Paving ideas for contemporary garden styles

If you’d like a modern and contemporary look to your garden, then it’s very important that you choose the right hard landscaping materials.


The landscape materials will often have more impact on how your garden will look than the overall design layout. For example, you could have a semicircular retaining wall and patio area, which on paper might look very modern, but if you use traditional brick and paving, then the design will look, well, very traditional!

However, if you were to have that same semicircular wall rendered and painted white and had a very smooth, perfectly cut linear paving with it, then it would look very modern.

Here’s how you choose the right materials for a contemporary garden design

Basically, the straighter and smoother material is, the more contemporary it will look. Of course the reverse is also true. The more uneven and rustic material edges are, the more traditional it will look. Let’s now look at some examples to demonstrate what I mean.

Examples of paving suitable for a contemporary garden style

As you can see from the photographs above, the clean cut lines are what makes a material look modern. It makes sense really, in ye olden days the tools for cutting stone would have been very basic, whereas now we have these enormous great saws that can cut perfect edges.

Paving patterns

How you combine the paving is also very important. Again, the more you put in, the more fussy it will look, and therefore less contemporary. So, do not use more than three different paving sizes. One or two different sizes tends to work best though.

It might sound very boring just having one size of paving slab, and technically, I suppose it is, but it’s what you do with it that counts!

If you have a rectangular slab in one size, you have various options on how you lay that slab. As you can see from the images below, even with just one size paving stone, you can still do quite a lot with it.


My preference is to go usually for three different sizes. It’s nice to have quite a large rectangular paving slab with a long linear one. Again there’s a lot you can do with just three sizes of paving, see the example below.

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

Three different size paving creates this contemporary patio style

So really, the main thing you need to do is keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to mix lots of different colours and materials together or you’ll end up with a mishmash. If you want a truly contemporary feel and modern look to your garden, then you really must control yourself and not go crazy with mixing lots of different materials together.

How do you create a modern garden feel, but not too contemporary?

Now, whilst you may not want a typically traditional garden, you might not want something that is uber modern either. So how do you create something that’s in-between modern and traditional?

Well, again it does come down to material choices as much as the design.

Basically, the simple way is to mix more sizes together. So rather than just having two or three different types of paving you have five or so. If you choose paving that is not perfectly smooth, and has a slightly riven surface, then that will also make it look slightly less modern, as shown in the photograph below


Mix more paving sizes if you don’t want your patio to be too contemporary looking.

So what are your garden plans this year, will you be building a new patio?

Tell me what you are wanting to do in your garden this year and I’ll see if I can help with future blog posts. We’ve been discussing it a bit already over on the Successful Garden Design Facebook page, do join us and post a photo of your project or leave a comment here on the website in the comment box below.

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About Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 20 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!


  1. Excellent blog post! I have never heard this as clearly explained. It makes me feel like "duh, I should have figured that out on my own!" 🙂 you're terrific!

  2. I love your blog posts! My plan this year is to replace the boring old square slabs that is my patio, but my garden is more of a cottage garden style, so some ideas of materials (and maybe some pics) would be fab!

  3. Thank you Anne! I can certainly do an article for you that covers a more traditional cottage style patios. Pop back in a couple of week's time!

  4. Thank you Meger – It's the subtle details that make a difference so don't feel 'duh' and it is usually us nerdy designer types that tend to notice them! 😉

  5. Have DEEP respect for 'nerdy designer types'!! I would aspire to be one, someday. In the mean time, will keep enjoying learning from the best. Through you, your eyes, I have the gift of seeing the world differently.

  6. I've been slowly updating my landscaping to look more contemporary, and the next step is to install new pavement. I think choosing varying paving sizes in matching designs is a great idea to add interest. Thanks for the advice on how to get a modern look outside.

  7. I've been slowly updating my landscaping to look more contemporary, and the next step is to install new pavement. I think choosing varying paving sizes in matching designs is a great idea to add interest. Thanks for the advice on how to get a modern look outside.

  8. Hi Callie Marie, thank you so much for your comment and I am delighted that you enjoyed this article and found it useful. If you have any more questions or would like me to cover some other topics in my blog posts, let me know.

  9. Rachel Mathews You're welcome! I really enjoy your blog.

  10. I like the picture you have of the design plans. It's important to plan out the pavement before you do it. That way you can get a good idea of what it's going to look like, and see if you actually like the design plan.

  11. Callie Marie Thank you Callie 🙂 Your support means a lot to me!

  12. Thank you, Dolores. The pavement plant is important as well. I am glad you liked the design plans. If you have any questions – don't hesitate to get in touch with me.

  13. Thanks so much for the article Rachel! I really like the ideas dealing with different paving patterns. I've never thought to have a few different sizes of patterns in order to shake things up in my garden. Now that I'm recreating our back patio area I will consider mixing things up with multiple paving patterns.

  14. Thanks for the ideas. My wife and I are planning out a garden to add to our yard in the future. I had not thought to add paving. It looks great though. That would be great for a walkway and patio.

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