I like to design spaces that rely on basic principles of balance and unity.  I am not a big fan of fancy, voluptuous, flowery and cluttered.  But I see signs of “modern” and “contemporary” design being co-opted, mass marketed and now becoming trite and boring.  Often the result of a “modern” or “contemporary” application is not contextual.

I don’t think it’s enough to use simple materials and it’s not enough to use a limited palette.  It’s not about a retro shape or figure.  Most simple projects are also highly complex.  I find that juxtaposing a complex arrangement of elements within a simple framework and setting up complex frameworks with monochromatic elements can bring a landscape to life.  And I like mixing the two up.

Having a great love for plants helps me with this style.  At my design firm in Minneapolis, Phillips Garden, we’ve  been lucky enough to work on a full lot design/install over the past several years where we have experimented with our design philosophy.  A new home was built on this site- it’s a contemporary design, (think Dwell Magazine), with strong horizontal lines. (I’ve blogged about this project before).

We were able to develop some very interesting beds with a great diversity of plant material in several parts of the yard.  What connects and also separates these beds are long planes of rectilinear surfaces that serve as lawns, walkways, patios, a pool and so forth.  The result is dynamic and inviting.  It’s a landscape you want to explore and it reveals itself as one traverses through it.  Many “modern” landscapes don’t offer such intrigue.

It’s a style that suits my love of plants, my love of Japanese Gardens and my love of simple, elegant lines.  I’d like to work on more projects like this one!

We’ve been working on this project for a few years.  It spent a couple of those years in the design phase because it was developed alongside the plans for the home.  One of the owners is the architect who designed the house.  We worked together to make sure the inside and outside worked together and created a seamless transition.  We like to associate sharp geometrical shapes and patterns and juxtapose them against more organic plantings and garden elements.

Enjoy the tour of the street-side below.


cool overlapping concrete steps

Front Entry Garden

Dianthus and Sedums

The Upper Lawn

Front Steps

Organic meets Geometric

The Front Steps

Stone and Stonecrop

Front Entry

the Hawthorne rod

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