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7 Quick(ish) Ideas to Update Your Contemporary Garden

Want to inject some contemporary cool into a lacklustre patch? Here’s how

Houzz UK deputy editor. I’m an interiors journalist and editor, previously for the… More

If you’re a fan of cool, sharp-edged, contemporary outdoor spaces, but are struggling to know where to start to get the look, these schemes may inspire a small update or two, and none involve relandscaping your plot (though of course they may spark ideas for that kind of bigger project, too). Take a look.

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Go green
A no-flowers policy is a classic contemporary design idea for gardens. An abundance of luscious, verdant foliage – especially when there are some tropical leaves in the mix – looks especially good, as well as modern, when combined with grey.

Not going for a full landscaping project in the foreseeable? Try a smaller update instead: seek out concrete-coloured planters or have some built into your garden – perhaps at the far end of a patio, at either side – to break up the sightlines and allow for bursts of green to spill from them.

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Paint your fence…
Choose the right colour and a painted rather than a bare-wood fence can have a hugely modernising effect on an outdoor space.

Greys, black and white are safe bets for a classic, contemporary look, as seen here. Horizontal slimline strips are also a popular update to traditional vertical fencing.

Great outdoor ideas from some of 2017’s most popular garden tours

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…or upgrade your bare wood
If painting isn’t a route you fancy, a simple twist on the classic fencing style can have a big impact. Here, slim strips, rather than fat feather-edge or lap planks, really freshen up this outdoor space.

Note also the smart touch at the base of the fence – a rendered and painted section – that’s reflected in the white strip between the decking bed and stairs. These seemingly minor details transform the feel of this garden.

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Deviate from standard decking
The softwood decking we’ve all come to know and (perhaps) love, has instantly recognisable grooves in each plank, which is presumed to prevent it from being slippy. But how good does this chic, smooth hardwood look? It’s unashamedly contemporary and would update many a garden in one fell swoop.

You’d need to take measures to ensure something like this – as with any type of wooden flooring outdoors – doesn’t become a hazard during or after rain, and the chief preventative measure to take is regular maintenance. If algae or mildew settles on the surface, for example, or leaves are allowed to sit for extended periods, your deck will be slippy whether grooved or not. Treat it regularly, too, with an anti-slip product to protect both the wood and yourself. There are several on the market that reduce slipperiness in different ways.

When you’re out and about, take a look at the various wooden surfaces underfoot – from piers to public walkways, there’s a lot of smooth timber about.

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Pick purple, green and white
A strict flower colour palette will go a long way to updating the look of a garden. And there’s something endlessly contemporary about the combination of purple, green and white.

Seek out modern planters online – you can’t go wrong with greys and blacks for a contemporary scheme – and choose stone-effect (made out of something like polyethylene resin) rather than solid stone if you’re on a budget or want to be able to move your pots around a lot.

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Cut (in) some corners
The standard roof terrace tends to be square or rectangular – and that can be a fantastic base left as it is for planting and entertaining areas. However, this design thinks outside the, ahem, box and curves have been built in to transform the space. Not only are the beds curved, but the seating undulates and even the flooring, rather than being laid in a linear pattern, swoops around, providing movement and boosting the circular theme.

If you can’t stretch to having a full redesign or even custom-made seating or beds, consider how else you could disguise corners on a boxy rooftop or in a square garden. Think gravel paths, containers arranged to dip in and out unexpectedly – cutting up obvious lines – and climbers to soften the boundaries.

Click on the photo to enlarge it, then look for ‘Other Photos in Roof Garden Design in Essex’ to see the rest of this space.

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Ban neutral furniture
Eschew that favourite of traditional gardens, the natural wood, rattan or neutral-coloured furniture set. For a contemporary space, or a garden you want to inject with modern style, zingy is the way to go. Against a rendered wall with pale wooden flooring, these midcentury-inspired chairs really sing – but any as vibrant as these would update even a postage stamp of unkempt lawn.

Perhaps you already have some of the aforementioned neutral furniture, looking sad and tired after a weather-beaten winter? Paint it! Think lively emerald, like this, or hot pink, bright yellow, out-there orange or cerulean blue.

For a super-modern feel, swerve the plethora of colourful wood stains available and go all-out for a solid, in-your-face colour. These come in matt, satin or gloss finishes, but bright, solid-colour exterior paint can be elusive, so it’s worth searching online before heading to the shops. Also try Googling ‘exterior-use spray paint’, as strong colours tend to be more readily available in aerosol form.

Browse garden furniture in the Houzz Shop

Tell us…
What plans do you have for your garden this season? Share your ideas to inspire fellow Houzzers in the Comments section.
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