How to Convert Your Urban Courtyard into a Natural Oasis

Though living in a metropolis or city has many advantages such as being close to shops, essential services and amenities, it has one downside: limited contact with Mother Earth and the natural world.

In saying that, you can still create a mini city oasis in your urban environment. For example, if you have lucky enough to have a small courtyard you can call your own, it’s possible to create a luxurious retreat that you can escape to when you need a break from the city chaos.

So in today’s article we will explore how you can turn even the smallest courtyards into an outdoor oasis as well three ways you can counter the most common challenges for city yards.


Let’s start!


Defining elements of your courtyard retreat

Before building your courtyard retreat, we recommend thinking about how you will use it. For instance, is its primary purpose a retreat for alone time where you can achieve some peace and quiet, or do you want to use it for entertaining family and friends, or is it a place you want to escape to where you can commune with nature? Once you’ve decided how you’ll use your space, you can start designing it.

Now that you’ve decided how you’ll use the space, you can start identifying the key elements you will need to place within the space. If you intend to use the space for alone time, you’ll likely need somewhere to sit (or recline) and a relaxing ambiance that can be created with a gently trickling fountain, dip pool or water feature. Adding some soothing greenery that’s gentle on the eye is also ideal.

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On the other hand, if you plan to use this space for entertainment, then you’ll need furniture for seating your guests as well as tables for food and drinks. If have a smaller courtyard, it’s best to choose furniture pieces that have multi-purpose functions. Good examples are seats with storage underneath them or bowls that can be water features in summer and fire bowls in winter. If you want your courtyard to be free of clutter when you’re not entertaining, foldable chairs are a perfect solution because they can easily be hung on a wall or placed flush against a wall when not in use.

If you plan to create a garden in your courtyard space, the primary element you’ll require is garden beds. For backyards that do not have a lot of space, raised beds are ideal as they provide ease of access to your plants, can double as extra seating and make cleaning the space much easier. They also have a way of visually elongating the space which is a bonus for smaller areas.

In the case that you are extremely limited with space, consider using pots and planters instead. Most plants and vegetables will grow in pots and their advantage is you can easily move them around to chase the sun or shade, which can often be problematic in a courtyard situation. Another alternative is growing a vertical garden along the walls of your courtyard and leaving the floor space for entertainment or seating purposes. For more in-depth ideas about vertical gardens, check out this article we wrote earlier.

Whatever you plan to use your courtyard for, the key is to keep it simple. You see, in a confined space, less is always more. So do your best to keep it free from any clutter and only add the bare essentials.

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Solutions to the most common landscaping challenges

As we mentioned earlier, if you have a smaller courtyard, you may encounter a few challenges. To help you counterbalance them, here are a few helpful solutions:

  1. Nowhere to put all your stuff – This might sound obvious (but we all know sometimes the solution can be staring us straight in the face and we just don’t see it), but if you don’t know where to put all your stuff, we recommend first deciding if you want to use your courtyard as a living area or a storage facility. If you want to enjoy your courtyard instead of cramming it with things, then simply get rid of all the things! (Yes, it seems very obvious doesn’t it?) For instance, that bike you never ride or that rowing machine you never row can easily be donated or sold, and the rubbish bins can be stored elsewhere (or worst case scenario, disguised as seats). And while you may still have to hang out the washing, consider a line that retracts when not in use. Be ruthless with your decisions and remember why you are doing this – to create an enjoyment oasis for yourself to escape the cityscape!
  2. Your space is in close proximity to your neighbours – And probably vice versa if you’re living in a city dwelling. Part of creating a courtyard oasis is because you desire a personal refuge or retreat that gives you privacy. So how do you solve this debacle? Well, if your courtyard is overlooked by your neighbours (which is more common than not in urban environments), you can choose a variety of screening options to block out your neighbours while simultaneously blending with your relaxed oasis theme. Other options include installing tall plants such as bamboo, which grows well in planters, planting small trees if you have the space or even placing an overhead pergola or blind which can also double as a sun shade. Just a word of caution with bamboo – as its roots grow deep and reach far into the ground, make sure you have a professional check that it won’t interfere with any wiring or plumbing under your home or your neighbours home.
  3. The space feels too small – If your courtyard seems too small to transform, some tricks professional landscapers use to create the illusion of space include carefully positioned mirrors to make it seem lighter and brighter, vertical plantings that draw the eye upward and using colours to make the space appear bigger than it is – for example lighter colours elongate a space more than darker colours do. Alternatively, installing larger pavers (natural stone pavers are an excellent selection) is another way you can make the space feel bigger than it is. Check out our selection here. Another trick of the trade is avoiding intricate patterns as they can be quite distracting and can make the floor space seem smaller than it really is. Now, if your home has access doors that can be easily opened to create an indoor/outdoor flow with your courtyard, you can create a receding perspective by installing your pavers in such a way that they progressing get smaller the further you are from them. Also another trick to make the space seem bigger than it actually is.

So there you have it: a few simple ideas to transform your urban jungle into an outdoor oasis, no matter how small it is!

If you would like any help selecting the best natural stone pavers for your urban courtyard, you’re at the right place because Armstone is Sydney’s leading supplier of natural stone pavers. We source our products from the best suppliers around the world and stock a wide variety of travertine, granite, quartz, marble, limestone, bluestone and sandstone pavers and our expert staff can help you find the perfect flooring solution for your courtyard oasis.

Simply contact us online or at 1300 560 560. Alternatively, we have a live showroom in Glebe, Sydney where you can see our product selection up close and personal.

Either way, we look forward to hearing from you and helping bring your design to life.

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