What are the Guiding Principles of a Mid Century Modern Landscape?
A mid century modern landscape features a blend of formality and abstraction. There is just enough formality to generate a clean, orderly outdoor living environment, and just enough of the abstract to allow for a spectrum of innovation ranging from the subtle to the bold. Rather than creating a single focal point for the yard, this style creates multiple vantage points throughout the entire property. This allows guests to enjoy a phenomenal view of their surroundings no matter where they happen to be seated.
Formal landscape design is built around the idea of order through neat geometric patterns and clearly recognizable focal points. To some degree, we see this same love for geometry and order in this style as well. Patios and decks are typically rectilinear, which clean lines and very sharp right angles. There are also places for soft curves in the mid century modern landscape. Walkways sometimes sweep across the yard like arcs that take you on a journey from one special place to the other. There is always the feeling of control in these movements, but it is very different from that of a formal landscape in tone.
The reason for this difference is that mid century ideas are much more subjective in origin than formal designs. Formal gardens and landscapes rely on forms that are universal and historical to establish a sense of beauty and refinement. The mid-20th Century design style shares this love for order, but it also seeks to expand the mind with new forms just as much as it seeks to please the mind with traditional ones.
Perhaps one of the most defining features of this style is the way it integrates indoor living with outdoor living. Mid-twentieth century architecture sought to “open up” the home interior to the outside, and mid century modern landscapes take full advantage of this intention. Rather than differentiating between the front yard and back yard, Houston landscaping designers develop the entire property as a singular unity. Hardscapes carry from the front to the back of the home, and major themes are established by repeating geometry and plant selection in a way that ties different zones of interest together.
The specifics of these elements are guided by the home itself. Homes built in this period of the last century are characterized by architectural motifs of sharp angles, distinctive linearity, and a sense of openness that results from very large windows that blur the boundaries between the inside and outside of the house. Specialists in mid century modern landscapes use these motifs as the spring boards for ideas to create interconnected zones of interest that tie together much like the rooms inside the house. Each zone offers multiple activities and views into adjacent zones rather than restricting perception to a singular central focal point.
A blend of materials is always used to some degree or another. Combinations of rock, grass, crushed stone, wood, and concrete are common. This has the visual effect of transforming a very simple square or rectangular landscaping element into a visually complex form that captures the attention and invites the viewer to participate in its energy from within. This combination of materials also allows entire sections of mid century modern landscapes to appear blended in some places and completely distinctive in others.
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