One of my favorite garden spaces are courtyards. They are romantic and practical at the same time! They are contained and enveloped by the house, oftentimes creating amazing places to use and view nature up close. Due to their proximity to the house, courtyards often contain a patio that can be used as an extension of the livable space inside the house. Courtyards become places to enjoy a cup of tea on a comfy lounge chair, while surrounded by the lushness of plants and nature. They are easy to access because of their close integration with the architecture, either at the same level as the house or just a few steps down from the house. I would love to have a house with a courtyard. Being two stories above, I have learned from experience that easy access to the outdoor space is tremendously important if you ever want to use it.
Oftentimes, courtyards are contained by walls on all fours sides. This provides a sheltered, intimate experience away from cold winds. Courtyards are small enough to tackle and create great opportunities for detail.
The details can be in the form of focal points such as water features or tiles inlaid in the steps or walls. Wall treatments can be in the form of playful paint colors or scented vines and shrubs softening the walls. Courtyards provide an opportunity for aromatic plants to warm and waft into the house. Natural stone paving can pull together the house color and flooring to create a cohesive, complementary surface to view and use. Gravel paving can also create a sensory experience, and offers a more rustic transition to the rest of a rambling garden.