A dream house for most people includes not only a spacious house with luxurious interiors but also a beautifully landscaped courtyard. Courtyards can be categorised according to size and shape. Large courtyards are usually reserved for luxury villas while smaller bungalows feature compact courtyards. Courtyard shapes are usually dictated by the plot shape as square, long and narrow, short and wide or triangular. A beautiful courtyard is defined not by the shape and size of the courtyard but by the way it is designed. The ideal courtyard is balanced, proportionate to the house, and has a unified theme in terms of colours, materials and shapes.
A plot tapering off at one end gives you an asymmetrical or triangular area to play with. The first challenge of designing a triangular courtyard is to trick the eye into not seeing the space wider than it is and not narrow and asymmetrical. The second challenge of designing a triangular courtyard is to pull attention away from the edges and draw attention towards the centre. Space optimisation is also an important consideration to be kept in mind while designing a triangular courtyard.
The first step to designing a triangular courtyard is to survey or measure the area. Draw a scaled down version of the same on a sheet of paper and list out the elements you would like your courtyard to have. In most cases, the courtyard will have a few plants and trees already growing in the area. If you plan to include these in your design plan plot them on your drawing. Along with potted plants you could include a water feature such as a fountain or a pond, a pagoda, furniture, sculptures etc. With your plan and list ready it’s time to start designing.
A courtyard should be inviting and comfortable like the one here in the picture designed by FentonRoberts. For this, furniture like cane or faux cane armchairs, loungers, hammocks etc and an occasional table are essential. Along with choosing beautiful furniture it is also important to arrange it so as to make the most use of the available space. Use the furniture to define a square within the triangular courtyard. To give your courtyard a balanced look, use the rule of thirds and arrange the square to be either on third of the available space or two thirds of the space. Breaking the triangular courtyard into a large square and other smaller areas pulls attention away from the boundary and create a focal point for your courtyard.
With furniture defining a square in the center of the courtyard you will be left with two or more smaller triangular areas. These areas can either be landscaped with trees and shrubs or potted plants. Scale is very important while choosing plants for your courtyard. Choosing a large tree or plant for a small courtyard may overwhelm the space while choosing small plants for a large expanse may look insignificant. Place the tallest of your plants in the extreme corners and layer shorter plants against it so as to create make the space look harmonious.
If a water feature is one of the points on your dream list for the courtyard, consider placing it in one of the smaller triangular areas in the extreme corners of the area. Between sunken artificial ponds and fountains, fountains are easier to install and maintain. Scale again plays an important role in choosing the right fountain for your courtyard. Fountains can be custom designed for your courtyard by landscape designers or bought readymade. Alternatively you could look up DIY projects to create a unique personalised fountain. As far as possible avoid having more than one water feature in a courtyard.
Having a courtyard and not using it to entertain guests is sacrilegious. In order to do that, its important to have a clean and well-maintained courtyard. A landscaped garden is beautiful to look at but requires a lot of maintenance because of which people often choose to tile an entire courtyard and restrict foliage to potted plants. In such cases, installing a wood oven in one corner and a bar in the other is a great option. If you want the best of both worlds, consider a central lawn area and tile the areas around it.
Fire when seen as a bonfire or in a fireplace has romantic appeal that can’t easily be matched. A fire pit is the perfect element to create a focal point in a courtyard. The best place for a fire pit in a courtyard is in its center with furniture placed around it. However, while installing a fire pit, keep in mind the fact that it will not be in use all the time. Thus, it is essential to design a fire pit in such a way that it can be camouflaged as a table etc or be used to house potted plants when not in use.
Sitting in the sun is ideal only on cloudy winter days. On other days, shade is essential. In a courtyard, shade is of two kinds, natural and manmade. In triangular courtyards, trees that create natural shade are generally restricted to the extreme corners. Thus a pergola or tent is needed to shade the central seating area. Along with creating shaded areas, a pergola or tent also creates a visual divide in the space.
When designing a courtyard, it is tempting to include as many interesting garden features, plants and design ideas as possible but this can lead to the area looking crowded and chaotic. A better idea is to choose one or a maximum of two focal points and limit yourself in terms of colours, materials and plants. By repeated use of the same colours and materials in an area, it looks cohesive and aesthetic. So pick a theme and get ready to design your courtyard. If you want to look at more decor ideas, here is an interesting article - Indoor Plant Lights!