If you own a home built in the mid century architectural style, or if you have recently moved into a contemporary custom home with striking similarities to homes built between the 1930s and 1960s, you might want to consider investing in a mid century modern landscape design.
This unique blend of formal sense and abstract sensibility offers the opportunity to utilize your entire property as an outdoor living environment. The aesthetic spaces that unite to create this living experience follow the progression of your home’s rectilinear architecture, varying levels of height, and openness to the world.
Most homes built in the mid-20th Century style feature flat roof surfaces. This works to reinforce the rectilinear geometry that the majority of these homes are built around. Mid century modern landscape design expands this horizontal impact outward in a progression of hardscapes that run contiguously throughout the property. Rather than having clearly established boundaries between the front and the back yard, patios, walkways, rotundas around fountains, and linear gravel beds that are home to modern gardens run all the way around the sides of the house and into the far reaches of the lot behind it. This has the effect of creating the impression of multiple outdoor rooms generated by interrelated hardscape and softscape zones of interest.
Since most homes built with modernesque architecture tend to vary in elevation themselves, it is necessary that mid century modern landscape designs also vary the elevation of the yard. Steps and multi-level patios are common in these landscape plans. This not only serves to further mirror the home, but to help differentiate special areas from one another in a very subtle and abstract fashion. Guests walking through the property are presented with a number of very fascinating vantage points with no single, central focal point. It is as if every surrounding element brings adjacent forms into focus in its own special way without any one element dominating the scene.
The typically large windows that are built into these homes are mirrored by enlarging certain zones of interest in proportion to the size of the windows that overlook them. This offers the homeowner the unique experience of looking into the yard and seeing what appears to be a continuation of the interior floor plan into outdoor space. This is one of the ways that mid century modern landscape design relies upon abstraction and departs from the previously rigid principles of pure formal landscaping design. The point here is not to create a perfect landscape, per se, but rather more to generate an appropriate living experience whose aesthetic is subjective to both the homeowner and the home it surrounds.
At the same time, mid century modern landscape design avoids appearing too “cold” to the viewer by staying in constant touch with the natural world. Since very simple geometric shapes define each subzone within the design, it is necessary to vary materials and to blend the organic with the inorganic. This is why you see a great deal of mid-20th Century landscapes built with a blend of stone, concrete, gravel, and repeating groups of plants that continue from the very front of the property all the way to the back.