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If your front yard feels dated, or has a whimsical yet fussy style that you’ve grown tired of, it’s time to turn to a more contemporary look. Often, this means stripping out the excess and focusing on sleek details, functional materials, and planting schemes that create impact without calling for masses of maintenance.
It’s the perfect way to set a fresh new tone for your home. And, when executed well, a contemporary front yard will stay looking chic for years to come. There are plenty of ways to achieve the aesthetic – and elevate the wow-factor of your plot.
10 contemporary front yards to get inspired by
These ideas will get you inspired for a front yard refresh, whatever sized space you have to work with.
1. Keep the color palette simple
‘For a front yard, we like to hold back on too much color for a more welcoming and sophisticated look,’ comments Amy Hovis of Eden Garden Design. ‘We love using the varied shades of greens and silvers with whites, and maybe, just maybe, one pop of color.’
This front yard is a good example. It effortlessly combines lush greenery, a high-end synthetic turf, and pale hardscaping (including Lueders limestone walkways) to create a drought-tolerant scheme that has an alternative look to the traditional xeriscape aesthetic.
The result is a low-maintenance front yard that’s functional, calm, and elegant, too. And those sculptural orbs are the perfect finishing touch for an eye-catching focal point.
Amy Hovis is an award-winning landscape designer and owner of one the most prestigious design firms in central Texas, Eden Garden Design. She is also the owner of Barton Springs Nursery, a 4-acre design-driven garden center in central Austin that specializes in native plants.
2. Embrace succulents for their architectural form
This front yard space also sticks to a minimal color palette, with ornamental grasses and succulents used aplenty – perfect and easy-care choices for a pared-back yet polished look. Tall planters filled with trailing foliage plants adorn the front door, tucked just out of shot, adding more greenery to the scene.
The staggered stepping stone pathways add a sense of playfulness, and are interspersed with yet more ground-cover plants. Sedum – such as ‘Lime Zinger’ from Nature Hills – is a great choice if you want to recreate the look, while blue fescue, also from Nature Hills, is a compact grass that’s ideal for edging.
3. Turn up the drama with lighting
‘Landscape lighting is the icing on the cake to highlight those specimen plantings,’ says Amy Hovis. In fact, whatever style you’re going for, missing it out is a front yard design mistake best avoided.
In this space, a grove of Texas redbud trees which frames the entrance to the home is illuminated by LED lighting. Not only does it create a bold impact after dark, but it will also make navigating the front pathway easier.
Recessed lighting in paving is another option for nighttime drama – as are strip lights neatly installed on the risers of any front yard steps.
4. Incorporate materials that bring a touch of industrial-chic
Corten steel for planters, walls, and gates; concrete for flooring and raised beds; neutral tones of gray and rust – all conjure up an industrial vibe that perfectly suits a modern front yard. This is especially the case if you combine them with plenty of bold shapes, as demonstrated in the space above.
‘Clean, smooth lines are the calling card of a modern design and deliver a linear, contemporary appearance,’ says landscaping expert Joe Raboine of Belgard.
‘You can install a modular, concrete panel system to create a variety of functionalities such as a seating area, benches and planters,’ he suggests. ‘The concrete finish adds a modern flair and works well with cooler-toned monochromatic color schemes. Though these features may be historically viewed as backyard additions, the front yard is a trending gathering space as homeowners seek to make the most of their outdoor areas.’
These types of materials also provide a pleasing contrast to softer planting choices, such as wispy ornamental grasses or lofty perennial blooms.
Joe Raboine is the Vice President of Design at Oldcastle APG, the parent company of Belgard. He collaborates with both sales and marketing to ensure that Belgard’s contractors and dealers are receiving best-in-class service, products and experiences. To that end, he often hosts webinars, assists with training events and trade shows, and presents at Belgard Universities and other industry events on current topics such as design trends, product innovations and industry best practices. As part of his role, he also oversees the Belgard Design Studio team.
5. Go for large pavers in your front yard
With modern designs, going for bigger and bolder is often better, rather than using lots of small and intricate details. In terms of hardscaping, this can mean opting for large-format pavers. Take this front yard, for instance.
The concrete paver walkway is set in a layout that pleasingly mirrors the shape of the stake lights alongside. Ground-cover plants add a naturalistic touch, as do the large boulders. If you have the space, a front yard tree or two can also be incorporated for color and structure.
6. Supersize your container display
Speaking of size, it’s also better to go for larger planters if you’re planning a contemporary container garden. This space uses large Corten steel raised beds, which define the edges of a sleek, sloped pathway. You could alternatively use large pots to frame a front door.
For a sense of cohesion, choose plants that offset the colors of your chosen containers – such as these shrubs and perennials in a palette of fiery hues.
Embracing repetition by using lots of the same variety of plants is a surefire way to create a modern and sophisticated aesthetic outdoors.
Here, fragrant (and low-maintenance) lavender is used to line an entryway at the front of a plot. Curves and clean lines are also incorporated for that fuss-free yet intentional look.
Other effective options include Japanese forest grass (such as ‘All Gold’, from Nature Hills), which can create a textural, naturalistic vibe, as well as many evergreen shrubs – perhaps clipped neatly into topiary balls.
8. Make a statement with a contemporary screen
Up the level of your front yard’s privacy by opting for a statement screen, such as this metal design, which doubles up as a work of art.
There are plenty of fences to choose from, which are less maintenance than a front yard hedge. But, if you don’t have the budget for something new entirely, consider updating your current boundary with a lick of paint. Crisp white or inky black are contemporary options that help nearby planting pop.
9. Soothe the senses with a water feature
Looking for an extra sensory element for your front yard? Consider a simple water feature. We love the stripped-back look of this design – but a metal water bowl is another modern option.
When installed with precision and using quality materials, outdoor water features can provide a contemporary look as well as beauty and serenity, comments Shane Stevens, Vice President of Operations at System Pavers. By adding one to a front yard, homeowners can enjoy the relaxing sound of water falling, instead of the hustle and bustle of traffic, he adds. This can significantly improve the ambiance of the space.
They are also great at attracting birds and other wildlife, further enhancing the appeal of a plot.
10. Try vertical gardening techniques in your front yard
If you want to update a compact front yard, and include as many plants as possible, vertical garden ideas are the way forward. These are clever ways to incorporate containers, without taking up precious floor space.
Living walls brimming with foliage have a distinctly modern look, while staggered shelves installed onto a fence or home-exterior wall allow you to get creative with a potted display of herbs. You could even grow some vegetables in your front yard using this approach.
What plants are best for a modern front yard?
‘The main design concept in a modern-minimalist landscape is to use restraint and work hard to minimize your planting palette,’ says Amy Hovis of Eden Garden Design.
‘Of course, use only native and adapted plants suited for your region and try to use very little lawn, if not at all,’ she says. ‘Drama is the key – and to achieve that, you’ll want sculptural, statement plants that will be evergreen.’
You’ll also want to add in some pollinator-friendly plants for the birds, bees and butterflies, she adds. Garden edging and raised beds will create a sense of structure for such slightly-wilder plants.
As with all landscaping design, starting with a plan is essential – and this is especially important to achieve a clean and contemporary look. Make inspirational mood boards to help you get started, consider complementary materials, and don’t forget to keep the space functional, as well as stylish. And, for a sense of cohesion throughout your outdoor space, why not mirror some of the ideas to create a modern backyard, too?