Move over, white picket. Create a head-turning focal point or complement the architecture of a contemporary home with a garden fence made with an of-the-moment material. From brightly colored acrylic and luminous glass fences to chunky rock gabion walls, there’s a building material to suit every landscape style and desired level of privacy.
1. Cement board. Cement board — made from cement and reinforcement fibers — is a versatile material for covering outdoor walls or creating screens. It can be painted to complement the colors of an outdoor space. “We select [cement board] with the smoothest front and back and crispest edges,” says designer Scot Eckley. “Once cut to size, we prime and then paint them.” Here, mounted panels painted bright orange set a fiery backdrop for a gas fireplace at left, while chartreuse panels define a lounge area to the right.
2. Concrete. Raw concrete walls add a distinctly industrial feel to landscapes. Balance the cool look and feel of concrete with warm, inviting tones from wood decking, terra-cotta pots and soft-textured foliage. Conversely, change the tone of raw concrete by adding integral color at the time of wall construction.
3. Cor-Ten steel. Developing a natural rust patina over time, Cor-Ten steel is a great choice for a more modern, rustic look. Steel can be purchased in sheets and used as either an opaque privacy fence or a stand-alone backdrop wall.
4. Corrugated metal. Tough and inexpensive, this hardworking material can be used to make a long-lasting garden fence. The wavy pattern of corrugated metal both increases its rigidity and adds an interesting texture to gardens, while the zinc coating provides a neutral backdrop for flower beds or sculpture.
5. Glass panels. Preserve privacy but allow light to pass through with a fence made of luminous glass panels. For this entryway fence outside a home in San Francisco’s Twin Peaks neighborhood, the designer created a custom fence made of steel and frosted glass. The glass panels sit sandwiched between 1-by-1-inch steel frames, further secured by an outer 2-by-4-inch steel frame.
6. Metal slats. In this garden in southern Germany, a contemporary fence made of vertical metal slats forms a barrier that is as visually interesting as a modern art piece.
The fence changes from almost opaque to translucent based on the viewer’s vantage point. The curved blades of golden ornamental grasses extending through the fence enhance the optical illusion.
7. Rebar. This rebar fence gives the suggestion of a boundary without obstructing views. The designer created the fence using sturdy 1-inch-diameter rebar (sold as #8 rebar) spaced 8 inches apart. Hidden beneath the soil, the rebar poles are welded to a steel bar and set into a concrete base for a sturdy foundation.
8. Rock gabion wall. This front yard in rural Bedfordshire, England, relies on the rich textures of weathered wood siding and a rock gabion wall for contemporary interest. Gabion walls are made of metal cages filled with rock, concrete, wood or other materials and can be useful as privacy screens, wind blocks and retaining walls.
9. Wood slats. Fences made of narrowly spaced wood strips provide light screening while offering a peek to the other side. For a contemporary look, set the slats horizontally between three-eighths of a inch to 1 inch apart (depending on desired privacy). Anchor with fence posts at the back to keep the front side of the fence clean with uninterrupted horizontal lines.