Modern garden ideas: 19 ways to add style and function to your plot

Get inspired by our modern garden ideas – featuring outdoor kitchens, chic lighting solutions, stylish sheds, and more

modern garden ideas: small city plot harrington porter
(Image credit: Harrington Porter)

Are you on the lookout for some modern garden ideas? Whether you’re ready for a complete outdoor overhaul or just after a few quick tricks to make your space more welcoming, you’ve come to the right place.

From outdoor living rooms, kitchens and even cinemas, to ambient lighting and stylish colour schemes, we’ve collected the best modern garden ideas out there. It’s all the garden inspiration you need, all in one place!

Just take a look at our garden design ideas below – there’s sure to be something that’ll catch your eye.

1. Be bold with shapes

modern garden ideas: harrington porter patio and lawn

A large, multi-levelled garden, designed by Harrington Porter

(Image credit: Harrington Porter)

A garden is a perfect place to get creative. After all, it’s your space, so have fun making it exactly how you want it to be! And, one way to create a bold yet playful effect is to experiment with proportions and form. 

This contemporary garden designed by London-based Harrington Porter ties a huge backdrop hedge together with clipped topiary balls, drawing the eye around the space. The round globes of purple alliums carry the spherical theme and add an intense shot of purple to the mix. 

These shapes beautifully balance the more angular lines used in the seating area, and in the bespoke, square-shaped water feature.

2. Use a modern pond to divide zones

modern garden ideas: pond and seating area

Use water to separate a chill-out zone from the rest of your plot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A pond is a fail-safe way to create a chilled-out vibe. The gentle splash of a visiting bird bathing on a shallow edge, the rippling reflections catching the sun – it provides a multi-sensory experience. And, a pond is often even more attractive when full of water lilies, gold fish, and other aquatic delights.

But why not double up its purpose and use water as a divider, to separate the ‘rooms’ in your garden? This tucked-away seating space is a lovely example – a secluded retreat from the rest of the plot – accessed by a bridge-like walkway.

3. Try a soothing colour palette

modern garden ideas: small patio designed by Harrington Porter

Calming hues add a serene vibe in this garden design by Harrington Porter

(Image credit: Harrington Porter)

You can seldom go wrong with a palette of white and cool greys. These tones add a feeling of space and serenity to an outdoor living area and let the planting shine.

The contemporary materials in this garden include composite decking and porcelain pavers, and create a laid-back yet sophisticated space for entertaining alfresco. The fire pit and chrome lanterns make a lovely finishing touch.

Check out our best fire pits if you’re tempted to get one for your own space.

4. Split your garden into levels

Modern garden ideas: a decked garden on two levels with grey painted raised planters and natural stained wooden flooring, leading into an open-plan kitchen

This decking splits the plot across two levels, making separate zones

(Image credit: Jemma Watts/Future Publishing)

If you’re undertaking a complete redesign of your garden, consider adding split levels. Not only does it solve the issues of a sloping plot, it also helps to create zones.

Think about including a cooking and dining space, a more informal seating area, and then a kid's play area with a lawn, for example.

There's more sloping garden ideas over in our dedicated feature. 

5. Create an indoor-outdoor flow

Modern garden ideas: kitchen extension leading flush onto patio with modern paving

Match your outdoor floor with your indoor for a cohesive flow

(Image credit: Darren Chung/Future Publishing)

Your garden is an extension of your home, so make the two work together by emphasising the link between outdoors and in. 

If you’ve extended your house, sliding or bi-fold doors help open your house to the garden, but there are other tricks you can use, too. 

Try using similar tiles on your patio area as you have in the room the other side of the doors. Then, invest in some quality furniture to create seating areas, and add fun accessories like cushions and throws for a homely feel.

Head over to our modern paving ideas for more inspiration. 

6. Choose contemporary flooring

Modern garden ideas: large format light coloured Everscape tiles

Add porcelain pavers surrounded by a gravel inlay for a textural twist

(Image credit: Topps Tiles)

Your patio floor makes all the difference to your garden, so invest in a sleek design. These gorgeous tiles from Topps Tiles have a pared-back, minimalist feel for instant cool. 

Patterned tiles work equally well – they lend a Moroccan feel to a garden and have the added benefit of creating an ‘outdoor room’ feel to a space.

7. Experiment with interesting styles

Modern garden ideas: long plank stone paving with gravel surround

Get creative with the layout of your paving

(Image credit: Malcolm Menzies/Future Publishing)

Why not play around with the layout of your tiles, to create a design that’s interesting to the eye?

The above garden makes use of natural stone plank paving and gravel chippings to create a pathway to the bottom of the garden, interspersed with grasses for added interest and texture.

8. Use a pergola for shaded zones

Modern garden ideas: a paved garden with light blue painted raised planters and pergola, hexagonal paving, a grey mesh chair and footstool and light grey slatted fence

Create a cosy seating area with a stylish cover

(Image credit: Fiona Walker-Arnott)

Structures like pergolas add welcome shade to a sunny south-facing garden, but they’re also useful for zoning outdoor spaces, or to support climbing plants.

Use one to define your seating or dining area – you can even build one yourself using an online guide if you have a little DIY know-how.

Take a look at our pergola ideas to get inspired.

9. Cook alfresco with an outdoor kitchen

Modern garden ideas: grey outdoor kitchen with patterned tile splashback

Try bringing the indoors out with a modern cooking space

(Image credit: Jemma Watts/Future Publishing)

Are you a keen cook? Do you love a barbecue come summer? Then an outdoor kitchen could be worth including in your garden design. 

Whether you opt for a modular design or a more bespoke build, you can tailor the kitchen to your needs and budget with ease. There are some essentials, though: you’ll need something to cook with (a barbecue or pizza oven), a workspace for prep (Ikea do a great range of outdoor trolleys) and, if you can, some storage space for outdoor crockery and cooking tools. Any extras, from kitchen shelving to a sink with running water, are up to you.

There's more top tips on how to design an outdoor kitchen in our guide. 

10. Eat in style with an outdoor dining area

Modern garden ideas: dining area with festoon lights hanging overhead

Leafy foliage and festoon lights give this outdoor seating area a magical feel

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Whether you’re including a cooking area in your design or not, an outdoor dining space is a lovely addition for sunny summer days. This setup from Lights 4 Fun has rustic charm, and we love the addition of string lanterns for mood lighting. 

If you’re likely to invite guests over, having a set of outdoor tableware can elevate a meal in the garden to dinner party status.

Want more outdoor dining advice? Take a look at our favourite outdoor dining ideas.

11. Make a feature of your shed

Modern garden ideas: green painted shed with decked area and white chairs outside

Painted in a sea-green, this shed makes a statement

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

A shed is a non-negotiable for anyone who loves gardening, whether it’s for keeping your collection of garden tools or storing your beloved deck chairs come winter.

Make a feature of yours by giving it an upgrade. A lick of paint can do wonders for a shed in relatively good condition, and a few additions, like a wall light or some new decking, can turn an everyday item into something special.

Head over to our she-shed ideas to get inspired for your own miniature garden retreat.

12. Opt for sleek and stylish furniture

Modern garden ideas: rope outdoor dining set

Try switching up your furniture for more modern designs – they will look stunning even in a more traditional garden

(Image credit: Dobbies)

Garden furniture is as important for a modern scheme as the planting and the paving, so choose wisely if you’re investing in a new dining or seating set. Timber is a timeless classic, but we love a sleek steel design for a contemporary look. 

This dining set from Dobbies is an example of how even the most modern furniture can work well in a more traditional garden setting, so don’t be afraid to mix up your styles if you've spotted something you love.

13. Keep your cool with an all-white scheme

Modern garden ideas: patio with white paving, fence and rope chairs

Create a fuss-free haven with white

(Image credit: Tom Scott)

Channel the Mediterranean with a white palette in your garden. This design combines white tiles and painted fencing with plenty of lush green climbing plants for a bright and sunny finish, and the set of rope chairs sets the whole thing off with serious holiday vibes. 

Just be sure to add in plenty of greenery to avoid the space looking too clinical.

14. Add texture with rustic touches

Modern garden ideas: boho-inspired garden from Theresa Gromski

This space is full of colour and texture, giving it an eclectic, homely feel

(Image credit: Theresa Gromski)

If you like a lived-in feel to your garden, you might prefer to inject rustic colours and textures to your space. 

This design from Instagram interiors guru @theresa_gromski plays on a boho vibe, complete with decking and seating built from reclaimed scaffold boards and raised beds made with railway sleepers. 

Rattan furniture, string lighting and black fence paint completes the look.

15. Make space with a garden room

Modern garden ideas: wood-clad sunken garden room with Crittal-style glazing

A timber-clad garden house makes a great retreat

(Image credit: Chris Snook)

A garden room can be a viable and cost-effective alternative to an extension or loft conversion, especially as a home office or hobby space (think an at-home yoga studio or craft room – bliss!). 

With a wealth of designs available at every price point, it’s easier than ever to create a sanctuary at the bottom of your garden. This architect-designed build makes use of timber cladding and a sunken position for a cosy, cabin-in-the-wood vibe.

Check out our garden office ideas for more ways to create a work from home space in your garden. 

16. Create a children’s area

Modern garden ideas:

Create a space for kids to get creative

(Image credit: Dobbies)

If you have little ones, be sure to make space for their hobbies in your garden. You could create a little seating area, set up a play kitchen or buy them their own set of mini tools – if they can’t actually help, at least they’ll look adorable trying.

17. Grow your own with contemporary veg planters

Modern garden ideas: raised vegetable planters painted in light blue

These raised beds are easy to maintain and look the part

(Image credit: Colin Poole)

As more of us aim to be more sustainable, we’re increasingly looking for ways to grow our own fruit and vegetables in the confines of our gardens. If you don’t have space for a full-blown vegetable plot, let this stylish raised vegetable bed inspire you instead. 

While you can buy similar planters online, they’re also easy to make yourself using reclaimed scaffold boards or other recycled wood.

Want to save on space? Take a look at our guide to growing vegetables in pots.

18. Consider lighting carefully

Modern garden ideas: outdoor sofa, rug and coffee table with string lights and lanterns

Use festoons and lanterns to cosy-up a space

(Image credit: John Lewis)

The finishing touches make as much of an impact as anything else in a garden, so give as much thought and attention to things like lighting and accessories as you do layout and planting.

John Lewis & Partners has elevated this outdoor living room with a mix of lighting to set the mood, including string lights and table lamps. Think about lighting up key plants or trees for an instant feature, too, as well as any paths and key living areas.

Why not take a look at our garden lighting ideas for more inspiration. 

19. Chill out with an outdoor cinema

Modern garden ideas: outdoor cinema with screen against fence

Add an outdoor projector and you're all set for summer evening entertainment

(Image credit: Cuprinol)

It’s not an all-seasons solution, but an outdoor cinema can be a real luxury in the warmer months, while the evenings are still balmy (or at least bearable). 

Portable indoor-outdoor projectors are available at all price points, so investing in one – along with a screen – is a great idea if you enjoy film nights with family or friends. 

Add some picnic blankets and a cushion or two and you’ve got yourself a free evening out – popcorn at the ready!

You'll find the best outdoor projector for your budget in our guide. 

How can I make my garden more modern?

If you’ve had a look at our tips and need more pointers on how to make your plot more modern, then this quick checklist might help.

  1. Think about how you’d like to use the space – and then what features would make this easier.
  2. Go for low-maintenance, durable materials.
  3. Add fuss-free details.
  4. Opt for products with multiple uses to maximise the use of space. 

What is a contemporary garden?

modern garden ideas: harrington porter small urban seating area

A fresh and functional garden, perfect for entertaining – designed by Harrington Porter

(Image credit: Harrington Porter)

Contemporary gardens are often a great choice for busy families, who want to enjoy their garden without hours of maintenance involved. Think sleek, pared-back designs, natural materials, minimal colour schemes, even minimal planting. 

Work with straight lines, and if in doubt, take it out!

More garden design ideas: 

Ellen Finch

After a stint writing for true life titles, Ellen made her venture into the world of interiors magazines in 2017 on Real Homes magazine where she is now deputy editor. She's a fan of clever tips and tricks for renters, and has a special interest in sustainability in the home. While she's waiting for a garden to call her own, Ellen keeps herself busy with her collection of houseplants – 28 at the time of writing, but ever-growing. She also enjoys helping out at her grandad's allotment and has made friends with the local cat along the way.