5 Modern Ideas for Residential Landscape Design in NJ

Modern landscaping, known for its clean, sophisticated style, is popular with homeowners who want a yard or garden that looks well-organized and controlled.

Although materials and plants used for residential landscape design in NJ will vary based on a home’s architectural style, one of the main goals of modern landscaping is to create contrast.

Typically, modern landscape designs focus on hardscape and structures using a variety of materials like concrete, natural stone, wood and metal – often left in their natural state.

Trees, shrubs and plants are usually selected for interesting shapes and textures that will provide contrast against sterile hardscape materials, while fences, walls, trellises, planters and outdoor furniture are selected for pops of color that create style, depth and further contrast.

Take a look at five modern ideas for residential landscape design in NJ that may be a great look for your home.

Outdoor Grid Patterns

One of today’s hottest modern landscaping trends involves the use of outdoor grid systems that emphasize geometric patterns in the landscape. Patios, walkways, planters and grassy areas are combined to create a layout of squares and rectangles that make grid patterns throughout the yard. If you have a large back yard, your design possibilities are endless.

You can create visual interest and depth in your yard by dividing it into different areas using grid patterns. If you have a small yard, this type of layout will make your outdoor space look bigger. Create a combination of geometric shapes by using a series of squares and rectangles with:

  • Large Pavers – Create a walkway or pathway with a series of large concrete or natural stone pavers. For modern style, use pavers that are 2 feet by 2 feet or larger. You can create a walkway that’s straight, diagonal or staggered. You can use pavers that are all the same size and shape, or you can vary the size and shape of each paver for more visual interest.
  • Grass Tiles – Create an interesting grid pattern by using squares or rectangles of grass (grass tiles) surrounded or bordered by concrete or stone. This layout can be used for walkways, pathways and patio areas. Design the grid pattern by creating the layout for hard surfaces first, then plan for grassy areas within the grid. With grass tile grids, you can walk across the entire surface, but you need to keep the grass tile areas mowed.
  • Raised Beds – Raised beds in square or rectangular planters can create a grid system that adds height, texture and contrast to your yard. If your yard is small, keep raised beds and planters to a lower height and around the perimeter of the yard. With a large yard, planters can be taller and used to border walkways, patios or garden areas. For a residential landscape design in NJ with modern appeal, consider building planters in concrete, stone, wood or metal.

residential landscape design in NJ

Zen Gardens

Since modern architecture emphasizes clean lines and design simplicity, zen gardens offer a perfect landscaping solution to compliment modern architectural features. Zen gardens reflect a feeling of order and serenity by focusing on natural design elements that invite good balance, harmony and tranquility.

These types of landscape designs lend themselves to a careful, well-planned use of space that’s well-manicured and easy to maintain with design elements and materials that are well-thought out.

For instance, a concrete wall could serve as a backdrop for a stone statue, fountain or a wall of bamboo. A narrow stone pathway could lead to a beautiful water feature or quiet seating area in the yard. Zen garden landscapes typically include:

  • Art objects and sculpture
  • Water features
  • Focal points like waterfalls and Koi ponds
  • Asian plants like bamboo, Japanese maple trees, flowering cherry trees, crape myrtle trees, dogwoods, boxwoods and oriental grasses
  • Quiet seating areas for meditation and thought

You can create a modern zen-like residential landscape design in NJ by combining some of the above design features in your landscape. Create a winding paver pathway that leads to a lovely Koi pond or a beautiful rock waterfall in the corner of your yard. Place a beautiful teak bench and fountain in a quiet spot surrounded by dogwood trees. Low planters will add height and can also serve as seating. Low-level landscape lighting will add a soft glow and a relaxing atmosphere at night.


The term “xeriscaping” refers to creative landscaping that helps to promote water conservation. Although it was originally developed for drought-affected areas of the country, it has become a popular way to landscape homes in many areas.

Xeriscaping offers you a way to conserve water, reduce home expenses and create a residential landscape design in NJ with native plants that require low maintenance and little water. With xeriscaping, you can create a natural looking landscape that’s formal and well-manicured or a casual landscape with free-form designs with these additional benefits:

  • Water Conservation – Reduces water use up to 75%
  • Low Maintenance – Requires little maintenance other than trimming and weeding
  • Drought Resistant Plants – Require less water and maintenance
  • No Pollution – Small grassy areas don’t require gas mowers that need fuel
  • No Pesticides – Native plants can survive on healthy organic soil
  • Promotes Wildlife – Native plants and shrubs offer a natural habitat for local wildlife

There’s a variety of low-water plants that grow well in Bergen County areas. Here’s a few suggestions for xeriscaping your residential landscape design in NJ:

  • Trees and Shrubs – Northern bayberry; viburnum; blue maid holly; Bluebeard; Adam’s needle; Hollywood juniper; Blue carpet juniper; and Winter king hawthorn.
  • Perennials – Autumn joy sedum; black-eyed Susan; purple coneflower; red beauty yarrow; moonbeam tickseed; and Montauk daisy.
  • Ground Covers Candytuft; lamb’s ear; stonecrop; and silver mound.

Water Features

Adding water features to your yard will create a relaxing atmosphere and a tranquil outdoor setting. Water features can include swimming pools, hot tubs and spas, fountains, waterfalls, ponds and moving streams of water.

Although water features will add beauty and ambiance to any style home, think outside the box for modern appeal. Focus on shapes, textures and placement for water features that will compliment the modern architectural style and features of your residential landscape design in NJ.

Swimming Pools

Swimming pools can be designed in a variety of shapes and sizes with beautiful custom features that reflect modern architectural style. Whether your back yard is large, small, flat, hilly or terraced, you can design a pool that accents your property’s natural terrain and surrounding landscape.

residential landscape design in NJ

For modern appeal, focus on pools with more modern features such as:

Geometric Shapes

Rectangular, square, round, oval, octagonal and L-shaped pools provide crisp, clean edges that best compliment the simplicity of modern architecture. For homes with smaller yards, these shapes take up less of the yard and allow more room for landscaping. Geometric swimming pool designs will allow more space for custom pool features like steps, seating and tanning ledges, waterfalls, swim-up bars and adjoining hot tubs or spas.

They can also be built with more than one level, such as a terraced pool, that offers different water depths and functions for each level. Terraced pools are great for sloping landscapes.

Infinity Pools

Infinity pools are built with a vanishing or disappearing edge creating an illusion that the water extends beyond the pool. If your residential landscape design in NJ is sloped or built on a steep hillside or cliff, an infinity pool will create a stunning visual effect of infinite space.

With an infinity pool, the edge actually ends about ¼ inch below the water level. A barrier is created that spills the pool water into a catch basin that pumps it back into the pool. If your home has a terraced or steep back yard, a beautiful natural setting or a water view, an infinity pool is the perfect modern design addition.

Exercise Pools

Exercise pools, a popular trend for smaller back yards, can be installed in-ground or above ground and indoors or outdoors. With lower costs and maintenance, exercise pools provide a great way to stay fit within a smaller budget and space requirements. They can be insulated, heated and designed to accommodate different water depths and the geometric shapes compliment the design simplicity of modern style.

  • Lap Pools – A lap pool is long and narrow with straight edges. It can be built to any desired length to fit space requirements. Although the shape is a simple rectangle, it can be built with an infinity edge, connecting spa or custom water features.
  • Exercise Pools – A true exercise pool is built with a resistance jet at one end of the pool that creates a current, much like a small wave. The resistance jet allows you to swim in place without actually going from end to end of the pool.

Waterfalls, Fountains and Water Streams

If you don’t have enough space for a swimming pool, consider adding a waterfall, fountain or water stream that will create soothing sounds in your back yard. These outdoor features can be added to any size and type of residential landscape design in NJ.

residential landscape design in NJ

Here’s a few ideas that will accentuate modern design appeal:

  • Waterfalls – Build a concrete or natural stone wall that can serve as a privacy wall or a structure to divide areas within the yard. Turn it into a magnificent focal point by incorporating a modern waterfall design in the wall. For added interest and texture, landscape the wall with modern landscaping plants like blue fescue, feather reed grass, bamboo or horsetail reed.
  • Fountains – Whether your yard is large or small, a decorative fountain will create a focal point with relaxing water sounds. For modern style, stick to geometric shapes with clean, simple lines. Build a simple square or rectangular fountain or a circular round fountain with water that spills over into flower beds, containers or smaller fountains that recirculate water.
  • Water Streams – Create a series of long, rectangular concrete or stone planters that can hold water. You can build the planters along the perimeter of the yard or create borders next to driveways and walkways. Water streams can be still or moving, but pumps that constantly recirculate water will keep planters full all the time.

Modern Landscaping Plants

When selecting plants for a modern residential landscape design in NJ, keep the concept of simplicity in mind. The approach to modern landscaping follows simple design rules:

  • First Rule – Remember that modern landscapes should have a sense of order and simplicity, so focus primarily on shades and hues of green. Occasional pops of color in plants and containers is welcome, but don’t overdo it or your modern appeal will lose its simplicity and feel cluttered.
  • Second Rule – When planting, plants should be planted in straight lines. This will add to the sense of order within the landscape or garden. Modern landscapes focus on a look that has order and control.
  • Third Rule – Individual plants should be planted in groups of odd numbers, like three or five. If you want to plant many individual plants of one type, planting them in a grid pattern will emphasize modern design elements.

Succulents and ornamental grasses are good plant choices for a modern residential landscape design in NJ because they maintain a sense of order with little maintenance and they provide interesting contrast against modern hardscapes like sleek concrete, natural stone, wood and metal materials. Succulents come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and will add a sense of drama to your landscape. Ornamental grasses are great for adding greenery and texture along a fence or retaining wall, a walkway or pathway or a patio or deck.

Since one of the main goals of modern landscape design is to create contrast, here are some planting tips:

  • Contrast – Create a large area of ornamental grasses to contrast a sterile concrete or stone wall, or a natural gray cedar fence. For small pops of color, plant Kangaroo paws or flowering cactus varieties at lower levels.
  • Privacy – Plant a privacy screen with a controllable type of bamboo, or evergreen shrubs like viburnum, wax myrtle or African boxwood, a medium sized evergreen that’s drought resistant. Privacy screens are great for areas where you can’t build a wall or fence, as well as more remote areas in the landscape.
    • Height – Although local building codes may prevent you from building a high fence, you can use certain plants that will extend your fence height. Climbing vines with stiff woody stems can be trained to climb the climb the fence. These vines will fan out at the top and add two or more feet to overall fence height.