Postwar mid-century modern homes were designed to blend indoor and outdoor living. Homeowners could view their gardens through floor-to-ceiling windows and easily interact with the outdoor environments through sliding glass doors and patios level with interior floors. Landscaping for these homes was—and remains—clean and uncomplicated, with an emphasis on hardscape and the pleasures of outdoor living.
In the 1950s and 1960s, home builders like Joseph Eichler and the Alexander Construction Company made Modernism accessible to the masses—building post-and-beam tract homes with exuberant, often exaggerated rooflines in Southern and Northern California. Mid-century modern homes can be found elsewhere, like Sarasota, Florida; Austin, Texas; Durham, North Carolina; and Australia.
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Contemporary Mid-Century Landscape Design
A renewed interest in the era and iconic architects like John Lautner, A. Quincy Jones, and Jones and Emmons has made mid-century modern homes hot properties. Many new homeowners restore these architectural gems, while others update them to meet contemporary needs and lifestyles.
Rather than installing the standard lawn, some owners and landscape designers use outdoor spaces to echo the homes' architectural and interior aesthetic. Trees and shrubs are considered sculptural elements, while planting beds repeat geometric lines. One-story mid-century modern homes often have atriums—central courtyard patios—which are true outdoor rooms. New homeowners resurrect atriums that were covered up or obscured in the 1970s or later.
Not everyone has the same solution for a mid-century modern home, and these 25 beautiful and very different Modernist landscape designs prove it.Continue to 2 of 26 below.
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Mid-century modern homes in California were often designed for the Mediterranean climate. Atriums were built at the entrance or in the center of the home. Lee Ann Marienthal Gardens created this Orange County landscape with an emphasis on mid-century and Asian design. An appealing escape, the atrium features boulders, a pond with waterfall, a flagstone patio and pond surround, and shade-tolerant plants like Japanese maples. Marienthal's team installed plants like star jasmine to hide the utilities, Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', anemone 'Honorine Jobert', and Australian violet.Continue to 3 of 26 below.
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Postwar Pad in the Pacific Northwest
Not all mid-century homes were built on large, luxurious, expansive lots. Many were modest homes built in subdivisions, with limited square footage and on petite plots. Northwest Native Landscapes used a combination of hardscape, sharp angles, and plants with textural details for a small postwar home in Portland, Oregon. Soft plants contrast with the home's angles and geometric shapes, keeping in mind seasonal interest. Colorful plants used include blue fescue grass (Festuca glauca) and conifers. The yard and porch provide intimate spaces, achieved with horizontal wood-slat fences that repeat the lines of the house.Continue to 4 of 26 below.
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The owners of an Eichler home in Northern California redesigned their landscape to incorporate sustainable features and add natives and drought-tolerant plants in cool shades like greens and blues to evoke a sense of calm, simplicity, and order. The plant selection emphasizes texture and includes a variety of ornamental and native grasses, olive trees, and drifts of Manzanita.
Designed by one of the owners of the design firm Building Lab and his landscape designer wife, the landscape features a sloping front yard that connects it with the surrounding hills. They also got back to the home's roots by adding an entry courtyard patio surrounded by horizontal wood fencing. Among its sustainable features are a Toro drip irrigation system, salvaged fencing, and a permeable gravel driveway.Continue to 5 of 26 below.
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While its good bones remained, a 2,200-square-foot Eichler home in Northern California's Oakland Hills needed to be fully restored. Among other things, Beckner Contracting brought back the home's trademark carport and entry atrium. Growing in the wall-hugging planters are agapanthus (right) and delicate shoots of bamboo against the entry wall. The home is one of just 48 Eichlers in the Sequoyah Hills tract, nicknamed "the lost Eichlers of the Oakland hills”.Continue to 6 of 26 below.
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Orange County Modern
A home in Laguna Niguel, California, designed by Southern California architect George Bissell received a revamp from Moss Yaw Design Studio, which includes geometric pavers, a low concrete wall, and planting beds with evenly spaced drought-tolerant plants.Continue to 7 of 26 below.
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An Eichler home in San Jose features a large covered atrium created in an Asian style by MScape Design. The wood pergola provides year-round shelter, while decking is made of TimberTech in walnut. The design emphasizes horizontal lines and incorporates stone, water, and shoji-inspired screens.Continue to 8 of 26 below.
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Bridlemile Modern Revamp
A two-story mid-century modern home in the Bridlemile section of Portland, Oregon, received an outdoor redo by Shannon Keaveny Landscape Design that reflects its origins. Graced by mature trees and shrubs, Keaveny added colorful ornamentals like cordyline, heather, and mini nepeta.Continue to 9 of 26 below.
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Sarasota Industrial Modern
Sarasota, Florida, is a hotbed for mid-century modern architecture. This Modernist-inspired urban industrial features hardscape; Floridian palm trees; and lush, coastal foliage designed by Borden Landscape. Stager for the home was iStage Homes.Continue to 10 of 26 below.
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Many mid-century homes are private in the front: they lack front porches and you can't see what's going on inside. The backs of the house are often floor-to-ceiling glass, open to the yard. Boston-based Flavin Architects updated a home by architect Robert Coolidge—a contemporary of the famous Modernist Walter Gropius. Viewed from the back, the home features a two-level yard, each with a private walled patio that offers intimacy and outdoor living.Continue to 11 of 26 below.
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A modern home in Portland, Oregon, built by Don Tankersley & Co. and designed by Situ Architecture, emphasizes natural materials and a linear design. Planting design, by Michael Schultz Landscape Design, is clean and Asian influenced with bonsais in wide, low pots. Accent illumination is by Oregon Outdoor Lighting.Continue to 12 of 26 below.
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Another home with lots of windows in the back was designed by San Francisco architect David Henig. The deck screen is ipe wood finished with marine-grade teak oil. That hanging light fixture, which is stunning viewed indoors or from the backyard, is from the Moooi Raimond collection.Continue to 13 of 26 below.
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Southern California Eichler
Floating pavers in a sea of Mexican river rock lead to the entry of an Eichler home in Southern California. Created by Grounded, the design is modern, focusing on bold shapes, repetition, minimalism, and a deep connection between architecture and the landscape.Continue to 14 of 26 below.
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Kansas City Cool
Mid-century modern homes are everywhere, including Kansas City, Missouri. Clockwork designed a carpet of healthy green grass rimmed by a neat border of Mexican river rock that hugs the home's concrete pad.Continue to 15 of 26 below.
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Webber + Studio, Architects breathed new life into a mid-century modern in Austin. Architect David Webber added cedar benches that match the home's exposed wood. The original concrete and aggregate driveway and path were reused as saw-cut pavers for a new walkway.Continue to 16 of 26 below.
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You'll find numerous mid-century modern custom-designed homes and subdivisions in Southern California's San Fernando Valley. Jeremy Taylor Landscapes used Brazilian ipe for a Studio City pool deck. The bench is made of poured-in-placed concrete. Beneath the cantilevered patio cover is a rescued fireplace: an original near-mint 1960s Majestic rescued curbside at remodel.Continue to 17 of 26 below.
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Concrete Block Wall
A simple mid-century tract home was spruced up by Minnesota's Ground One with a decorative concrete block wall, reminiscent of the beautifully patterned designs from the 1950s and 1960s.Continue to 18 of 26 below.
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Huetll Landscape Architecture updated the landscape of an Edward Killingsworth-designed house in Northern California. Mediterranean and native shrubs, perennials, and ornamental grasses work with the surrounding landscape, while hardscape reflects the home's modern lines.Continue to 19 of 26 below.
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Planted on the terraced slope of a house near San Francisco are easy-care dianella "Little Rev' and nassella tenuissima. Designed by Envison Landscape Studio, beds or "boxes" are each planted with one type of dramatic plant en masse for visual impact.Continue to 20 of 26 below.
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Once neglected and overrun by weeds, the front yard of a mid-century home in Northern California received a smart makeover by Dig Your Garden Landscape Design that employs a geometric design. Both hardscape and softscape elements are evenly spaced; the geometric layout echoes the lines of the home.Continue to 21 of 26 below.
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A generous setback allows for a meadow of ornamental grasses like Big Muhly and Mexican feather grass. Designed by Robert Leeper Landscapes of Austin, the grasses and other plants are deer resistant.Continue to 22 of 26 below.
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PS: They Love You
Thousands of miles away, The Small Garden of Brisbane, Australia, designed a Palm Springs-inspired courtyard garden that features slat-horizontal and vertical fencing, a pergola, and architectural succulents like agave attenuata.Continue to 23 of 26 below.
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Clean and Simple
Seed Studio likes to keep it clean and simple. Pea gravel paves the fire pit terrace. Drought-tolerant plants include low-growing dymonida and senecio, which are both grayish green.Continue to 24 of 26 below.
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Just Add Color
Exactly Designs livened up a mid-century house near Detroit with orange exterior trim, motel-style chairs, and vivid green grass. Low-growing shrubs in house-hugging beds don't block the view from the inside. Designer Elin Walters added fun architectural details like metal roofline rods, rectangular concrete planters, and modern address numbers.Continue to 25 of 26 below.
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Extra-large fiberglass pots by International Art Properties are set on pea gravel against a horizontal wood-slat fence at a mid-century modern house in Mill Valley, California. Designed by Bradanini & Associates Landscape Architecture, the design features horsetail (Equisetum hyemale), which can be invasive if not contained.Continue to 26 of 26 below.
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Santa Cruz Mid Mod
Pea gravel is a popular hardscape material for contemporary and mid-century modern updates. It's drought tolerant, permeable, inexpensive, and colors complement natural materials used on the homes' exteriors. Designed by Verdant Landscape Architecture of Santa Cruz, California, this backyard reflects the home's simplicity.