Courtyard Before and After
Transforming a forgotten area
To call the space around the back of the house a courtyard was a stretch of the imagination when we moved in. It looked like a scrappy back bin yard. What looks like grass was in fact just patchy moss. Although it was south facing it was heavily shaded by large sycamores. But we had vision and enthusiasm we knew it could be a wonderful area but we under estimated the work involved.
How did we transform the courtyard
There were so many stages which have each been documented out in separate posts along the way. In summary we
- painted the outside of the house
- had gates and railings installed
- limewashed the wall
- Put French Windows in the Garden Room
- Put new barn doors into the Coach House
- replaced modern doors with more appropriate style joinery
- got the trees cut back
- paved the area and put in new steps to the new French Windows
- turfed and planted the courtyard
- built a seating area
White to black
We rushed to paint the house, I could not bear the flaky white paint I knew the house would counter intuitively look cleaner and brighter being painted black. Black makes colours sing and makes the stone look warm. If you don’t believe me read the full post with all the pictures
There are so many things we did to improve the space, and each small step took us closer to sanity. One of the first things we did to the house was put in railings and gates, this was to make the space secure for the dog (got to get your priorities right!). We wanted to create a safe space that our jumpy Jack Russell and his doggy friends couldn’t get out of.
Whitewashed the coach house wall
The courtyard needed brightening up and it was obvious that the coach house had been whitewashed before. We decided to have a go using the traditional lime wash to brighten up the space (read more here) . It is very easy and cheap but messy (that might be my technique) it is like painting milk on a wall and it cures over a few days getting whiter and whiter as the weeks go by. We also had the roof repaired and re-slated as well as mending the broken drainpipe.
Repair the Tradesman’s door
The tradesman’s entrance looked like they may have just covered over the original door. Unfortunately it had in fact been replaced with a fire door, good in an office not so appropriate in a residential property. We had a new door made in the same style as the rest of our joinery and had a leaded window put in, to match the window to the side, which also flooded the inside of the house with light . Read all about it here
The neighbours were getting a lot of the sycamores trimmed and we offered to contribute to the cost to have them crown lifted by 8m this was really of prime benefit to us as the shade was all on our garden not their’s. This transformed the amount of light, read more here about the process, but I think the pictures speak for themselves.
The grass was in a bad state plus we had a concrete base under the veranda followed by mud then scrubby grass. We wanted it to be a paved courtyard allowing us to eat outside. It took about three weeks to pave the courtyard (read more here). The second photo also shows the arrival of the new doors to the Coach House, which was essential to stop the Coach House feeling like it had it’s back to us.
Planting and Grass
After all that construction we needed to lay turf and plant some things. We planted an acer in the middle and lavender plants in the corners. A crab apple tree in the corner to give some blossom in spring and beautiful red cherry like apples in autumn. This photo also shows the new French windows and their steps, which again was a critical element in turning the back yard into a central coutyard.
New back door and seating area
Having a veranda has been wonderful. It rains a lot but having a roof over your head whilst still sat in the open is a fabulous experience. The Veranda needed some help, the back door needed replacing to let light into the kitchen, and we wanted all year round seating. If you want to build a banquette read all about how we did it here
Here it is before
We will continue to plant the courtyard. We have planted a series of climbers, some evergreen such as Hydrangea and jasmine others giving spring interest Clematis , and others providing rampant scent and summer colour ( Jasmine and Roses).
We love this private space and most people think it has always looked like this