Mondrian Lives On in Modern Garden Design

Monet gave us fantastic insight into the use of colour, transferring his skills with canvas into the gardens of the home in Giverny; Matisse’s collages showed us how to use shapes in our gardens. But of all the powerful artists in the turn of the 20th century, the Dutch painter Piet Mondrian excelled beyond others. He had been both a theorist and a draftsman, who thought that a painting design focused on line and colour could set an example for different arts.

Apart from the reproductions of the trademark grid paintings, his use of colour and line separation can be observed all around us in graphic art, architecture and contemporary garden design. As a theorist, Mondrian used his writings to explain why he composed his most famous geometric abstracts, but most of us interpret his thoughts within our gardens using the grid layout of his own paintings.

Exhibition:“Mondrian and His Studios,” in the Tate Liverpool in England, June 6 to October 5, 2014. It marks the 70th anniversary of Mondrian’s death.

Tom Stringer Design Partners

Looking down on the garden, we see the traditional attributes of Mondrian layout — the rectangles, or airplanes of colors, separated by lines. Here, though, the rectangles are composed of planted cubes separated from stonework.

To achieve the complete Mondrian effect, the crops need to be, as in this situation, compact, rather evergreen and closely planted, yet letting the structure of this layout to show through.

Plants don’t need to be the focus of the style. Planes or strong blocks of colour can be composed of many substances, in this case poured concrete.

The gravel edges serve the identical function as the black lines at a Mondrian painting. Not only can they separate the airplanes, but they also make motion and lead the eye during the design.


Mondrian was quite interested in space and the way we view it. Though this contemporary design may seem quite a distance in the sculptures of Mondrian, it still incorporates his fundamental notions of the usage and control of space.

Mondrian’s paintings were very flat, with no hint of darkness or perspective. He worked hard, applying many coats of paint, to achieve that flatness. Although the layout does not have a grid, it has large planes of flat colour that are balanced with regions of noncolor, creating both form and space.

Dean Herald-Rolling Stone Landscapes

We can clearly observe the development of Mondrian’s notions in this modern design. The rectangles of colour and noncolor might be elongated here, but they nevertheless relate to one another and pose a very flat surface.

Grounded – Richard Risner RLA, ASLA

The best thing about the garden is undoubtedly that the horizontal planes of neutral colour and blended textures, together with the attention to detail.

Some of Mondrian’s early work employed a great deal more muted colors compared to the bright primary colors of the later work that we’re familiar with. The neutral colors here create a wonderful monotone rendering of planes and lines.

Cablik Enterprises

As opposed to Mondrian’s perfect flat airplanes, gardens tend to get constructed with the third dimension. But we can still use his concepts in three sizes.

Here the house and garden seem as if they have been designed as you can. Both have powerful Mondrian-esque attributes, including rectangular planes, although the backyard particularly gives us a wonderful template for creating a Mondrian layout. The composition is based around carefully planted raised rectangular beds that were separated by paved paths and narrow planted beds. The narrow and paths plantings follow Mondrian’s belief that grid lines create avenues of motion for your eye.

Tim Davies Landscaping

In smaller garden designs we can also observe the effect of this artist. As in the prior backyard, cubes of plantings in rectangular beds create horizontal planes that are demarcated by noncolor masonry dividing walls here.

Barnes Vanze Architects, Inc

Perhaps you believe the above examples aren’t close enough to Mondrian’s work as we know it. If so, perhaps you want to put money into a Mondrian-style playhouse?

Prove: “Mondrian and His Studios,” Tate Liverpool in England, June 6 to October 5, 2014

Watch more modern outdoor spaces

See related