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Modern v. Contemporary Landscape Style Guide

Do the words ‘modern’ and ‘contemporary’ mean the same thing to you stylistically? If so, you’re not alone. But the distinction is important enough to understand before you begin conversations with your landscape designer.

If you’re using the word modern to describe your particular design aesthetic, when what you really mean is contemporary, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment down the road. To help you avoid that hurdle, we’ve put together a little guide to explain the difference.


Modern design saw its height in the early to mid-twentieth century, and laid the foundation for mid-century modernism in the styles of the 1950’s and 60’s. Both are rooted in the same objectives, and follow a similar formula.


Modern spaces tend to stay within the confines of a strict rule of balance and minimal décor. Mid-century modern designs have a way of making a statement without a lot of fuss.


Stark lines and geometric patterns are other defining characteristics of modern design. Symmetry (another state of balance) is a basic factor we use to assess beauty in another, and could be a reason you may gravitate toward this style. Or perhaps it was an effect of our newfound appreciation for manufacturing, as nature does not often supply such straight lines.


While less is more, there is a more generous use of color, especially regarding interior designs. Bright, warm accent colors are welcome and often used for creating a fun, more lively space.


Unlike modern design, contemporary styles don’t stem from a specific period and are ever-changing. Contemporary design has borrowed ideas from Modernism, but the blended styles of contemporary design have come from all over to create a new aesthetic all its own.


Akin to modern design, contemporary design seeks balance as well, but in harmony more than symmetry. It’s a bit more unified, but overall is stylish and deliberate. Sustainability has also become very popular.


Natural elements are often an aspect of contemporary styles, making space for more curves. However, geometric patterns are also common features of contemporary design.


Contemporary spaces be more monochromatic, but with a bold starkness. While they can land all across the color wheel, think black and white, or variants of gray.  However, not to be constrained by the rigid structure of modern designs, we are trending toward more bold use of color.

Similarly, each style is typically meant for a more simple, uncluttered space. Less is more. Both styles are calming with a focus on materials and color. When you think modern, think straight lines and manufactured products of the 60’s, with vibrant, warm tones. For contemporary, most recently, designs are incorporating more natural elements, and we’re seeing a return to cooler tones like blues, purples, and greens.

If you’re unsure about your specific style preference, make sure you have this conversation with your landscape designer before you begin construction. Working with a company that provides an all-in-one solution (like Best of Texas Landscapes) will also help you know your design will translate from the designer’s page to your backyard.

Curious to find out more about your style preference? Start here with a style quiz by HGTV.

Designing a Landscape for Your Lifestyle

Best of Texas Landscapes - Austin, Tx Landscaping, Sprinkler Systems, and more

Do you use your outdoor space to serve your lifestyle?

Having unused or underutilized space is just as bad outside of your house as it is inside. For many, an outdoor space is nothing more than a few square feet of cement. However, for most of our neighbors here in Central Texas, yards are the rule, not the exception. And for those with yards, the possibilities are endless. New designs are trending every day! A landscape design can be both beautiful and functional. Put your family’s mark on your property by creating an environment that better serves your lifestyle, like a

  • Tea Garden
  • Outdoor Yoga Space
  • Meditation Garden
  • Pet-Friendly Landscape
  • Child’s Play Zone
  • Outdoor Dining Area
  • Recreational Area

Add Value to Your Life

We often focus on the things that would add value to our property in terms of your monetary investment. But what could you add that would add value to your life?

  1. For more ideas on what kind of space would serve you best, take a look at sites like Pinterest or HGTV for some inspiration or view more images of our landscape designs here.
  2. Take note of which design ideas appeal to you most. What elements do you see that you’d like to incorporate?
  3. Try to view your outdoor space as an outdoor room. Is it a place where you’ll go to relax and reset? Then it will need to have features that you find relaxing.
  4. Contact your local design-build landscape professionals. They know what’s trending and can help you choose materials and plants that will fit your property and complement a more functional design for your outdoor lifestyle.

Functional & Decorative Outdoor Elements

Many outdoor elements can be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. Is it a patio or a place where you’ll practice yoga? Choosing the right element will enhance your experience and perception of your space.


Forgo the boring cement sidewalk for something uniquely you with a rock patio, path, or bench.


Water elements, such as trickling fountains or fish ponds, can be a wonderful way to add a calming ambiance to a meditation or tea garden.


Small garden building like pergolas, canopies, or tree-lines can create a more private space within a larger landscape. Adding structures, both living and inanimate, can beautify and increase functionality at once.


Your local design-build landscape professional will have the lowdown on accent lighting versus security lighting. Keep in mind your greatest source of lighting…the sun! Make sure to consider the position of the sun during the times of day you will most likely want to use your space. Using natural or constructed shades and canopies can help you make better use of an underutilized space.

Plant for Your Style

Use your senses to help you decide which plants will be most pleasing to you. Do you love to touch things? Look for plants with a lovely texture, such as the velvety lamb’s ears. If you’re someone who loves visual stimulation, you might prefer brightly colored flowers. Or, if you’re someone who loves fragrances, choose a range of scented plants that bloom at different times of the year. Some night-flowering plants are very fragrant and especially beautiful under moonlight. Even plant forms can inspire you. When choosing plants look at the shapes, patterns, lines, and colors to best complement your outdoor goals.

Don’t forget your living landscape will require attention over time. Be sure to select plants and a landscape design that fits your personality and your design style. Some plants need a lot of time and attention. If that’s not your thing, find an alternative that thrives in your area with little maintenance. If eco-friendly options are very important to you, you may want to consider indigenous plants that also require less water.

Whether you want to spruce up the area around your pool, add an outdoor kitchen or create the perfect backyard retreat, no matter the size of your space, there’s a solution for you. Many people find they don’t need more space or a different place, they just need to optimize the space they have to better serve their lifestyle. How much dead space is on your property? Dead space on your property is only costing you, not serving you. How could you make use of that space and let it better serve you? If you’re ready to create an outdoor space that your family can use and enjoy doing the things they love, contact us today to schedule your complimentary consultation.

Best of Texas Landscapes - Your local design-build landscape professional


Poolside Cabana

Outdoor kitchens are a great way to add a dynamic, friendly atmosphere to your space. Equip your backyard for entertaining and feeding friends and family!  These types of elements are always a hit with visitors and homeowners love the flexibility of indoor/outdoor living. In addition, homeowners see an incredible return on their investment (especially in the Austin area) when it comes time to sell.  A new case study reported by Quicken Loans shows area homeowners today can expect an ROI, or return on investment, of 100% to 200%. Not a bad investment in your property.

When planning an outdoor kitchen, you’ll need to think about how many people you intend to accommodate, your entertaining needs, and your budget. At this point we recommend reaching out to a professional landscape designer to go over options for your next steps—determining the best location for your kitchen, the size requirements, design layout, countertop placement, materials (granite, concrete, aluminum, etc.) and then finally, the appliances you’ll need.

Speaking with a trusted professional about your needs, your wants and your budget will get you off on the right track and will ensure your area turns out exactly how you envisioned it.

Adding an outdoor kitchen sees an average ROI of 100 to 200 percent!

Outdoor kitchens, once offering little more than a grill to fire up the burgers, have evolved into increasingly sophisticated and multi-featured spaces perfect for luxury entertaining.  While outdoor entertaining has always been one of Central Texas’ favored casual pastimes, today’s outdoor kitchens offer so much more than just fresh air, sunshine and the delicious aroma of burgers cooking on the grill.

The simple grill has been replaced with elaborate, multi-functional cooking appliances – including hybrid grills that cook with wood, charcoal or gas – plus warming drawers, griddles, pizza ovens and more. Often, the space may be rounded out with fire pits, bars and beverage centers, upscale cabinets and countertops, lighting, tile designs to rival the fanciest indoor backsplash murals, plus dishwashers, wine units and entertainment centers that include everything from big screen TVs to audio equipment.

These spaces aren’t just used during summertime; many Central Texans use them year-round to expand their kitchen space and enjoy an extended array of cooking and entertaining options.

Outdoor Kitchen designs are also completely customizable when it comes to size and location. Whether you envision a sprawling, scenic paradise or want a smaller functional space, today’s outdoor living features have homeowners re-envisioning what it means to enjoy cooking and dining in the great outdoors. Likewise, today’s designers are taking up the challenge of creating sophisticated spaces for a variety of budgets that are perfect for entertaining, escaping or just being one with nature.

The overall goal for any outdoor kitchen is to create a highly functional space that makes outdoor cooking and entertaining effortless and enjoyable.  Not only do outdoor kitchens have one of the highest ROI’s for home renovations, most homeowners in the Austin area are able to use their outdoor space year-round.  Not sure where to start or where your budget should be? Try contacting your local landscape design-build professional for a good start.

Outdoor Kitchen Builders Best of Texas Landscapes

Landscape Design for Central Texas

In Central Texas, designing a beautiful landscape can often mean enhancing the natural elements that Texas has already given us. However, with a lush native landscape and a fairly mild climate, we’re also able to enjoy plants from many regions.

With so many options, it’s important to consult with a professional landscape designer. A seamless design connects your home’s interior to its exterior, increasing your overall living area. By hiring a professional, you can transform the look and appeal of your outdoor space to make your yard more functional and inviting.


First things first, you need to have a plan before you begin shopping for plants, pavers and other items to redo your outdoor space. A landscape designer can help you create a design plan that fits your budget and meets your goals, so you can choose materials and plants according to functionality and your design aesthetic. Then, you’ll have a realistic idea of how much your project will cost, how long it will take to complete, and what your ultimate vision will look like.

Survey Your Property

Central Texas is home to just about every kind of terrain you can think of, from rolling hills to vast fields, groundwater, layers of rock, red clay and lots of cactus. If drainage is an issue on your property, that will need to be addressed before the installation of plants or hardscapes. If your home faces north, you’ll need to plan for blasts of cold air and a lack of direct sunlight.

Understanding what your challenges are will help you build a realistic plan for construction. Some places around the Austin area, like Lakeway or Lago Vista for instance, are very rocky, and may require more time or added equipment to complete certain projects like a deck or fence installation.

Planning Your Space

Visualize your outdoor space as an extension of your home, so that each individual space flows seamlessly to the next. Knowing how to best utilize your space will help you place plants accordingly. Decide if there are any kinds of functional spaces you’d like to include, where they should go and what needs to be built. That will help you identify where you need specific elements, like added privacy for a yoga or meditation garden.

Remodel Planning

Even if you’re planning to spread your project out over time, it’s important to have a plan based on one grand vision. This will help you stay on track toward your goal and save you time and money. Instead of back-tracking and changing newly installed elements, build towards that grand vision so elements installed now will complement those installed later.


Before you begin installing plants or constructing design elements, make sure your project is executed in a logical order. If you need a new sprinkler system, that needs to be done before you install new sod. Remodeling your front and back yards? Start in the back so you don’t hurt the front yard with contractors trying to access the back. By planning to install in logical steps, you won’t waste time and money by damaging new or existing designs.

Now that you know why you need a landscape design and what to plan for, our next installment will go over different landscaping elements to consider for your project, and which backyard designs are trending in the Austin area.

To see an example of one of our landscape designs, click here