Eternal sunshine of the Modern Garden


You don’t need a large canvas to make a colourful statement. As this modern backyard in Leigh-on-sea proves, with a bold design and confident choices, your outside space can bring you sunshine all year round.

Modern gardens provide that summer feeling all year round

Like many family gardens, before we got started on the renovation this garden had become a neglected patch of grass with a trampoline. The clients wanted a modern, welcoming space to share with family and friends.

I decided to use colour and bold shapes to create a feeling of warmth and optimism that would banish the autumn and winter blues, even on the greyest of days. And the inspiration for my design? Believe it or not, the cold concrete monsters of Modernism and Brutalist architecture.

The Brutalist roots of my modern garden design

I love the confidence of Le Corbusier and Modernist furniture and I often come back to them in my designs. I find the overlapping geometric shapes of iconic buildings like the National Theatre and Barbican fascinating. Here you can see their influence in the bold lines and repeating patterns of the garden layout and structures. Planters, pergolas and beds stack like Lego blocks, adding height and providing privacy where needed. While bare wood, gravel paths and soft sandstone tiles play homage to Brutalism’s textured, unfinished surfaces.

Modern love and hot colour

But like most of my designs, there are a few influences at work. Instead of stark concrete, Modernist colour and contrast come into play through the planting and details.

I channelled a bit of Rothko and Bridget Riley in the dark painted fences that became backdrops for a sizzling palette of plants. Blazing Sunset geums, Hot Papaya echinacea and Fire Chief alum root sit alongside bouncy ferns and delicate Japanese maples, bringing colour and texture whatever the season.

The garden’s layout follows the path of the sun, with red hot planters helping to define the spaces to eat, rest and play. Patios and seating areas are in the warmest spots, perfect for sneaky siestas, while a stylish fire pit prolongs that summer festival feeling.

Small space, big personality

Whatever the season, we wanted to create an inviting and energising place to be. Perfect for afternoon tea, evening cocktails or cosy fireside chats.

Winter is dead. Long live summer.

photograph of a modern garden in essex
photograph of a seating area surrounded by red planters in a modern garden
photograph of a seating area in a modern garden design
photograph of a pathway in a modern garden by earth designs garden design
red flowers
red planting in modern garden