The Four Most Popular Landscape Design Styles In America

Landscape Design and Construction The Four Most Popular Landscape Design Styles In America

Much like genre helps describe the broad outline of a piece of fiction, categorizing architecture into schools of design help illustrate the details of how a building is structured and the details that go into its aesthetic. Gothic architecture, for example, is immediately recognizable by its pointed arches and sharp spires. In contrast, the Renaissance school of architecture is close to neoclassicism in its adherence to large domes and usage of columns in the building’s exterior.

Like architecture, landscape design can be broken down into schools of design that have evolved over the centuries worldwide. Japanese zen gardens are immediately distinguishable from the conspicuous splendor of the grounds of a French chateau, which is further distinct from an English cottage garden landscape.

Here in America, as in all things, we have adapted any number of different styles of design for both architecture and landscape design, and even generated a few of our own. Today, most landscape designs fall into one of four schools: traditional, contemporary, modern, and transitional. To help you get the broad strokes of what each has to offer, we’ll delve into the building blocks of each and how they’re differentiated.


The broad ‘traditional’ landscape design category incorporates elements from many Old World schools from Europe, the Middle East, and Persia. Traditional landscapes utilize naturally occurring materials like rough-hewn stones and brickwork to create garden paths, raised planters, and other hardscape features.

Softscape designs are usually very deliberately arranged, as in the creation of formal hedges, to create an organized aesthetic in which each element can be individually appreciated. When taken as a whole, these arrangements can also work together to create a sense of depth and accentuate visual focal points, as in the case of a series of garden pathways terminating in a central courtyard or opening housing a water feature.


To put it simply, Transitional schools of design focus on blending the elements of traditional and modern styles. Clean linework is combined with elegant arrangements and soft earthy material colors.

Transitional designs are often characterized by a more modern look for the hardscaping contrasted with a traditional style for the floral arrangements. Hedgerows and thoroughly organized bands of flora accompany simplistic and angular walls, raised beds, and walkways to create a dichotomous meeting of nature and artifice.


Contemporary landscape design styles are challenging to pin down, but in broad terms, it’s an amalgamation of different styles that shift and change over time to suit the day’s tastes. Contemporary styles tend to be minimalistic and clean, favoring the simple and bold rather than the ornate and frenetic.

This mindset is reflected in the hardscapes, which utilize neutral-colored stone and concrete blocks to create walkways, patios, planters, and even seating arrangements. Mixed-material design is a common feature, with stone, concrete, wood, and even metal being incorporated into a single landscape. Flora used in this style can be eclectic, with a typical turf lawn being bordered by a planter sparsely populated with bushes, rushes, and shrubbery. There are few rules in regard to composition, as long as the design is clean and minimal.


Few can fail to classify the distinctive look of modern designs. With its focus on cubic elements and aberrant angles that contrast it so conspicuously with the surrounding environment, at its core, modern designs reject the natural and celebrate the artifice.

Modern landscapes utilize stark, simplistic shapes and linework in their designs. Concrete plays an essential role in modern design for walkways, walls, brickwork, and features like fireplaces and fountains. Dark-stained wood and metals can also play a part, creating a sharp contrast with the lighter-colored concrete.

Plants are used comparatively sparsely and strategically, often becoming a focal point of the design. With so much artifice around them, the limited number of items produced through natural means is novel enough to draw attention to themselves and enhance their surroundings’ aesthetic.

Each school of design consists of building blocks that can be arranged in nearly limitless combinations to create customized and bespoke landscapes. To the discerning homeowner looking to redesign your home’s landscaping, you may simply select which school best complements your tastes, and Torrey Pines Landscape Company can handle the rest.