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Outset Design's 'Gilberton House' inspired by mid-century modern design

Midcentury modern gardens are all about living.

Mid-century modern architecture and landscape design have had a surge in popularity in recent years. Outdoor spaces of the 1930’s right through to the 60’s were designed to create better living. They inspired the movement of realising a garden that was a destination to spend time in, rather than an outdoor space to look at.

The garden was seen as an extension of the home, especially in smaller suburban blocks where space was limited. Simple forms were celebrated and organic materials and color palettes embraced. Just like the interiors, mid-century modern outdoor spaces were designed with an emphasis function and to be used by everyone in the family.

6 key principles of mid-century modern gardens

These key principles of that era are still very relevant today which is why we’re seeing a trend of designers and homeowners creating gardens influenced by mid-century modernism. If you’re looking to update your mid-century modern garden, here are a few key elements to consider.

Creating rooms

Mid-century modern gardens are well known for their excellent use of space. Through materials, structures and soft landscape, the backyard was divided into distinctive spaces for dining, relaxation and play.

Connection

Keen Architecture's indoor/outdoor space featuring Endicott Flagstone
Keen Architecture’s indoor/outdoor space featuring Endicott Flagstone

One of the key design principles of midcentury modern gardens is the seamless connection between the interior and exterior spaces where only glass separated the two. The materials underfoot and the restrained color palette flowing from the inside out emphasized a sense of informality we love about the design style.

Low-maintenance

Low maintenance planting by Michael Cooke Garden Design featuring Porphyry filetti
Low maintenance planting by Michael Cooke Garden Design featuring Porphyry filetti

Mid-century gardens were typically kept low-maintenance to allow homeowners to spend more time living in the outdoors rather than working in it. Low-maintenance plant varieties were planted in groups with the occasional sculptural plants added for interest or to define a boundary.

Natural materials

Flagstone was used in this mid-century modern house & garden by Bower Architecture
Flagstone was used in this mid-century modern house & garden by Bower Architecture

Natural materials provided an organic element to mid-century modern gardens. Stone paving in both flagstone and modular patterns were used commonly in the outdoor spaces, as well as large natural boulders as highlights. Timber and gravel are other natural materials used found in mid-century modern gardens.

Restraint

Everywhere you look in mid-century modern gardens you’ll notice restraint. Restraint in the number of materials used and in the colors chosen. Restraint in the forms and the garden’s layout offering visual respite.

Functional furniture

The Hunter is an example of outdoor furniture seen in mid-century modern gardens
The Hunter is an example of outdoor furniture seen in mid-century modern gardens

Furniture that was functional, yet stylish, found a home in mid-century modern gardens. Pieces that could transition from indoors to out, like the Hunter, were favored as well as those with clean-lines. Furnishing a garden was less about being ornate and more about living comfortably.