Tips and ideas for transforming your courtyard

  • 9 minutes
  • 20 March 2017

A courtyard is a great outdoor feature that you can easily turn into something special. Whether you have a large area or only a tiny space to work with, there are plenty of simple things you can do to transform your outdoor area completely. Let’s look at some ideas, tips and tricks for turning a regular old courtyard into a unique outdoor area.

Alisa & Lysandra - The Design Duo - SlimWall courtyard

Alisa and Lysandra – The Design Duo

Have fun with greenery in your courtyard

Greenery is an effective, revitalising addition to any living space. Creating a garden (or at least the feel of a garden) helps breathe life into outdoor living areas, whether large or small. There are several different ways to incorporate greenery. Here are a few popular options.

Climbing plants/trellises

Courtyards usually have limited ground space for greenery, so climbing plants and trellises are always good choices.

If yours has brick walls, you might like to try plants or vines that easily climb and cling to walls, such as creeping fig, star jasmine, clematis, or even a passionfruit vine. However, be aware that some plants may need to be trained and supported with a trellis-type structure before climbing walls themselves.

If you’d rather your plants grow on trellises, there are plenty of great options for the climbing plants and the trellis itself. Bougainvillea, trumpet vine, pea vine, wisteria and clematis are popular choices for climbers. Trellises come in various materials and styles, from wire and wood to lattice or decorative wrought iron, and they can help establish the overall theme or look of your outdoor space.

Vertical (wall-mounted) gardens

Another option for non-ground-based plants is a vertical garden. Vertical gardens are miniature gardens made entirely of small wall-mounted containers or pots. A vertical garden is a great way to save ground space and create an attractive feature wall at the same time. All you need to do is attach some sturdy brackets to one of your walls and fill them with gorgeous greenery.

Green Wall inspiration

Pot plants can bring life to your courtyard

If you do have a bit more ground space, pot plants are the perfect choice for decorating and bringing life to your outdoor area. And the best thing is that you can plant everything from flowers to ferns to fruit trees in pots! So, you’re spoilt for choice when selecting your greenery.
You can also have a lot of fun with the pots themselves. For a practical garden, choose a range of pots in different sizes, but try to ensure they’re all similar shapes to create a sense of visual harmony.

Vegetable and herb gardens

Why not introduce some function to your foliage? Try creating a mini vegetable/herb garden, perhaps even utilising the vertical garden option mentioned above, which works particularly well with herbs and veggie plants. An edible garden can be just as decorative as a regular one, and it brings a sense of rustic homeliness.

Mini Vegetable Garden

Bring the indoors out

To really create a wonderful outdoor space, treat your courtyard as if it’s just another room of your house. It is the perfect place to introduce the ‘indoors meets out’ mentality, because it’s often a smaller space that’s enclosed to some degree. To achieve this, there are a few different things you can try…

Paint the walls

Painted feature walls aren’t just for inside! If you’ve got the right type of wall for it, try introducing a splash of paint. This might mean painting all the walls or just one to create a feature or focal point.
If you’re creating a feature wall, consider using a bright colour to make the space more vibrant and lively. You can then model the rest of your colour scheme around the feature wall, choosing plant pots and furniture to match.

Colourful garden wall

Use art or mirrors

Who said art was just for your living room? So, why not jazz up a wall with an impressive feature piece? Obviously, this won’t work so well in a completely exposed space. Still, if your area is relatively protected, a striking artwork can look impressive.
Mirrors are also a handy and attractive addition to any courtyard. We all know the old trick of installing a mirror or two to give the illusion of extra space. This trick can be particularly effective in a small yard – a large mirror at one end will open up the courtyard and make it look much larger.

Accessories are an easy way to update your courtyard

Try bringing a few traditionally ‘indoor’ accessories out. For example, add some colourful cushions to your outdoor furniture or even a decorative rug on the ground. Alternatively, add a fire pit or an outdoor ‘ceiling’ fan to enhance the feel of the outdoor living room.

Three Birds Renovations House 14 - add accessories to your outdoor patio

Three Birds Renovations House 14

Comfort is key for your courtyard

Most people prefer their courtyards to be places of comfort and relaxation. It’s your little private retreat, after all. No matter what size or style yours is, you can do a few things to ensure it’s as comfortable and functional as possible while still looking great.


Make sure there is plenty of comfortable seating. If it’s a smaller space, you don’t want to overcrowd it but do make sure there are at least a few comfy places to sit down. Depending on your chosen style, you may wish to go with traditional outdoor furniture or something different, like an outdoor lounge/daybed. And for ultimate comfort, you could even introduce a hammock for lazy afternoons swinging in the breeze!

Three Birds Renovations - House 14 - outdoor seating

Three Birds Renovations House 14

Protection from the weather

A courtyard is usually open to the elements, so you want to ensure that you’ll be comfortable spending time there. And ensure that your outdoor furniture and accessories are protected. Even though they are generally walled in, sun, wind and rain can still cause havoc through the open roof! Luckily, there are multiple options for weather protection, including retractable awnings, shades and large umbrellas.


As well as protection from the weather, you want protection from prying eyes! Depending on the location and style of your space, you may need to introduce additional privacy measures to get the most out of the room. For example, try screening the area with a decorative lattice or surrounding it with leafy trees.

VogueWall with flush post tops and wall capping

Light it up your courtyard

Enjoy the yard at all times of the day – including the evenings. Consider the type of lighting you want to use; lighting can significantly affect mood and ambience.

The lighting you choose will depend on the overall purpose. If you’re creating an intimate space, lanterns or candles might be enough. In a larger entertaining area, you’ll probably want a variety of light sources. Try strings of warm gold fairy lights to create a festive atmosphere, accent lighting, such as an illuminated water feature, or even ‘hidden’ lighting, such as lights underneath the flooring.

Outdoor Lighting inspiration

Introduce a key feature or focal point

Sometimes the key to creating an inviting outdoor space is introducing a feature or focal point. Most commonly, this will be a water feature. Small features such as fountains, bubbling urns and miniature pools or ponds are perfect for courtyards. You will have an impressive outdoor space by placing your water feature at the centre or one end of the room. Plus, the sound of running water provides a relaxing sense of calm.
As we mentioned above, alternative focal points can be statues, larger plants, or even painted feature walls.

Create an intimate hideaway

Even if you have the tiniest yard in the world, that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything nice with it! If you’re working with a small space, use it to your advantage. Play on the size of the area to emphasise its cosiness and introduce a warm, inviting atmosphere.

Create a romantic and intimate space with your courtyard. All it will take is some comfortable furniture, a few plants and some warm, soft lighting, and voila – you have the perfect outdoor retreat for you and your partner.

Intimate Courtyard

Decide on a theme for your courtyard

Try choosing a theme to help guide your makeover. It’s often easier to stick to a cohesive, consistent style when you have a theme. Take a look through some outdoor design magazines or browse Pinterest for great theme ideas and inspiration.
Here are a few examples to get you started…

Traditional theme

What could be nicer than relaxing in your very own traditional-style courtyard? The following elements will help you feel like you’ve been transported back in time every time you step outside:

  • Pots or planter boxes filled with lavender
  • Elegant stone elements, such as pavers or a feature fountain
  • Bistro furniture
  • Sculpted greenery, such as trimmed hedges or shrubs
  • A natural or pastel colour palette
Traditional Garden Ideas

Moroccan theme

Bring your courtyard to life by introducing a vibrant Moroccan theme. Try incorporating a few of the following elements:

  • Lots of lush greenery, such as ferns and decorative grasses
  • Terracotta elements such as urns or tiles
  • Brightly coloured accents – use pots and throw pillows in a mixture of bold patterns and block colours
  • Indoors-meets-out furniture, such as ottomans or a daybed
  • Mosaic-style tile features
Moroccan Theme courtyard

Japanese theme

An elegant Japanese theme can turn your humble outdoor space into an oasis of calm and tranquillity. All you need are a few key ingredients:

  • A water feature such as a pond, reflecting pool or gently flowing fountain
  • Plants such as bamboo, Hakone grass and dwarf shrubs
  • Stepping stones or a small path
  • Minimalist furniture
  • A focal point such as a small stone statue or pagoda

With these ideas, tips and tricks in mind, you’ll be able to transform your bare courtyard into a beautiful outdoor living space.