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Contemporary Backyard Ideas | State College, PA

Contemporary backyards are redefining outdoor spaces with a focus on sleek, functional designs that cater to modern living. It's a landscaping approach that merges the latest trends with timeless visuals, creating beautiful and practical environments for everyday enjoyment.

In the following sections, we'll share contemporary backyard ideas and design elements that exemplify modern living. We'll also give you inspiration and practical tips to help you envision the potential of your own backyard transformation! 

Use these tips as a guide when you plan to hire a landscape design service to make sure your outdoor space fully embodies contemporary aesthetics.

Key Takeaways

  • Simplified color schemes and functional paving solutions are foundational in creating modern backyards that are both visually appealing and practical.

  • Integrating statement pieces and maintaining a minimalist design helps maximize both the functionality and aesthetic appeal of outdoor spaces.

  • Strategic use of lighting and modern planting enhances the atmosphere and usability of contemporary backyards, making them ideal for both relaxation and entertainment.

Simplified Color Schemes

modern backyard with a mostly grey color scheme and small pops of orange color

Moving from the broader concepts of modern landscape design, let's look at one of its most crucial aspects: the color scheme. Simplifying color schemes is an important part of crafting modern backyards that are functional and visually striking. 

Using color expertly

Neutral colors often dominate these spaces, providing a calm and collected atmosphere that enhances the clean lines and minimalist aesthetic typical of modern design.

For instance, incorporating varying shades of gray and beige can create a serene backdrop for both relaxation and entertainment. These neutral bases are perfect for highlighting other elements of your outdoor space, like architectural outdoor furniture or a bold, contemporary pool.

However, the addition of bold color pops can transform a subdued palette into something more dynamic—a bright blue fire pit area or vibrant yellow outdoor decor pieces can become the focal points, injecting personality and modern flair into the setting.

This approach to color not only ensures a modern feel but also allows for versatility in adapting the space to different themes or occasions. The color scheme plays a pivotal role in defining the vibe of your outdoor living space. 

Functional Paving Solutions

modern backyard with pavers

Another vital component in contemporary backyard design is the choice of paving. Functional paving solutions, such as large geometric pavers, play a pivotal role in achieving a modern landscape. These pavers, often characterized by their crisp, clean lines and symmetrical shapes, introduce a structured and refined look to outdoor spaces.

Natural materials

The use of natural materials like sand or gravel between these pavers complements the modern vibe and enhances functionality. These materials help manage water runoff, prevent weed growth, and maintain the durability of the paved area. 

Additionally, incorporating elements like stone pavers into the design adds a touch of natural beauty, tying the modern aesthetic back to the great outdoors.

Modular paving systems

Modular paving systems exemplify the practical and aesthetic advantages of contemporary design. These systems offer flexibility in design, allowing homeowners to customize their outdoor space according to personal style and functionality needs. 

The modular nature of these systems makes it easier to replace individual pavers if damaged, and their uniform size and shape facilitate quicker installation compared to traditional methods.

Backyards with integrated paving systems gain a distinctive modern look and become more practical and low maintenance as well. This makes them ideal for homeowners who desire a stylish outdoor living area without extensive upkeep. 

Statement Pieces

Now, let's talk about how the right statement pieces and a commitment to minimalism can elevate your outdoor space. In contemporary landscape design, less is definitely more. This minimalist approach not only clears the clutter but also focuses attention on carefully chosen features that truly stand out.

Statement furniture, like a boldly designed fire pit or an elegantly simple outdoor sofa, serves as a focal point and draws the eye, providing both functionality and style without overwhelming the space. These pieces are designed to complement the clean lines and geometric patterns of a modern backyard, enhancing the overall feel without adding unnecessary complexity.

Moreover, statement planters are another fantastic way to infuse character into minimalist designs. Placed strategically, they define different areas of your outdoor living space, from the dining area to a cozy corner near the plunge pool.

The beauty of minimalist furniture and décor lies in its ability to make outdoor spaces more livable and less crowded. This thoughtful placement of statement pieces ensures that each element in your backyard is both a functional item and a conversation starter, bringing together form and function in the most elegant way possible.

Up next, we'll explore how the subtle yet impactful use of lighting can enhance these design elements, making your modern backyard not just a place to see but a place to experience.

Lighting and Ambiance

Outdoor string lights

Lighting plays a crucial role in transforming a modern backyard into an enchanting nighttime oasis. Strategic lighting enhances the usability of the space after dark and significantly elevates the overall ambiance, making your outdoor areas as inviting by night as they are by day.

Recessed lighting

One effective way to achieve this is through the use of recessed lighting. These fixtures can be installed in decks, along pathways, or even within paver patios, providing a seamless and sophisticated illumination that guides movements and highlights the geometric designs inherent in modern landscaping. 

The subtle downlighting they offer doesn't intrude on the evening's atmosphere but enhances it, creating a soft, welcoming glow.

String lights

String lights, on the other hand, add a whimsical touch to any outdoor setting. Draped over a dining area, wrapped around railings, or hung across a pergola, they inject a lively spirit into gatherings and quiet nights alike. Their versatility and warm light make them particularly popular in outdoor living rooms and kitchens, where good visibility and a cheerful ambiance are paramount.

Modern Planting Strategies

Now that we've covered lighting let's move on to plants! When designing a modern backyard, choosing the right plants can enhance the space's clean architectural lines with minimal fuss. The mantra here is "less is more," focusing on selecting plant varieties that are beautiful and easy to maintain.

Ornamental grasses, succulents, and drought-resistant plants are perfect for modern landscapes because they keep their structured appearance all year round and don't need much attention. These plants not only survive on minimal water but also complement the sleek, minimalist style that defines contemporary outdoor spaces.

Native plants are another smart choice. They're tailored to thrive in the local climate, which cuts down on water usage and the need for chemical treatments. Plus, they help support the local wildlife and maintain biodiversity, which is a bonus for eco-friendly gardening.

The layout is also just as important. By placing plants in geometric patterns or grouping them in well-defined spaces, you can reinforce the modern aesthetic. Think about using retaining walls for raised beds or defining plant areas with pavers to keep the look organized and tidy.

The idea is to use fewer plants strategically to make a strong visual impact while keeping maintenance low. This approach not only makes your garden easier to care for but also ensures that each plant really makes its presence felt.

Up next, we'll see how integrating these planting strategies with other elements like water features can further raise the charm and functionality of your modern outdoor space.

Water Features and Fire Pits

modern style waterfall

Water features and fire pits are transformative elements that bring a dynamic and sensory appeal to any modern backyard. These features are not only visually striking but also add an atmospheric touch, making the outdoor space more inviting.

Modern water features

The addition of a minimalist water feature can elevate the tranquility of your outdoor space. From a sleek, geometric waterfall to a simple, understated basin, these water features integrate seamlessly into modern designs. 

They reflect light and sound, enhancing the natural elements within the space while maintaining a clean and uncluttered look. The sound of water adds a calming presence, perfect for relaxing outdoor living rooms or as a serene backdrop for an outdoor kitchen.

Contemporary fire pits and fire tables

Fire pits and fire tables serve as natural gathering spots in any backyard setting. In modern landscapes, these elements are often designed with straight lines and durable materials like concrete or metal, complementing the overall minimalist aesthetic. 

A fire table, especially, can be a centerpiece in the design, providing both warmth and elegance. Its functional surface allows guests to set down a drink or small plates, making it ideal for entertaining.

Integrating both of these features requires thoughtful placement to ensure they enhance the space's functionality without disrupting its flow. Positioning a fire pit as a focal point at the center of a seating area or placing a water feature where it can be seen and heard from multiple vantage points maximizes its impact. 

By blending fire and water into your landscape design, you create a space that feels complete and perfectly balanced.

Outdoor Living Areas

Modern backyard with an outdoor living room

Outdoor living areas are increasingly seen as extensions of the indoor living space. This trend reflects a desire to make the most of one's property, expanding usable space into the open air. Modern backyards, with their emphasis on sleek design and seamless transitions, are perfectly suited to this lifestyle shift.

Outdoor kitchens

Outdoor kitchens are a stellar example of this trend. They provide a focal point for gathering and entertaining, and when designed with modern aesthetics in mind, they seamlessly integrate with the rest of the home. 

Considerations for these spaces include durable materials that can withstand the elements, such as stainless steel for appliances and natural stone or high-quality composites for countertops. 

Layout is crucial, too—ensuring enough counter space and including elements like built-in grills or pizza ovens can transform outdoor cooking into a delightful experience.

Cozy lounges

Similarly, cozy lounge areas in modern backyards are about more than just placing furniture outdoors. It's about creating a fully realized space that invites relaxation and social interaction. 

Modular sofas, sleek fire pits, and ambient lighting all contribute to an atmosphere that's as comfortable as any indoor room. The choice of materials and fabrics must not only complement the modern design but also offer durability and weather resistance, ensuring that style and function go hand in hand.

Furniture and layout

When selecting furniture for these areas, focus on clean lines and contemporary designs that match the modern aesthetic of the space.

The layout is equally important; furniture should be arranged to encourage conversation while also allowing for unobstructed movement around the space. Consider the flow from indoors to outdoors, ensuring that the transition feels natural. Elements like rugs and cushions can add warmth and comfort, making the outdoor space feel even more inviting.

Innovative Materials and Textures

Outdoor patio with wicker furniture, wooden fence, and concrete fire table

Embracing innovative materials and textures is an excellent way to craft a contemporary backyard that stands out. In modern landscape design, the materials chosen not only define the space's style but also its sustainability and longevity. Also, mixing materials can add depth and interest to the design, preventing the space from feeling too sterile or monochrome.

Contemporary materials

Using contemporary materials like concrete, corten steel, and eco-friendly composites offers a robust palette for creating striking outdoor spaces.

Concrete, with its versatile and smooth finish, lends itself to a variety of design aesthetics from industrial chic to minimalistic modern. Its durability and ease of maintenance make it a popular choice for everything from paving and fire pits to outdoor kitchens.

Corten steel, known for its rich, rust-like appearance, adds a dramatic flair to any garden. It weathers naturally and is incredibly durable, making it ideal for structural features like retaining walls, fire pits, or even striking art pieces. This material's earthy tones harmonize beautifully with greenery, softening the modern edges with a touch of nature's warmth.

Eco-friendly composites

Eco-friendly composites are also at the forefront of modern landscape design. Made from recycled plastics and wood fibers, these materials are not only good for the planet but also extremely durable and low maintenance. They can mimic the look and feel of natural wood without the same level of upkeep, making them perfect for decking and outdoor furniture.


Texture plays a crucial role in modern backyard design. It balances visual and tactile experiences to create a space that is as enjoyable to touch as it is to view. 

Smooth finishes like polished concrete floors can be juxtaposed with the rough, natural texture of corten steel or the organic feel of composite wood to create a dynamic outdoor environment.

Vertical Gardening and Space Efficiency

contemporary vertical garden wall

Vertical gardening is a smart solution for modern backyards, especially those with limited space. By expanding upwards rather than outwards, these gardens take full advantage of vertical space.

Optimizing space

One of the primary benefits of vertical gardening is its ability to maximize small areas. From a compact urban backyard to a narrow side yard, vertical gardens allow you to grow plants, flowers, and even vegetables without sacrificing valuable ground space. 

This method is particularly effective for creating privacy screens or green walls, which can transform a plain fence or wall into a lush, living tapestry.

Adding depth and interest

Vertical elements in a garden can also add a new dimension of depth and interest. Structures like trellises, climbing frames, or modular wall planters provide opportunities to experiment with a variety of plants, from ornamental vines to sprawling ferns. These elements draw the eye upward and create a sense of abundance and lushness within a confined footprint.

Vertical gardening is also a chance to display creativity and personality in your outdoor space. Arranging plants in patterns or using them to spell out designs or words are just a couple of ways to make your vertical garden stand out. 

This approach optimizes space and turns the garden into a focal point of visual interest, making it a striking feature of modern landscaping!


Crafting your contemporary backyard is all about smart planning and letting your creativity flow. Each detail adds to the unique vibe of your space. Consider how these modern touches can transform your backyard into a stylish and practical retreat that reflects your personal taste. 

It's your outdoor space, so mix, match, and tweak these ideas to make it your own.

Create Your Dream Contemporary Backyard

Looking to create a stunning, functional outdoor space that reflects your modern style? Landscape II can create it for you!

We're a full-service landscape design and installation company specializing in bringing contemporary backyard dreams to life. Our team of experienced designers and skilled professionals will work with you every step of the way, from initial concept and design to meticulous installation and maintenance.

We're passionate about exceeding expectations and creating outdoor environments that perfectly suit your lifestyle and needs.

Ready to discuss your vision? Book your free consultation with us. Let's turn your contemporary backyard dreams into a reality!

Frequently Asked Questions

How to make a backyard look modern?

To give your backyard a modern look, focus on clean lines, minimalistic design, and incorporate contemporary materials like concrete and corten steel. Use neutral color palettes with bold accents, and ensure the landscaping is streamlined and functional.

How do I design my backyard layout?

Start by assessing your space and determining your needs. Include areas for dining, relaxing, and activities. Use geometric shapes in your design, and create zones with different functions, connected by clear paths.

How can I make my backyard fancy?

Incorporate elegant features such as water elements, upscale outdoor furniture, and sophisticated lighting solutions. Adding art pieces and high-quality materials can also elevate the sophistication of your backyard.

How can I make my small backyard beautiful?

Maximize a small backyard by using vertical gardening to enhance space efficiency, choosing multi-functional furniture, and keeping the design simple but elegant. Opt for bright colors to make the space feel larger and use mirrors to create the illusion of more space.


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