37 modern garden ideas to transform your outdoor space whatever the size
Get inspired by these striking modern garden ideas, from sleek patio ideas and how to style a deck, to gorgeous flower bed design and tips on perfecting your planting
We've found all the modern garden ideas you need to help you refresh your outdoor space in the months ahead. These days, outdoor spaces are increasingly becoming extensions of our indoor spaces. One of the biggest outdoor trends is a seamless transition from your home to your patio, terrace or garden - with outdoor dining areas, outdoor kitchens and outdoor entertaining areas.
Flooring merges seamlessly from inside out, floor-to-ceiling glass extensions are more popular than ever, creating a floor-to-ceiling flow between the two spaces, and modern furniture is taking things up a notch with weatherproof, upholstered outdoor furniture.
So make your modern garden a space you'll love to spend time in, whether that means lazing in a hammock or swing chair, sunbathing on a lounger, planting a vegetable patch, or enjoying a glass of rose in the late afternoon sun...
1. Add built-in bench seating
Built-in bench seating not only lends a more designed look to your space, but it can also seat more people than regular garden chairs.
In this gorgeous garden idea, plants sit on a raised level, with a sunken level for seating. Built-in banquette seating is the piece de resistance, with chic striped upholstery. Featuring lush evergreens, meaning that the space is green all year round, the plants have been arranged in such a way as to appear wild and spontaneous. The stunning roof garden design is by Hay Joung Hwang.
2. Tile the floor for instant pattern
Tiling the floor is an easy modern garden idea to introduce modern pattern to a tired outdoor space. Tiles are waterproof and weatherproof, so why not use them outdoors?
In this courtyard garden, designed by Barbara Samitier, the bespoke Bauhaus-inspired tiles create a party vibe and distract the eye from the boundaries, making the space appear bigger. A chic black unit creates a practical workstation, while a bistro-style table and chairs would complete the look. They can be easily set to one side when more space is needed.
For a more traditional look, reclaimed vintage tiles will add character and charm.
A tiled floor adds instant color to this Spanish patio garden below. Design studio Guta Louro gave the unloved patio space a simple refresh, opting for marble-top tables and bright patterned cushions that complement the tiled floor.
3. Refresh garden walls with colorful tiles
Tiles work just as well on the walls, and colorful gloss tiles work particularly well. They give a garden a fresh, clean, shiny and colorful look.
The metro tiled wall in the modern garden above offer a modern twist on traditional brick. With its layers of textured tiles and fabulous finishes, it’s a great example of how to mix colors and patterns whatever their setting.
Gloss teal tiles add shiny color to this patio garden, creating a clean look and bouncing light around this patio space.
Meanwhile the small black and white hexagon tiles used in this modern garden create a fun feature wall by being arranged to spell out a message.
4. Paint walls an unexpected bright color
Few people are brave enough to give their garden a bright wall color – but it can work wonders in freshening up the space.
'If you’re thinking of a quick garden makeover, even painting a single wall can make a big difference to freshen up the space,' says Matthew Brown, Technical Consultant at Sadolin and Sandtex. 'When choosing the color, a good starting point is to consider the colors that already appear naturally in your space such as tones of green. To highlight and accentuate these, consider using contrasting tones that will enhance the intensity of the natural hues.'
A small garden with a turquoise wall draws the eye out to the back, making the space appear larger. A pop of vibrant color adds interest even in the middle of winter.
'When space is at a premium, for example in a small courtyard, the use of a distinctive bold shade, such as a bright blue or warm orange, can enliven and energise a space, giving the perception of it appearing larger,' says Matthew Brown. 'If you like dark colours, don’t be afraid to use them. In a small space, dark shades can create a cosy, intimate atmosphere.'
Deep colors can bring drama to outdoor spaces like this Sao Paolo patio garden owned by set designer Michell Lott. The plum wall works brilliantly with the burgundies and purples of the plants, which include Euphorbia cotinifolia, dark philodendrons, begonias and coleus.
5. Welcome the rewilding trend in modern gardens
One of last year's biggest garden trends was the emergence of 'rewilding', which is all about allowing plants to lose their manicured neatness without letting them take over. Free-flowing plants help to give sleek, minimalist gardens a more relaxed, informal feel.
This meadow inspired city roof garden is a prime example. Designed by Aralia's Alastair Henderson, this eighth-floor city roof garden feels immersive and naturalistic thanks to wildly planted garden borders.
Despite neighboring blocks, the city roof garden feels private thanks to the layered planting and carefully placed trees.
When it comes to gardening, every roof terrace has its issues, but this city roof garden is buzzing with design and planting know-how. Strong winds and extreme exposure can desiccate even the toughest plants while weight restrictions, safety regulations and getting materials to the top of a building all make vertiginous outdoor spaces among the most challenging sites.
The main planting included osmanthus hedging with its rich jasmine-scented flowers in mid-spring as well as several trees; amelanchier (with beautiful blossom in March), small olives and multi-stem heptacodium trees that flower in autumn and are beloved of bees. Dotted in between are ilex balls, pittosporum and Pinusmugo – a tough, slow-growing shrub. The terrace is always buzzing with bees and there are often birds, too.
6. Opt for low maintenance plants
This Mediterranean-inspired patio is easy to keep clean and chic all year long, with potted trees and boxus balls, but no grass or other plants to worry about.
'Cultivating a beautiful garden doesn’t have to be time consuming,' says Karl Harrison, Trex pro and founder of Karl Harrison Designs. 'One of the easiest ways to reduce landscaping labor is to grow plants that require less watering such as shrubs and perennials. In addition, look for plants that have disease resistance, can take the heat and the cold, and don’t need to be staked. Location is also key, so be sure to give plants the right amount of sunlight and elbow room. There’s nothing worse than planting a shrub you must constantly prune to make it fit your space.'
Meanwhile, low maintenance potted grasses cocoon this roof terrace, giving privacy and a pop of color.
'Planting low-maintenance green plants form the basis of long-term eco-systems,' adds Karl Harrison. 'They remove carbon dioxide from the air and generate oxygen, as well as provide sun protection for soil and function as a valuable part of the food web for many insects and birds.'
7. Install spotlights for added drama or to highlight features
The modernist-inspired granite and glass-tiled waterfall in this small urban garden creates a bold streamlined statement - many of these features have now joined the smart gardening revolution and become compliant with being app-controlled. Designer Amir Schlezinger has used spotlights to create dramatic shadows as evening falls, while a bench with a lit cavity echoes the fireplace in the adjacent living room. Raised beds double as impromptu seating and the hardwood flooring creates a seamless flow between indoors and out.
'Spotlights are a great way of showing off a feature in your garden,' says Brett Lockwood of The Outdoor Look. 'This could be anything from highlighting a sculpture, plants or a tree.
'Spotlights vary in light strength, so make sure you decide what effect you want from your lighting before you choose. For a calming effect, try a series of smaller, softer spotlights around the edge of your garden or patio. Or, for a more dramatic effect, you could go for a single, brighter spotlight to add some drama.'
8. Short on space? Plant vertically
The patio above may be small, but a sea of green against the wall makes it feel more like a garden.
The same was achieved on this tiny balcony garden, where the wall boasts a living wall of cascading foliage.
9. Make the most of a small garden with glass walls
Got a small garden? Consider swapping your walls for floor-to-ceiling glass, to turn that space into a manicured display or 'fifth room'.
10. Blur the boundary between indoors and outdoors
Whatever your outdoor space, blending it with the indoor spaces will help to make the most of what you have.
In this small space, a retractable roof allows guests to dine alfresco when the weather allows. Living walls make this courtyard space feel more like a garden.
This modern garden also continues the indoor/outdoor theme, as both the cantilevered table and the tiled bench continue through the bifold window to the terrace outside.
Both the wood flooring and the living wall below continue from the inside out, providing a flow and a connection between the spaces. Inside, the living wall is illuminated with spotlights in the floor, while outside up-lighters bring out the plants as well as the smart pond feature that's built into the patio floor.
The only thing that could have made this modern garden idea even better is if the pond also started indoors and continued through the glass doors out into the patio garden.
11. Install an outdoor kitchen
The tiled outdoor terrace above features an enviable outdoor kitchen, complete with sink, fridge, pizza oven and the best barbecue. It's perfect for summer entertaining.
'Creating outdoor kitchen/bar areas in the garden is really popular,' says Garden & Camping's Design Specialist Laura Ayres. 'It's such a great idea, as it brings a whole other element to your outdoor area. Integrating concrete worktops with built-in pizza ovens and optics for an at-home bar is the ultimate garden glow-up.'
Planning an outdoor kitchen can be a daunting task. 'A key consideration is how the outdoor kitchen will fit into the existing garden,' says Jonathan Stanley of Caesarstone. 'Most will be next to or close to the house, but if you're planning to implement yours at the other end of the garden to maximise sunlight, for example, then it’s worth thinking about creating additional storage for kitchen essentials.'
It's useful to have dedicated space for your most used items to save you running backwards and forwards to your kitchen for cooking utensils, plates, cups and serving bowls. 'Increasingly, people are looking to create living pantries, complete with fresh herbs to add to favourite dishes,' adds Jonathan.
12. Plant a vegetable garden
You don't need to have a vegetable garden in order to grow your own – use raised planter boxes or even regular plant pots to have a go at planting herbs, fruits and vegetables.
'Sticking to the top performers will reap rewards,' says expert Sarah Raven. 'The first must-haves are the cut-and-come-again salads – you harvest the leaves, leaving the roots to continue to grow. You can start picking at one end of a line and by the time you get to the other, the leaves where you started have regrown.'
This New York roof garden has raised beds full of vegetables and extraordinary views out across Manhattan. No-dig gardening has become a popular method for getting this done, and is much easier than traditional tilling.
13. Create an outdoor living room
Don't settle for hard, uncomfortable seating – the best garden furniture these days includes inviting upholstered options. Modern, weather-proof furniture from Ligne Rosset transforms this small patio into an outdoor living room.
'Outdoor living rooms are becoming increasingly popular and are a great way to make the most of your garden all year round,' says Simon Hudson of luxury outdoor furniture company Oxley's. 'There is now a huge range of outdoor furniture and accessories that have been designed specifically to create an indoor look while withstanding outdoor conditions.
'Space and shape are the first two things to consider when creating a space outside that can function as well as your interior,' says Jonny Brierley of Moda Furnishings. 'If you have a long, narrow garden, you may decide to zone the space, while wider gardens can benefit from access points across the back of the house.
'Consider how you will use the space. Perhaps you want an area for lounging in the sunshine or cosying up with throws on cooler evenings, or maybe you need a BBQ set-up. Make sure you know exactly what you want to use your garden for in the same way you would design rooms in your house for specific uses.'
14. Build a garden room or guest house
Want to add living space without the stress of an extension? A garden room could be the answer as you can make it be whatever you want it to be – a home office, a home gym or even a playroom/playhouse with toy storage to keep the kid’s toys out of the main house.
Here, the garden room – painted bright white – looks light, inviting and cosy, with a log burner and lounge seating. Perfect for throwing the doors open during warmer days, blurring the line between outdoors and in, but also cosy on cold, wet days, as a mini back garden retreat.
Or what about a garden guest house? This clever garden room design by London-based architects De Rosee Sa incorporates an open-plan living and kitchenette area, and can accommodate guests too. It even has its own shower room.
It's the kind of design we expect will become increasingly popular in the current climate, where people are working from home more often, and entertain kids at home too, so having an additional space to escape to is hugely beneficial.
The guest house is also ideal for offering grandparents, in-laws and friends their own little private retreat to escape to when they come to stay.
The garden room doubles as a 'granny flat', with its own kitchenette and shower room, and a striking color palette.
15. Make the most of your rooftop
Got a roof? Transform it into a roof terrace to enjoy day-long sunshine, complete privacy, and gorgeous views. Modern furniture and a simple olive tree keeps this London roof terrace looking chic and simple.
A glass border will give you optimum views.
16. Use potted plants to create an urban oasis
Can't dig down to plant your trees, shrubs and flowers? Copy this modern garden idea and transform your urban garden with potted plants instead.
Three years ago, this place was a dilapidated industrial unit in a pre-war building in Manhattan’s Garment District, but it had a vast terrace and knock-your-socks-off views, so the owner immediately knew it could make an astonishing home.
A collection of containers is the new way to garden, but there are tricks to make it work. ‘Sticking to either angular or round pots leads to a coherent finish, as does limiting the materials,’ says Tom Harris, author of Pots for All Seasons. Here, Tom combined spiky cordylines and phormiums with soft Japanese maples for a low-maintenance scheme.
17. Divide your garden into 'rooms'
The Dutch are known to create different 'rooms' in their gardens, and this approach works well in this English garden too. A living area further back helps to draw the eye further out, and makes better use of the space. It would have been tempting to place the outdoor furniture directly outside the back doors for ease, but the garden space would have gone to waste. Now the outdoor space becomes a separate retreat.
'If possible, you should try to define the space,' says Juliette Thomas of luxury interiors brand Juliettes Interiors. 'This could be with a shady pergola or contemporary garden screens, or something as simple as a large shade sail. To complete the look of an outdoor room, inject some personality, just as you would indoors, with patterned rugs and colourful cushions, elegant side tables or grand, oversized potted palms.'
18. Create a recessed seating area for a cosy and cocooned space
This cozy seating nook is cleverly hidden from the main patio area, as it sits just a few steps lower. This creates a cocooned and cozy feel, a perfect modern garden idea if you want a secluded space to escape to.
19. Soften angles and modern architecture with wild plants
Contrast and complement modern architecture with loose foliage and wilder plants for a less structured look.
In this modern garden idea, weathered clay pavers were used that recall historic gardens, alongside more rigid, formal structures. Then, of course, to loosen things up a bit, there is always the swaying, fluidity of nature.
20. Choose poured concrete for low maintenance
Poured concrete is low maintenance, and offers a highly contemporary look. Poured concrete patios at different levels make the most of this sloped garden. The poured concrete also creates an interesting contrast to the wood decking areas.
21. Or choose brick or stone for a more classic, traditional backdrop
Brick flooring creates a traditional, but clean look in a garden.
Stone cobbles also create a more traditional look in this gorgeous English garden.
'When creating a more traditional garden, opt for using stone where you can,' says Garden & Camping Design Specialist Laura Ayres. 'Every piece is slightly different in cut and colour, it will fit together in its own unique way and provide you with a stunning backdrop to your garden.'
22. Install an outdoor fireplace
After some outdoor heating ideas? An outdoor fireplace will give your modern garden a focal point – somewhere to gather. It's a great excuse to use the garden year-round, plus it's great for entertaining.
This gorgeous outdoor space has an open-air fireplace – great for toasting marshmallows (it also has a 5ft-deep cedarwood hot tub for when it gets chilly).
This cool fire feature is particularly dramatic, set inside a concrete column on the patio.
Meanwhile, the integrated fireplace in this modern garden is guaranteed to take off the evening chill, while its minimalist Corten steel surround makes a stylish focal point – day or night.
Install the fireplace in a boundary wall or, in a larger garden, enclose your seating and dining area with a freestanding screen. And burn only low-emission dry wood or manufactured solid fuels.
23. Add a water feature for peaceful retreat
In this small, quiet garden designed by Katharine Pooley, a wall fountain makes a gorgeous feature without taking up too much space. It means there's always the soothing of trickling water in the background, soothing the senses and blocking out other noise.
An open fire with a traditional mantel and over-mantel mirror, plus two illuminated water features both at different heights all add interest to this tiny London garden.
No garden for a pond? A large urn or pot filled with water can create a fun feature, especially with additions like water lilies and pretty pond plants, live fish or a water feature/fountain.
24. Use unexpected materials to create a feature wall
Use a contrast material – like red clay, copper, cement, wood cladding, tiles or even moss to create a minimalistic feature wall in your garden.
A vibrant feature wall at the Bacoc Hacienda in Mexico, designed by Reyes Ríos + Larraín Arquitectos, creates a warm contrast against the modern concrete main house.
25. Play with modern, asymmetrical lines
Asymmetrical lines create a more interesting look in this Victorian terrace garden in London. Contrasting materials – a cork wall and dog bed, a concrete patio, a gravel path, wood planter boxes and a grassy patch – all add interest and intrigue in this small urban space.
26. Add height and dimension with raised beds
Add height to your garden by splitting the garden into different levels. Builders reworked this steep garden below, turning a long, rutted slope into a series of stepped levels.
The garden above is cleverly arranged over two levels, with the patio area at the top, and a landscaped slope stretching down to the basement level to let in natural light. Nestled in between the step planters is a a cascading waterfall, that ends in a small rock garden at the bottom. A thousand times more interesting than a plain light well.
27. Incorporate tiered seating
Tiered seating draws the eye up, breaks up a tall space, provides additional seating and makes the most of garden views.
The slice of garden above is cleverly designed in receding sections – decking, seating, hedge, lawn and a raised bed – which creates the illusion of depth, as if it fades into the distance. The white concrete retaining wall has been customized into a tropical bench.
In this modern garden idea, lounge seating rests against tiered planters, creating comfy seating as well as plenty of greenery.
28. Divide two zones with an arch
This sophisticated London garden has been divided into different zones; a patio for alfresco dining, with an arch leading to a relaxed lounge area at the back.
29. Give your garden loose, spaced paving to allow nature to flourish
Hardscaping is becoming greener with crazy paving or spaced pavers that allow rainwater to seep into the ground rather than run off into drains. In a small urban garden, designer Stuart Craine used spaced concrete beams to create a path that allows plants, such as mind-your-own-business to creep into the crevices. This looser approach to paving softens the look of a path, creates better drainage and provides habitats for wildlife, too.
30. Mix materials to create an interesting, balanced scheme
This small garden space feels calm and soothing, with clean stone flooring, bedded plants, exposed brickwork and sleek, slatted wood fencing.
31. Consider concrete for modern outdoor furniture
Modern outdoor furniture made from cement offers an eye-catching contrast to this patio's warm woods.
32. Consider an outdoor cinema
For the ultimate feature, set up an outdoor cinema in your garden to enjoy alfresco movie nights with friends. NW3 Interiors created a stunning modern garden and outdoor cinema space in this Hampstead family home.
The patio was extended to accommodate a long, heavy swimming pool and hot tub. New tiles create a rug effect, while upholstered outdoor furniture is quick-drying (it dries off in 30 minutes).
Meanwhile, a sunken seating area creates an enclave in the modern garden below, transformed by lights into a starry stage set at night. Sally Storey of John Cullen says, ‘Light key features, such as trees, to show off their textures and colours, and also steps to guide you safely.’
There's even a wall-mounted flat-screen TV under a nearby covered porch area, offering an outdoor cinema vibe – perfect for sporting events or movie nights. Cottage-style planting softens the state-of-the-art technology.
33. Introduce unexpected lighting – like floor lamps and outdoor pendants
An oversized Anglepoise floor lamp offers a pop of colour in this London garden.
Pendant lights create just the right night-time ambience in this modern garden by Stefano Marinaz, while matching cushions unify the design.
'Lighting is not only one of the most important elements inside the home, it’s just as important outside too,' says Ian Cameron of bespoke sculptural lighting brand Cameron Design House. 'Ambience is key with lighting playing a crucial role in helping to set the mood. In the garden, opt for a design that complements nature and blends seamlessly into its surroundings.'
34. Keep plants along the border to free up space
Simple, shady plants are kept to a minimum in the roof terrace below, so there’s space for all to roam.
35. Got a basement? Incorporate glass skylights in the flooring
Glass panels built into the garden decking let in light to the basement below. A fire pit acts as the focal point in this modern garden idea, with lounge seating facing towards it. This generously planted space provides a sense of nature and privacy in a busy district. Sleek light wells built into the wooden flooring channel extra daylight into the ground floor below.
36. Built-in hot tubs
Better still, be inspired by this modern garden idea and use your decking to disguise built-in hot tubs. Just dig, plumb, then cover with a matching lid.
Designed by LTD Architectural Design Studio, this decked patio of a home in New Zealand features built-in hot tubs, perfect for watching the sunset. Then when you're done, just put the wood 'lid' back over it and it transforms back into a smooth deck.
37. Add a swing chair or hammock
Recreate the ingredients of a relaxing holiday in your garden with a hammock in a sunny spot.
How can you make a garden look modern?
Most modern garden ideas and designs keep the planting very simple and the over all look feels very structured and almost architectural. Think straight lines, interesting, unexpected materials like concrete and galvanized metals, and exotic evergreen plants and grasses like bamboo, olive trees and tall grasses.
Outdoor furniture can make a garden look modern too. Opt for something minimalist and sleek like a low-slung outdoor sofa or a built-in banquette. Add lighting to add atmosphere – place ground-level spotlights along paths and planters, hang festoon lights for a vacation feel or dot around some oversize hurricane lanterns for a more laid-back modern vibe.
What garden edging is the best?
Choose the right edging and it adds a polished detail that lifts your garden with a professional touch. 'Garden edging is the pièce de résistance for any garden makeover,' says Dayna Taylor of Charles & Ivy. 'Creating a clean separation between areas not only looks satisfying but also has practical benefits as it helps to keep soil and plants in their allocated place.'
There is a huge choice of edging products available, with everything from budget choices (plastic, bricks and timber) to more luxe options (flagstones, galvanised metal and woven willow). There are also eco options like recycled rubber and stone. Choose a style that blends into the surroundings or make a statement with feature edging designed to be noticed. 'Let it contrast and complement, but keep it in scale to whatever it is surrounding,' says landscaper David Dodd.
The three key elements to consider when selecting the right edging are structural integrity, aesthetic value and cost, according to the Society of Garden Designers. What you are edging will determine which material you should use, and edging will only perform well if properly installed with adequate substructure and fixings.
How can I transform my garden on a budget?
Keep it simple and stick to a plan.
When it comes to planting, choose flowers that are easy to grow from seed, perennials that can be divided to create more plants and varieties that can be propagated from cuttings easily. Share the plant love around by swapping with friends and neighbours too. That way you won't be spending a fortune at the garden center when it comes to planting up borders and containers. Think about making your own compost and mulches too.
Paint is wonderfully transformative. It's surprising how a paint refresh can transform faded garden furniture, tired fences and washed out walls. You think they need replacing but a color makeover is often all that's required.
Gravel goes a long way too when it comes to hard landscaping on a budget if pavers are beyond your price range. Try salvage yards for reclaimed materials too like old bricks and cobbles, and keep a look out for stylish garden accessories such as stone statues and rustic ironware while you're browsing. There's nothing like a salvage yard conversation piece to make your space feel high end. Budget? What budget?
Lotte is the Digital Editor for Livingetc, and has been with the website since its launch. She has a background in online journalism and writing for SEO, with previous editor roles at Good Living, Good Housekeeping, Country & Townhouse, and BBC Good Food among others, as well as her own successful interiors blog. When she's not busy writing or tracking analytics, she's doing up houses, two of which have features in interior design magazines. She's just finished doing up her house in Wimbledon, and is eyeing up Bath for her next project.
How big should an outdoor dining table be? This size will make entertaining al fresco more comfortable
The right size outdoor dining table is key to making sure your guests aren't sitting on top of each other. Here's the size experts suggest, and the best to buy
By Aditi Sharma Maheshwari • Published
'Instant ambience boosters!' The 6 best plants for an outdoor dining area which all create a relaxing atmosphere
The best plants for an outdoor dining area include scented flowers, aromatic herbs and sweet baby fruit bushes to elevate your alfresco experience
By Sarah Wilson • Published
18 stylish decking ideas for gardens, backyards and patios
Let these gorgeous garden decking ideas inspire you to upgrade your outdoor space no matter what size you are working with
By Lotte Brouwer • Last updated
Modern outdoor furniture ideas – stylish looks for modern gardens and backyards
We've pulled together plenty of modern outdoor furniture ideas to refresh and revive your outdoor space no matter what size or style
By Hebe Hatton • Published
Patio ideas: 50 stylish patio schemes & design tricks for a welcoming outdoor space
Get inspired by these 50 strikingly stylish garden patio ideas to transform your patio garden into a dreamy outdoor oasis...
By Lotte Brouwer • Last updated
10 Landscaping trends to make the best use of your space
Landscaping trends reveal the increasingly important role our backyards are playing
By Caroline Donald • Published
Rewilding – The Latest Trend In Garden Design
The rewilding trend could mean that patch of lawn you’ve mown all summer is about to bloom
By Lotte Brouwer • Last updated
Play Time! Top 5 Garden Games From The Conran Shop That Are Fun As Well As Funky
Up your garden goals with these ultra-stylish games...
By Ruth Doherty • Last updated
Sneak Peek At Habitat's Hot New Garden Design Collab
Green fingers at the ready!
By Lotte Brouwer • Last updated
SUMMER UPDATES FOR SAVVY STYLE TRIBES
Four cool looks for long hot days...
By Livingetc • Last updated