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Basic Principles of Contemporary Garden Design

Your home does not have to be contemporary per se in order for you to have a contemporary garden design. You home simply has to look unique. Contemporary landscaping of any kind is a highly subjective aesthetic. It is very easy to customize and personalize to individual tastes, provided the basic principles of the art are followed.

The following summary touches on these principles and can be used as a guideline for developing your own preliminary ideas for a garden design prior to meeting with your professional landscape designer.

Geometry takes priority over organics.
Rather than filling the space with an abundance of greenery and flowers, we emphasize instead geometry, scale, and mathematics in the design of hardscape surface areas first. Then, we selectively and very sparingly add just the right amount of vegetation. This elevates the abstract qualities of the human mind over the natural forms of the natural world.

Unique Materials such as steel, wire, mirrors, and posts are commonly used in contemporary garden design.
Not only does this make the garden stand out more, but it also adds to the impression that the design itself is reaching into dimensions of thought beyond typical linear thinking and sensory perception. Very simple components can be combined in subtle ways that create very challenging and complex relationships that can focus– and then refocus– the viewer’s attention on even the smallest of spaces.

Gravel is a Common Hardscape Material.
Gravel can be obtained in virtually any color and arranged in any pattern we wish. In fact, very complex geometric shapes and intricate color arrays can be created simply by combining different gravel materials together in complimentary relationships.

Gravel has another important feature that is very key to contemporary garden design. It can be used to hide topsoil that supports plant life. This creates the illusion that living matter is emerging out of non-living space—as if grass, hedges, and trees are literally fed by the gravel itself.

Stone is typically Cut, Polished, or Flat
Stone needs to lose its purely “natural” look to work with this style of landscaping. Most stones used in contemporary garden design are cut, polished, or laid flat across the ground to emphasize the human element in their appearance, presence, and arrangement. This supports the very real need that this style of gardening has for clean lines and deliberate proportions.

Water can always be used in some capacity in contemporary garden design.
Water follows the form of its container, so any fountain, pool, basin, reflecting pond, infinity pool, or artificial streambed we create will shape the water itself into a geometric presence that moves, reflects, and deepens one’s perception of the garden as a whole.

Lighting Creates Vertical Impact and Showcases Hardscape Geometry
Low voltage landscape lights of some kind are always used. We often recommend specialty lights customized to fit the uniqueness of a particular design. Fiber optics, color changing LEDs, and underwater lights are common. Vegetation is normally backlit, and hardscape is down lit to preserve the integrity of its form even on the darkest of nights.