With an increasing tendency for empty nesters, young couples and singles towards higher density inner city living, and the desire to spend minimal time on maintaining gardens or other outdoor spaces, most new apartments, townhouses and condominiums tend to have only pocket sized backyards, courtyards or balconies. So it becomes particularly important to make the most of such limited areas by landscaping and utilizing the space in the best possible way.
But you don’t have to be a professional landscape architect to create an inviting courtyard space – you just have to follow a few basic design principles. Whilst you can’t physically increase the size of a small garden, you can certainly employ a few visual tricks to create the illusion of space.
One important way of doing this is to create a thematic link between the indoor and outdoor areas. Linking the backyard or courtyard to the family room or kitchen, breaks down the division between inside and outside, making the total area appear larger. To establish this link, try to use paving materials that are similar to those used in the house. If you have a tiled area inside, consider extending the same or similar tiles outside.
If you have a solid wood or wood laminate floor, one simple solution is to lay interlocking wood deck tiles on the external patio or courtyard. Although such tiles are best laid over a concrete pad, they can also be laid over a level and well compacted gravel surface. And they can be moved and re-laid at will should you decide to change the design of your outdoor space at any time.
Light colours in the paving and on the courtyard walls will also create an impression of space, so lighter colored tiles would generally be preferable in small spaces.
In confined spaces, more space should be devoted to sitting & walking areas than to plants which should be placed in wide, raided beds. Deck tiles could be used as “stepping stones” along a pathway interspersed with gravel or stones and bordered by plantings.
A favourite piece of sculpture can be used a focal point providing it is in keeping with the general theme of the courtyard. But don’t overdo the garden art. One sculpture or water feature is more than enough.
Clan simple lines are generally better in small situations rather than a “busy” appearance and a formal look is usually more suitable than an informal look. Several large pots or planter boxes will look less cluttered than numerous small ones.
Avoid using flowers with strong red, yellow or orange colours as they tend to “advance” towards you. Blues, purples and grays are preferable because they are not dominating. And make sure plants are selected for all round appeal and not just for a brief burst of colour for a few weeks, but dull for the rest of the year.
With a bit of planning, even the smallest of areas can be made to look larger than you may think.