Exterior Worlds
Modern Garden Design
Request a consultation

Small Modern Gardens

One of the best things about a modern garden is that you can build one almost anywhere on a landscape. It can be constructed as an accent to building architecture, an adjunct spatial compliment to hardscape design, or the creation of a special environment for people to relax and enjoy a break from the routine.

Spatial challenges are resolved by scaling materials and geometric patterns down to a size that is appropriate to the limited space at hand. Smaller stones and center profile materials are arranged around angles and radii in such a way as to make the most of available area and to generate the illusion that there is actually more room within the garden than there actually is.

Small modern gardens like these can be found everywhere around townhomes, schools, and commercial environments. We build quite a few in small office parks where a handful of buildings often lie crowded together and there is little room—or décor for that matter—to provide a break area for employees. Property managers will hire us to build atriums in the corners created at the intersection of a sidewalk and the building entrance.


These atriums can be simple stone patios with a splash of vegetation and stone benches, or they can be something more elaborate where custom hardscapes designed with converging radii culminate in the tranquility of a lighting fountain. Even after employees have gone home for the day, the illuminated water stream adds dimension and beauty to the grounds at night.

Vegetation is minimal, yet also carefully planned. Its primary function is to compliment the geometric structure of the hardscape and adjacent buildings with an intentional sense of life force that serves to embody the focused, professional mindset of the business cycle.

In school yards and community colleges, we will often design small modern gardens as entry gardens either in the back of the school or along the sides of the building. Entry gardens in the back are ideal for transitioning mindset from the rigorous disciplines of study to the more open sense of freedom associated with recreation and relaxation outdoors. Entry gardens along the sides of school buildings help provide transitional from the business of parking areas into the more green and comfortable spaces located in campus interiors.

Larger college campuses and office parks usually want us to build more than one type of small modern garden. In these environments, we are working between a series of buildings that are connected by sidewalks, patios, and even parking lots. These forms give us a multitude of design choices. Linear plantings can be made to enliven sidewalks. Sections can be removed from patios and filled with decorative rocks, multi-colored gravel designs, and hardy plants that require minimum water and sunlight to thrive.

More spacious areas in these campuses and parks can be developed into either open or enclosed courtyard structures. Small modern garden design here normally features very complex geometric patterns in the hardscape, a very strategic and careful selection of plant material, and centerpiece materials such as a perennial flowering bush, disappearing fountain, or a carefully arranged display of ornamental boulders. As we do in ever modern gardens, we prefer ground cover, shrubs, and grasses that are dark green in color because they compliment rock, concrete, and gravel so superbly.

In townhomes, where space is very limited, we often build a small modern garden on either side of the house. If the driveway is square or rectangular, we can actually remove the two corners nearest the dwelling and turn them into planters. Or, if the parking area is a circle drive, we will fill the empty space between the arc the exterior of the house. One very popular way to do this is to build a gravel patio with a single tree planted in the center.

The examples we have discussed today represent just a small number of the near infinite possibilities that exist in small modern garden design. There are many other modern garden ideas that we can explore with you for your particular commercial, academic, or residential environment. Practically any concept is workable here provided it follows the minimalism and abstract absolutism that characterizes modern design as one of the most unique landscaping styles of our time.