Even though you may be working with more limited space, you can do a lot to enhance your outdoor courtyard and make the most of this cozy living area. Here are five ways to make your garden home, rooftop or small patio a place where you want to go to enjoy some time outdoors, whether it’s alfresco dining, cocktails with friends or morning coffee alone with a good book.
A word before you start. If you plan on spending significant time in your courtyard, go ahead and splurge on some comfortable seating. Outdoor sofas, rattan chairs with cushions, Adirondack chairs, etc. are much easier on the back and backside than wooden benches or small, cheap chairs. You’ll thank yourself later.
Remember, it’s all of the little things can add up to one great space!
Add Some Greenery
Nothing softens edges of hard landscaping like plants and greenery. Add biophilic design elements with plants or ground cover as a border around the edges and put larger plants in the corners. Using containers allows for incorporating a variety of different plant styles and colors. A large banana plant, yew or fern in a sizable terra cotta pot could be used as a focal point in your courtyard. Smaller, festive-colored containers allow you to add a splash of color and move plants around when you tire of the same layout. Different plants can be replaced seasonally and when spring rolls around don’t forget the herbs like rosemary, basil, lavender and more! One thing to consider with plants is the importance of color. Choosing light greens, whites and silvers can help create a sense of spaciousness, while highly reflective, shiny leaves can add light and shimmer, providing depth to your planting scheme.
Vertical gardening is a great idea for courtyards since it can cover stark walls with added greenery while leaving precious floor space clear for seating, dining and lounging. One great plant for a vertical wall or trellis is an evergreen climber, star jasmine, which offers year-round greenery and fragrant white flowers in the spring and/or summer depending where you live. If you have space, adding trees can supply structure, seasonality and shade. If your space is small, consider the height of the trees and make sure you will be able to walk beneath them. A leaf canopy that diffuses dappled light can create a magical setting.
Add Something Cool, Hot or Both
Nothing adds a bit of relaxing serenity to a courtyard like a water feature such as gently flowing fountain, small pond or reflecting pool. Depending upon the size and shape of your courtyard as well as the size and style of the water feature, correct positioning is important. Some water features work best as a design centerpiece, while others are better tucked away so they blend with the plants and landscaping. While water features are cool, you can add some warmth to your courtyard with a fire feature. A small built-in fireplace or permanent fire pit can add to both the look and ambiance of your space, or opt for a chiminea or moveable fire pit that can be set aside during the hotter months. Remember, a chiminea can remain out year round and treated as an accessory if filled with flowers, greenery, candles or lights.
Add Some Light
Throwing in some smart lighting is an excellent way to create both drama and brilliance in a courtyard, allowing you to enjoy your space in the evenings. When choosing lights, decide where and what you want to showcase. Stringing lights above the area is a start, but think beyond that. Do you want to incorporate ground lighting to guide walkways? Do you want to use uplighting to enhance trees, shrubs, plants as well as architectural elements in gardens? Low lights in lanterns, moveable solar lights, candle holders and oil lamps can create a soft glow to promote socializing. And don’t forget, lights focusing on water features can draw attention to these areas even during the evening hours.
Add a Painted Wall
Most courtyards work best with more muted colors like lighter earth tones for flooring and walls, especially if you are dealing with a smaller space. However, for an accent, adding paint to a wall or fence can create a splash of color and provide an interesting background for artwork, accessories, hanging wall plants, container plants and more. In addition, painting a wall in a darker color and filling the foreground with bigger, attractive plants lets the wall recede into the background whereby blurring the boundaries to make the garden space appear much larger. Just be careful using too much bright, bold colors, which can make a smaller space feel enclosed.
Just like the inside of your house, accessories can be used to customize your courtyard and show a bit of your personality. Lanterns and lighting, rugs and decorative throw pillows are a great place to start. Whimsical garden art such as a few statuary, festively painted bird houses, garden gnomes, a pink flamingo, wind chimes or chandelier can help express your design style. The possibilities are many, you simply need to find the right balance in your space so it does not feel overcrowded or cluttered. If you’re someone who likes to decorate for each season or holiday, be sure to leave space for your Halloween, Christmas, Easter, St. Patrick’s Day décor and more. Special hint: find outdoor seating that doubles as a storage area for your seasonal decorations so they’re easy to access when it’s time to decorate.