh

Modern front yard design with tropical plants
(Image credit: Roger Davies. Design: KAA Design Group)

Modern front yards are defined by clean lines, a sculptured and manicured look, and a holistic approach to garden design that encourages you to connect spiritually with the space. 

A key element of a modern design is a calming feeling, and more and more, we want our homes and gardens to feel like tranquil sanctuaries where we can relax. For Michael McGowan, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group, it's about considering the mood.

'When designing a front yard garden, consider first the mood you wish to evoke and not just curb appeal. Ask yourself; How do you want to feel when you return home, or how do you want your guests to feel when visiting - this is the place to start,' he says. 

This style of landscape design can be a great fit for a contemporary home as well as a refreshing juxtaposition to a more traditional architectural style. So whatever style of home you have, give your front yard a modern edge with these landscaping ideas tips from the experts.

1. Embrace the holistic power of water

A water feature runs along a front yard pathway

(Image credit: William MacCollum. Design: Whipple Russell Architects)

Modern front yards often practice holistic design, meaning that every element and sense is considered, from sustainability to spirituality. Water is therefore a key holistic element you can bring bring to your front yard landscaping. 'We are hardwired to respond to the sound of running water, it calms us,' says designer, Christopher Dameron.

For Michael McGowan, senior landscape architect at KAA Design Group, it's about considering the mood 'modern gardens have the ability to arouse aspirational moods in those that experience them.'

This modern project is in Palm Desert, California, in the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains and has a water feature running along the pathway to the front door. The design of the whole home is holistic, with the design of the central living space framing the desertscape scene of mountains, trees, and sky. 

'Our client visited the desert frequently growing up, and always wanted a house there,' says Yoav Weiss, architect and project manager at boutique Los Angeles firm, Whipple Russel Architects who designed this space. 

'In addition to an indoor/outdoor open feeling, he wanted to see water from every vantage point in the house. This is why we have created the entryway courtyard, which is really a very large pond. From anywhere in the kitchen, you see the water in the entryway. And then from all the bedrooms, if you open the door, you have views of the water through the columns. While very private from the street side, every room has a view of the water.'

While incorporating a pond of this scale in your front yard might involve a total redesign, you can take inspiration from this modern design and bring water into your front yard on a smaller scale. From a front yard pond to a sculpture that doubles up as a water feature, to even a simple bird bath, embracing the calming power of water in your front yard can help you achieve a calming and contemporary space.

2. Go for contemporary lighting

A front yard lit in a modern way

(Image credit: Paul Dyer. Design: Feldman Architecture)

Lighting your front yard in a contemporary way can help emphasize the architecture of the front of your home. Consider wall lights that are mounted to the front of your home, shining upwards and below, or spot lights that illuminate the front of your home and help to create a smart first impression.

Recessed lighting for outdoor pathway lighting can be embedded in the grass, gravel or steps in your front yard and will create a discreet pool of light that lights your front yard pathway.

For a front yard lighting with a modern feel, go for a sculptural and structured look with a design that brings height. Modern style bollard path lights make for a striking feature and help carve a modern front yard pathway, while they also cast light downwards to avoid a harsh glare. 

3. Use clean lines 

A front yard design made up of angles and straight lines

(Image credit: Doublespace. Design: Amantea Architects)

When it comes to the shapes found in modern yards, think clean lines, rectangles and squares that bring structure and contrast against the wildness of nature. I like these rectangular planters from Amantea Architects, with a contemporary feel, overlapping each other for a more angular shape to your front yard. Pick a material that feels modern, like metal, corten steel or concrete for an industrial edge.

4. Introduce sculptural trees and tropical planters

A front door surrounded by tropical shrubbery

(Image credit: Tatjana Plitt. Design: BENT Architecture)

Tropical plants and palms are among the best plants for front yard paths and gardens. There is something contemporary feeling about their height and gravitas, adding interest to your space much like a sculpture would. Go for a soft tree fern for something easy to maintain, banana plants for their impressive leaves, or a Canary Island date palm for a dramatic flair. 

This home in Victoria, Australia embraces the dramatic shape of the leaves for a wow-factor entrance. 'Homeowners Ann and John enjoy their passion for restoring the indigenous vegetation to the site,' explains the architect and designer, Paul Porjazoski, of Melbourne-based BENT Architecture. 'Visitors to the house immediately engage with its landscape as it defines the path to the front door and, once beyond, the living areas are nested within extensive planting across the site.

'The crafting of this home and its indigenous garden was our way of bringing soul to an urban setting', Ann explains. 

5. Or go for a neat and manicured look

A front yard with neat topiary

(Image credit: Peter Molick. Design: Reagan & Andre Architecture Studio)

Another way to give your front yard a contemporary makeover is to embrace symmetry to give your garden a smart and tidy appearance. Topiary is the art of clipping bushes and trees into neat shapes. The look has gone in and out of popularity over the past few decades, but it can be relied on for bringing a smart look to your gardens, keeping your bushes and trees manicured and perfectly formed. 

It's a low maintenance form of gardening too and can adorn entrances, doorways and porches, making a bold statement. While it is associated with grander estates, it can bring that smart element to smaller urban spaces too.

In this landscaped front yard designed by Reagan & Andre Architecture Studio, it brings structure to the space, and mirrors the architecture of the four floor-to-ceiling windows the other side of the front door. 

Oonagh Turner
Livingetc content editor and design expert

Oonagh is a content editor at Livingetc.com and an expert at spotting the interior trends that are making waves in the design world. Writing a mix of everything and everything from home tours to news, long-form features to design idea pieces on the website, as well as frequently featured in the monthly print magazine, she's the go-to for design advice in the home. Previously, she worked on a London property title, producing long-read interiors features, style pages and conducting interviews with a range of famous faces from the UK interiors scene, from Kit Kemp to Robert Kime. In doing so, she has developed a keen interest in London's historical architecture and the city's distinct tastemakers paving the way in the world of interiors.