Atomic Ranch has created a brand new special all about exteriors and landscaping for the Mid Century Modern home! In it we explore gardens and lawns across the country that perfectly complement their Modernist houses. We are thrilled to introduce our plant editor and advisor for the issue, Di Zock, owner of Di Zock Design, A Landscape Architecture studio. Today, Di shares her story along with expert tips on creating your own Mid Century Modern yard.

An image of a yard with a large L-shaped sectional couch and a chair surrounding a firepit with pavers and grass on the ground
In this project, Di’s clients were unhappy with the decomposed granite so pavers were installed for a fresh look that breaks up the space. For further visual impact, the team “created different levels in the garden with powder coated steel retaining ‘walls’” that correspond to the entryway floating steps.

Di was licensed as a landscape architect in 2012, but it wasn’t her first career. “[I] started designing gardens for fun when I worked in film production,” she says. “I would do gardens as a side gig between movies. Then decided to make it the real gig and went back to school in Landscape Architecture at UCLA.”

A daytime photograph of a courtyard with a large cat sculpture to the left, a spa and floating bench to the right, and grasses, succulents and paving in the foreground
In this project, Di’s clients had an incredible collection of sculptures and art. “The idea was to turn the entry courtyard into a gallery.” Says Di. Different sedge and lomandra grasses were used due to their durability in both sun and shade and for their strength against the occasional accidental trampling. “[The] client entertained quite a bit in this space so didn’t want anything too too delicate.”
Looking at Di’s vast array of impressive landscapes, it’s clear she treats each project as a carefully curated piece of art. Located in Los Angeles, her team mainly works with residential clients. Di shares what the creative process looks like, “All projects start with the way the clients want to interact with their outdoor spaces. Then we try to integrate their program with the architecture of the house and the surrounding context in an artistic and functional way.”

A daytime photograph of a spa to the left and it looks as if the spa cascades in to a water feature
A floating ipe bench sits behind a spa that was made to look as if it flows into the steel rill water feature. Despite the look, the spa and water feature are actually separate.

Get A Mid Mod Look In Your Own Yard

When it comes to landscaping a Mid Century Modern home, it can be intimidating and even overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. To help you get some ideas, Di shares her favorite tips for creating a MCM yard.

  • Start with the architecture of the house. The garden should engage with the house. We try to pull the lines of the house into the exterior spaces so the house and landscape feel like they are in harmony.
  • Try to shift some of the programming out into the exterior spaces to activate the whole garden, not just the immediate space around the house.
  • Consider adjacencies and have them relate to one another in a way that works for the way people live….so for example maybe the area where the adults are hanging out maintains a site line with where the kids will be playing in the pool.
An image of a backyard area with a tiled spa and floating bench are in the background and a table with 4 chairs in the foreground
This decadent tiled spa was created to resemble a jewel box. A floating bench creates a sleek seating option while the wall behind it conceals spa equipment. Pittosporum tenuifolium silver sheen trees and vertical height and a pop of green behind against the back wall.

We’ve shared two of Di’s incredible outdoor areas here, but be sure to check out an in-depth yard update by Di Zock in our upcoming Exterior & Landscape special, available for pre-order now. The project features a floating bench, an overhead structure with a barbeque and dining area and a creative use of tile on the exterior walls!

Atomic Ranch Exterior Design & Landscape Special

Looking for some retro playhouses and backyard toys for the kids that will fit right in with your mid mod exterior? Check out our summertime fun round-up!

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