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Traditional vs. Modern Landscape Design: Choosing a Direction  

The landscaping industry is worth over $153 billion in the United States. As a landscaping professional, you can capture a share of the market with quality service.  

However, you also need to give your customers options. For instance, you can offer traditional and modern landscape design. 

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) explains the two parts of design. First, they need to be aesthetically pleasing. Second, they have to be functional. 

These requirements leave a lot of room for choices. Your clients might want a traditional approach with ornamental plants and landscaping rocks. Or, they might prefer a modern design with native plants and sustainability features. 

This article will explore the differences between traditional and modern design. We’ll explore the nuances of this choice.  

Touch on the traits of both traditional and modern landscapes that will help you adapt your design approach. Once you’ve reviewed the differences, we provide tips to help you choose the right option as you plan each landscaping project

The Importance of Choosing the Right Landscape Design Direction 

Landscaping projects start long before you put the first plant in the soil. You need to create a well-thought-out design.  

Careful planning is important for these three reasons: 

  1. Property value and curb appeal: You want to make sure the design improves the property. This isn’t only about aesthetics. The design should also increase property value. Or, at least, it should not detract from the home’s potential sales price. 
  2. The aesthetics of the property: The design should match the look of the other elements on the property. The new elements shouldn’t clash with the aesthetic of existing features. 
  3. The architectural style: The landscape design should match the look of the home. Traditional landscaping would suit a historic home, for instance. But, modern design might clash with older architectural styles. 

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Landscapes also need to balance practical considerations and customer preferences. The following three factors are also important for design choice: 

  1. Environmental factors: The landscape design should include plants fit for the environment. For instance, you would not create a garden needing lots of water in a dry climate. 
  2. Client budget: The design should fit within the client’s budget. The budget should include both initial costs and upkeep expenses. The design should not call for elements that cost more than reasonable. 
  3. Customer preferences: You can offer ideas and options. But, it is ultimately the customer who has to see the design day after day. You will need to incorporate their preferences into your design. 

These factors can help you choose between traditional or modern designs. 

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What Is Traditional Landscape Design? 

Traditional landscape design relies on time-tested elements. It focuses on established approaches. For instance, traditional landscaping has proportional or symmetrical elements. 

Here are three hallmarks of traditional landscape design: 

  1. Formal layouts: Traditional gardens often copy layouts of classical English or Mediterranean gardens. They rely on elements like hedges to give structure. Also, plants get grouped in separate beds. 
  2. Traditional materials: These gardens often rely on elements like paving stones or gravel. Traditional landscaping designs might include bricks or wood as edging for flower beds. 
  3. Focal points: Classic designs also rely on eye-catching features. These could be fountains or trees. Raised garden beds or pergolas might also serve as focal points. The rest of the design flows from these main elements. 

Patios and fencing are other elements that often appear in traditional landscaping. 

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What Is Modern Landscape Design? 

Modern landscape design includes both style and approach. Clean lines and minimalist plantings often define modern gardens. But, these designs also focus on sustainability and functionality. 

Here are three characteristics of modern landscape design: 

  1. Low-maintenance plants: Modern designs often include native plants. These thrive in the environment without much care. This makes them sustainable and eco-friendly. They do not need watering or chemical fertilizers. 
  2. Geometric layouts: Modern outdoor designs often focus on well-defined lines and shapes. Flower beds and features may be asymmetrical. This approach often gives a sense of minimalism and simplicity. 
  3. Functionality: Modern landscaping includes outdoor living spaces. Patios and fireplaces are common elements. You might even find outdoor kitchens or sofas in some designs. These are not meant to be ornamental. They can be aesthetically pleasing, but they are also functional. 

Some designs also include lighting. Solar-powered accent lights can create a different look after dark. Brighter lights can also make functional spaces usable at night. 

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Making an Informed Decision for Your Landscape Design 

Blending landscaping styles is becoming more and more common. In fact, finding your own balance is a good way to stand out in the industry. Here are three tips for making decisions about unique designs: 

  1. Add sustainable plants to traditional designs. Low-maintenance plants are not just for modern landscaping. You can select classic ornamental plants bred for your climate. Or, you can blend native plants with traditional symmetrical layouts. 
  2. Get inspiration from AI. AI can create landscape designs based on your input. You can give the program your requirements. Then, have it give you several different design options. You do not have to follow these directly. But you can use them as inspiration for your own personalized design. 
  3. Receive input from specialists. You can partner with experts to create balanced designs. For instance, you can hire a subcontractor to build a living space that fits a traditional design. 

You will need to incorporate client preferences. Always ensure your style is flexible. It will often need to adjust to account for customer preferences. 

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Top Tips for Choosing a Landscape Design 

It might take time to develop your trademark style. However, you can use the following tips to brainstorm landscape designs for upcoming projects. 

With them, you can develop a personal landscape design style. You will also be able to adjust it to include both modern and traditional elements. 

  • Research native plants. Find plants requiring less water and maintenance. These offer the sustainability favored in modern designs. But, you can seek native options that fit with traditional gardens stylistically. 
  • Look at current trends. Browse social media or landscaping magazines. You will see what others in the industry are currently doing. It will also help you understand what your clients may be asking for soon. Then, you can proactively incorporate these trends into your design style. 
  • Visit gardens and parks. You might also find inspiration in places near where you live. Botanic gardens and public parks can provide a real-world look at landscapes. Visit these places to get ideas. Parks are especially useful for examples of functional spaces in landscaping.