A captivating courtyard design provides a modern home with a special sense of serenity, and allows nature to become a major part of a home’s makeup. Enclosed garden spaces act as personalised nature retreats that feed into adjacent interior spaces via the blurred boundaries of glass walls, retractable doors and atrium ceilings. To explore these glorious spaces a little more and look at the different ways in which they can be implemented, we have put together a vast collection of inspirational designs taken from all over the world. From South America to Spain to Sri Lanka, from Africa to Japan to India, we cover them all.
Architect: Jared Della Valle
Twinning is winning: Why settle for one courtyard if you can have two? It’s hard to distinguish the boundaries in this amazing modern home – and that’s kind of the point. Courtyards on each side of a walkway bring nature smack into the centre of this living space.
Extend the same interior ceiling finish out over an exterior courtyard design, like this continuous wood slat ceiling that completely disregards the border.
This is part of a gorgeous Indian home split by a covered garden atrium. A density of indoor plants grow in the vicinity of an interior stairwell.
Visualizer: Tarek Ali
Make a courtyard part of the decor. This highly tailored courtyard design looks as though in disguise as a botanically patterned area rug – though the tree growing out of it is a bit of a giveaway.
You will be surprised to know that this is in fact a cancer care building in Scotland. The Royal Incorporation of Architects, in Scotland, named it as the best building in the country back in 2012 for its bold and welcoming design that is so unusual for the healthcare industry.
Architect: Hiroshi Nakamura & NAP
Light it up with lanterns. This Japanese home has lanterns dotted around its courtyard patio to provide a magical glow at twilight.
Architect: XTEN Architecture
Make the most of an exterior courtyard by including some modern outdoor chairs into the layout, or add a full dining suite for al fresco dining opportunities.
Everybody loves a bit of rock ‘n’ roll – incorporate some big rocks into the courtyard landscaping for a strong architectural effect.
Designer: Harrison Landscaping
Create different levels. By adding decks and platforms to your layout you can define eating areas or an outdoor kitchen. Decorate courtyard decks and patios with potted plants or raised plant beds.
Make a frame with plants. A low maintenance patio can be framed by dense borders of greenery.
Designer: Handman Associates
If green borders still sound like too much maintenance for you, then how about a softly bubbling water feature to create an atmosphere of zen instead?
Designer: Corbin Reeves
A contemporary outdoor fireplace is sure to give the wow factor. This hearth extends almost the full length of the courtyard between two pebbled plant beds. The plant in the left corner is the European fan palm.
Architect: South Coast Architects
Romance a special Señorita or Señor in a Spanish courtyard. You can flamenco dance the night away around the columns of romantic arches – try not to fall in the water feature though.
Visualizer: Davide Weber
This rather fancy visualisation was one of the entrants to an Evermotion Secret Gardens competition held in 2016.
Photographer: The Blonde Abroad
Take the plunge. You can take a quick cooling dip in a plunge pool at the centre of this moroccan design covered with green and white tile. Comfy sun loungers invite you to stay all day.
Visualizer: Sasha Gnativ
Even a narrow space can be transformed into a magical spot. Incorporate plenty of colour in your planting to curate an uplifting view.
This building is actually a crematorium in Diamond Hill, Hong Kong. The shape of the courtyard alludes to the circle of life.
Architect: Atelier Deshaus
Courtyards don’t have to be flat. A few little hills bring in a touch of the wild.
Visualizer: Tharik Mohammed
This is based on the famous Hooper House II by Marcel Breuer, which is a mid century classic.
Architect: Mia Design Studio
Cultivate some curtains, like these amazing hanging plants over a reflecting pool.
Build bridges – from one side of a home to the other.
Architect: Ayutt and Associates
Plumerias are a great plant for courtyards, with their whimsical form.
This one has a 100 year old Plumeria tree, living right at the centre of a modern pool.
Soak up the sun in a hammock. This is part of a great Brazilian home with lush jungle vibes.
Architect: Marcio Kogan
Erase walls with a retractable door solution.
Designer: Tom Howard
Maintain all of your ground space by fashioning a vertical garden, like the multi-tonal walls in this front courtyard design. A cool interlocking design is created at ground level with irregular paving planks and lawn. A fire pit keeps the seating area comfortable in chillier times of day or season.
Architect: Sebastian Mariscal
Photographer: Coral von Zumwal
Form a shaded area over the dining chairs and table for a cooler more comfortable outdoor dining experience in the height of summer, or to provide shelter from unexpected showers.
Visualizer: Andriy Maheha
Welcome to the courtyard bar. This outdoor bar is linked directly to the interior kitchen, to receive drinks and snacks, or simply chat to the chef.
Visualizer: Estudio Arquitecta Grin
Built-in benches at the borders can double as outdoor dining banquettes.
This concrete bench wraps right around an outdoor kitchen, marking out its perimeter.
Designer: Studio EI
Mimic a pergola with wood framing across the ceiling.
A single Japanese Maple tree can bring in shades of green and deep red.
Make a modern path of slab paving stones across wild brush…
Visualizer: Mia Design Studio
Live amongst the lily pads with a miniature lily pond. This one butts up so close against a sofa that you could even sit and dip your feet! Latticework overhead creates a cosy covered feel but still lets sunlight filter through.
Architect: Ambrosi I Etchegaray
Photographer: Rory Gardiner
Even if a courtyard is just a pathway from place to place it can still provide soothing garden views to interior spaces.
Photographer: Daniel Koh
Invest in exterior lighting to add drama to the smallest of details.
Photographer: Daniel Koh
In a sunken courtyard, flow planting down from upper garden levels. Both this and the previous courtyard are from this beautiful bali retreat.
Architect: Alpes GDB
A courtyard can form the core of the home. Situate an eye-catching nature design at the base of a stairwell to link your levels via a place of natural serenity. Incorporate built-in planters on the landings to tie the levels together.
Architect: Iván Andrés Quizhpe
Sometimes, a pathway and a pool are all you need. Looking at a still pool of water can help quiet the mind, feed the soul, and cool the body. The base of a shallow pool can be lined with stones and pebbles to enrich the feature with a natural look. Create a floating pathway effect by leaving small gaps between large stepping stones, and hiding the fixings.
The architect of the above spaces, Sri Lankan maestro Geoffrey Bawa, is often considered as the father of the “tropical modernism” movement. If you love this style, we encourage you to check out Geoffrey Bawa: The Complete Works.
Architect: Khosla Associates
This is from a house in south India that is based around a 5000-year-old Indian design practice called Vastu, which can be likened to the practice of Feng Shui.
Designer: De earth
Simple brickwork planters and grass growing between paving stones give a quaint laid-back vibe.
Designer: Studio Mumbai
Conjure a dreamlike vista by sinking a water feature into wood flooring, like this house with a courtyard pond.
Photographer: Andy Serrano
Create a natural looking ravine by lining a stream with craggy rocks.
Make hills come alive with trees and moss.
Visualizer: Studio Aiko
Make a display case for your courtyard. This one has its floor patterned by the Japanese zen garden raking technique.
Architect: Log Urbis
A glass case can incorporate retractable glass doors to allow access, and to allow the garden space to be incorporated more fully with the interior when desired.
Architect: Carvalho Araújo
Pulling up a single patio paving slab can be all the opportunity needed to incorporate a little greenery into your life and living space. Put out a sun lounger and enjoy.
Architect: Andrés Stebelski
This is a house with multiple courtyards, providing interior spaces with a panorama of picturesque trees and shrubs.
Visualizer: Vika Seregina
Small potted plants line a bank of shelving in this apartment courtyard area, which allows the greenery to be moved and enjoyed in other areas of the home too. A bright red seat has been fashioned around the base of a courtyard tree, which contrasts with the cool blue of a neighbouring kitchen diner. A glass ceiling blurs the boundaries between inside and out.
Find more inspiration and tips for beautiful outdoor living spaces here: