Refined courtyard view with evening lighting

This refined courtyard in Sydney’s Upper North Shore shows space-maximising design at its best


This refined courtyard perfectly complements the home and makes good use of the available space

There are two keys to successful courtyard design: the creation of a well-balanced space and the liberal use of a limited number of materials, shapes and colours. The proof of this philosophy can be found in the refined courtyard of this home on Sydney’s Upper North Shore.

When creating a courtyard, establishing a feeling of unity — in particular, a sense of connectedness to the home’s interior — is essential and precisely what Jason Chapman of Elegant Landscapes has done so successfully here. Working to a design by Fluid Design, Jason and his team have built a courtyard that not only presents a pleasing outlook from inside the home; it’s a space for quiet reflection and cosy gatherings.

“The serene courtyard can be used as an outdoor room in its own right or, when the expansive glass doors are opened, as an extension of the interior,” says Jason. “There is no shortage of clever space-maximising tricks of the trade you can employ to make the most of a courtyard space and we have used several of these to best advantage.

“A raised garden bed, for example, allows you to introduce plants into a courtyard — and add a level change for visual interest. The walls of the raised bed can also be used for seating or, as is the case here, it can be the support for a built-in timber seat. To ensure the space feels as open and uncluttered as possible, the spotted gum hardwood bench seat is cantilevered and has strip lighting underneath, turning it into a night-time feature.”

Making excellent use of the available vertical space, the Elegant Landscapes team also built a water feature that integrates seamlessly with the adjacent raised garden bed and boasts a waterwall clad in teal mosaic tiles. “We rendered and painted the walls of the water feature and raised bed to match the house colour,” adds Jason. “For the paving, we installed grey concrete-look porcelain tiles and used large-format tiles to give a feeling of more space.

“To soften the look of the paved area and introduce a bit more greenery, we planted strips of mini mondo between the tiled pads. Along the boundary we planted a lilly pilly hedge and in the raised planter, there is a small feature tree — a coral bark Japanese maple.”

Ultimately, the key to success is to always pay meticulous attention to detail as everything will be viewed from close proximity. This is also why, when dealing with a small space, you need to choose the best materials and finishes you can afford.

“With good design and a little imagination, any courtyard can be transformed into an outdoor oasis. Whether you want to extend the indoors out and create an outdoor room, or you simply want a place outside to retreat to after a long, hard day, with the right planning, your courtyard can become your personal haven,” says Jason.

For more information

Elegant Landscapes

This project is an entrant in the Outdoor Design 2022 NSW Landscaper of the Year Awards, celebrating residential design innovation and construction excellence. All entrants were featured in Outdoor Design Issue 42, with winners to be announced in Outdoor Design Issue 43.