Humans have used courtyards for as long as they have lived in houses. Some of the earliest known courtyards were constructed in China and Iran more than 5,000 years ago. Courtyards have been used for work, rest, cooking, gardening, and even for rearing animals. With higher density living, modern courtyards have evolved, with a huge variety of choice for design ideas. The modern courtyard can be a peaceful outdoor space in your residence for rest and can be used as a chic and effective entertainment space. From using attractive outdoor pavers to water features and landscaping ideas, these are some practical and elegant ideas for bringing more air, light, and aesthetic harmony into your courtyard.

1. Add a Water Feature

Bring energy and interest to your courtyard with a water feature. Some features to consider include:

  • Fountain. Fountains come in all sorts of shapes to suit the overall theme of your courtyard. You may even build your own rock fountain and pool. Japanese deer scares, sculptures, or fountains are just some of the different water features used.
  • Water Walls. Water walls or columns take up little space and bring an ultra-modern, minimalistic feel to any outdoor place. Like any water feature, water walls have a strong cooling effect.
  • Pond. A garden pool with water plants and fish brings colour and variety. You can install a fluid-shaped pond or pave your own rectangular or square pond.

2. Paving for an Easy Makeover

One of the easiest ways to breathe new life into an older courtyard and give it a quick makeover is to repave the space. There is a large variety of paving to choose from, including bluestone and sandstone pavers. For a fresh new feel, choose paving of a different colour from that which is being replaced. Once you’ve chosen your preferred design and pavers, paving is a relatively uncomplicated process that can completely alter the appearance of your courtyard.

3. Bringing Colours to Walls

Courtyards and terrace courtyards are typically enclosed and as such, a fresh new feel can be brought to a courtyard simply by changing the walls. These can be painted over, retiled, or even completely rebuilt. A fresh coat of paint with some selective planting can bring new colour and energy to the space.

4. Planting Tips 

As a general rule of thumb, avoid overplanting in courtyard gardens as the space is already limited. However, smart planting can help you get more out of the space. Use plants to create new spaces within the one courtyard by separating areas. Mix small, upright plants and large plants to break up any ‘boxy’ feel to the space.

Use large plants near wall and corner areas to soften angles. Level changes and difference in plant heights can bring perspective and variety to the space. Ornamental pots are always great, but a capped planting bed can have a second purpose – seating – which saves precious space.

5. Decorative Ideas

If the courtyard is relatively small, use decorative elements with restraint. Repeat themes, colours and textures where appropriate, but remember too many colours can make the space seem cluttered. Use these decorative ideas to create focal points and break up spaces:

  • Use pebbles or natural coloured stones to line or border planting beds and areas.
  • One or two sculptures or urns can serve as effective focal points
  • Additional fencing or screens can be used to enhance privacy. Those with a vertical pattern are the most appropriate.

6. Furnishing Your Courtyard 

Light and delicate framed furniture is often best suited to smaller courtyards where space is limited. For large courtyards, heavier seating and other choices, such as swings and table sets are appropriate.