How to Convert Your Urban Courtyard into a Natural Oasis
One of the downsides of living in an urban environment is that you can miss having contact with the natural world. But if you are lucky enough to have a small courtyard you can call your own, it’s possible to create a luxurious space, where you can retreat from the world and enjoy your own little piece of the great outdoors.
Defining elements of your courtyard retreat
In order to design your courtyard retreat, you first need to decide what you will mostly be using it for; whether its primary purpose will be for spending quiet time alone, entertaining with family and friends or communing with nature in a courtyard garden.
Once you have decided on its purpose, you can then start identifying the key elements you will need. If it is a space for alone time, then somewhere to sit (or recline) and relax will be a key element to include, with perhaps a gently trickling fountain, dip pool or water feature and some soothing greenery that’s gentle on the eye.
If on the other hand, you plan to entertain in this space, then you are going to need furniture for your guests and this is where choosing the right elements is crucial. If your courtyard is on the small side, the best furniture to have are pieces that serve more than one purpose. This can include items such as seats that have storage space underneath and bowls that are water features in summer and fire bowls in winter. The right type of chairs can also be folded up and hung on the wall when not in use.
If you plan to create a garden in your courtyard space, then obviously the primary element will be garden beds. 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.
But if you don’t have a great deal of room, you can consider using pots and planters instead. Most plants and vegetables will grow in pots and the beauty of these is you can move them around to take advantage of sunlight and shade, which can often be a problem in a courtyard situation. Another option is a vertical garden, where plants can be grown up the walls of your courtyard, leaving you more available floor space.
Whatever you plan to use your courtyard for, the key is to keep it simple. Less is more in a confined space, so don’t clutter it up with ‘stuff’ and just include the bare essentials that allow you to use it for what it is designed for.
Solutions to the most common landscaping challenges
You may encounter problems when creating your courtyard space and here are a few solutions to the most common challenges you may face:
- Nowhere to put all your stuff – in this instance, you have to decide whether your courtyard is to be a living area or a storage area. If it is to be enjoyed rather than crammed with stuff, then get rid of the stuff. You don’t really need that bike you never ride or rowing machine you never row and the rubbish bins can surely be stored somewhere else (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 and remember why you are doing this – to create an enjoyment zone for yourself!
- You’re overlooked by neighbours – obviously, if you are creating your own personal refuge or retreat, you want to have privacy, so if your courtyard is overlooked, which can often be the case in an urban environment, there are plenty of screening options that will block out your neighbours while still blending in with your relaxed oasis theme. These can include tall plants such as bamboo, which grows well in planters, small trees if you have the space or even an overhead pergola or blind which can also double as a sun shade.
- The space feels too small – if your courtyard seems too small to do anything with, some tricks to creating the illusion of space can include carefully positioned mirrors to make it seem lighter and brighter, vertical plantings that draw the eye upward and using lighter rather than darker colours to increase the feeling of space. You can also use large format pavers (stone pavers are an excellent choice), being careful to avoid intricate patterns which make the floor space seem smaller. And if you are able to open up the access doors while using your courtyard, you can create an indoor/outdoor flow with pavers that get progressively smaller to create a feeling of receding perspective.
If you’d like to find out more about choosing the right pavers for your urban courtyard, Armstone is Sydney’s leading supplier of natural stone pavers, sourced from all around the world. We have a large selection 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. Contact us today!