Looking for more of that modern “wow” factor from your front yard? We’ve got a few suggestions for you.
Get started on your modern front yard today with Yardzen’s Curb Appeal package!
What is Modern?
Straight lines, minimal ornamentation, free-flowing layouts, and dissolved boundaries are characteristics that spring to mind when we think of modern design.
You can hang on to these basic traits and still have plenty of room to play within the modern category:
Some modern designs are formal, with recognizable geometries and patterns everywhere, particularly in planting design.
Others are informal, playfully juxtaposing the rough and wild with the clean and crisp – this is where you’ll see stainless steel rails above rusty corten walls, swooping meadow grasses hemmed in by rigid paver paths.
Even when skewing wild, modern designs evoke restraint and control; some designs lean heavily in this direction, pushing all the way to minimalism.
All this variety is a good thing – it means you have options. Below we’ll run through some of our favorite tips to help you get a modern front yard look, whatever type of modern you may be shooting for.
Each component of your yard’s design expresses a style, albeit some more forcefully than others. We’ll start with the big impact stuff, and work our way to the finer details.
Use straight edges, and turn corners at 90 degree angles. This goes for planting areas, paths, seating areas, etc.
An occasional curve is fine, just make it long, graceful, and intentional. Avoid wavy lines.
Diagonal lines are playful and give designs something to react to, but don’t introduce too many different angles. Keep your layout simple and legible.
Some designers stagger gapped pavers to provide an angled or curving path. If you go this route, keep plenty of overlap from one paver to the next, so you can walk in a straight line without having to zig-zag.
Check out our Complete Guide to Paving to learn more!
For paving, walls, and more, concrete is the go-to modern material, but don’t overdo it. Pair large concrete pavers or slabs with smaller pavers. This provides contrast and humanizes the paving scale in key areas.
Default to paving in cool gray tones, bright or dark. Choose precast pavers in three different shades of gray (not too contrasty) and blend them within a fixed paving pattern to evoke the natural color variability of stone. Or, if budget allows, get actual stone pavers cut to rectangular dimensions (natural-shaped stone skews traditional).
Rustic modern designs should mix in some decomposed granite or gravel as a rough counterpart to crisp pavers or concrete. Formal designs should lean on larger pavers, avoid gravel or DG, and use stone for marquee areas.
Gray isn’t the only way. Look to the regional landscape for color guidance – warm neutrals in the southwest, darker grays in the northwest. This goes for pavers, stones, and aggregates like gravel or DG.
Corten and raw steel scream rustic modern. Use either for low retaining walls, stair risers, or edging, and pair with gravel or decomposed granite.
For a literally more polished look, go with stainless steel. Stainless steel cable handrails offer supreme visual permeability – you’ll barely notice they’re there. They are an investment, but can be worth it in short runs when the goal is maximizing key views or strengthening connections between high and low spaces.
Black metal works in any flavor of modern design – it more or less vanishes when anything more interesting to look at is placed nearby. Black metal fences with wire grids or horizontal pickets (explore our Guide to Fences) cost more but look more elevated than your standard vertical picket black metal fence. Don’t get too chunky or tricky when using black metal – less is more.
Wood + Composite Decking
Wood is a highlight material, a spot of warmth in a modern design.
Use wood for fences, decks, and retaining walls, just avoid any ornamentation. Corners should be a clean 90 degrees, post caps should be minimized, and when cost allows, fence boards should be mounted horizontally instead of vertically.
For a formal look, select hardwoods, or stain cedar to look like hardwood. For rustic modern designs, reclaimed or weathered wood looks handsome.
To save on cost, hassle, and environmental footprint, we advise going with composite decking in lieu of wood – TimberTech offers a particularly attractive range of colors and finishes.
Explore color options for your exterior with a Yardzen Curb Appeal package!
In terms of curb appeal, house color is a major mood setter.
White, black and various shades of gray are all safe bets for setting a modern impression.
If you want more color, try a dark blue. Alternately, keep the house neutral and splash an accent color on your front door.
Modern planting designs tend to feature fewer blooms, and place more emphasis on texture, height layering, and foliage color.
Informal modern designs emulate wild planting, often in a simplified interpretation. Tall ornamental grasses are popular, planted in monolithic blocks or interspersed with occasional accents from flowers or sculptural succulents.
For a formal modern look, arrange plants in straight rows. People often prefer to leave healthy room between each plant. In shadier zones, you can use smooth gravel or river rock to get more design value from the spaces between plants (rock mulches work in full sun, but only for heat-tolerant plants).
The name of the game is fewer, larger gestures.
Pro Tip: The same rule applies to rocks. Use a few big boulders (2’-3’ or so), placed alone, as opposed to lots of smaller rocks.
Transform your exterior windows with a Yardzen exterior design package!
Modern designs aim to dissolve the indoor-outdoor boundary with large windows and doors. If expanding street-facing windows is an option, it can be a major signal of modern design (just be careful to control sun exposure into your home).
Choose sleek, durable windows with minimal frame ornamentation. Your eye should be drawn to the glass, not the frame.
Garage doors often aren’t much to look at, but they’re big and often street-facing, making them a great opportunity to boost curb appeal.
Top shelf: get a new garage door that complements your home’s exterior (Marvin offers several handsome options). Garage doors with rectangular glass or horizontal wood detailing look particularly modern.
Simple and Effective: Paint your garage to complement your home’s exterior. You don’t need to draw attention to your garage, just make it feel cohesive with the rest of the yard.
Pro Tip: use tall, relatively slender container plants to frame your garage door. If possible, use a species found elsewhere in the front yard – this amplifies the sense of connection to the rest of the yard.
Explore front doors for your exterior with a Yardzen Curb Appeal package!
Front doors are focal points, so they have an outsized influence on curb appeal.
Make sure your door is well lit.
Choose a quality door that complements your home’s exterior. This could mean paint to match trim, a bold wood tone, an even bolder accent color, or an alternative material like metal or glass.
Don’t skimp on front porch paving, nor on paths to the front door – these are breadcrumb trails for the eye to follow, and get as much scrutiny as your door will.
As with the garage door, well-positioned plants – in containers or in adjacent planting beds – can frame or accentuate entry areas. We suggest picking species with some height to them – their scale feels good alongside tall, slender doors.
Lighting should do its job at night, and be invisible during the day.
Eye-catching modern fixtures can be great in limited doses, but they are often costly, and become impediments to open flow (especially in small yards). We prefer minimal, black fixtures that fade into obscurity during the day but provide dramatic evening light.
Try uplights on prominent architectural features or specimen plants, but don’t go overboard – if everything is accented, nothing is accented.
If you are building anew, try embedding lights in decking, paving, stair risers, or walls. This can be more complex than standard path lighting, but it delivers a strong modern impression.
Less is more with light fixtures. Avoid placing path lights closer than 15’ apart, and keep all lights tucked away from foot traffic to reduce trip hazards.
Pro Tip: Whenever possible, use LED lights to save energy, and turn your lights off when you retire for the evening – the local birds and bugs will thank you.
After doing the work to create a yard that feels modern across the board, take care to finish strong by selecting modern details.
Mailboxes, house address numbers, door and gate hardware, and other small items have a meaningful impact on the style expressed by a yard. You don’t need to go top shelf on all of them, but make sure they feel like a stylistic fit. When in doubt, go with basic white, black, or metal features with minimal ornamentation.
Modern design is best achieved when all the elements play their part, and everything in the yard feels like a part of cohesive, considered whole. This emphasis on the cumulative design is why it’s a great idea to design your home exterior at the same time as your landscape!