I’ve got an awesome short list of subcontractors, and I needed them for this little courtyard makeover! Although the area was small (about 300 square feet), we had a lot to accomplish in tight quarters.
We started with a blank slate–it’s a sunny courtyard with saltillo tile flooring in one area and a small bare concrete entryway. Combine that with gray brick, off-white stucco, ipe fencing and a terra-cotta wall and that’s a lot of surfaces to make sense of! The homeowners don’t necessarily consider themselves gardeners, they like a more graphic and contemporary sensibility, and the sun gets blaring hot, making it a fairly harsh scenario.
Our solution for making this a low-maintenance entertaining area for our clients included adding a small, curving deck to add some elevation to the area, with landscape lighting on the facing. Since we can’t dig into any soil (there isn’t any), we brought in a number of containers with easy-care plants (succulents and bamboo muhly), and added some smooth and chunky Mexican moon pebbles for texture at the base of the pots.
If you have a small area with incongruent surfaces and don’t know how to tie it all together, here are some tips to help:
- Consider staining concrete. We did this with the entryway–we chose a warm, terracotta stain that would blend in with the adjacent saltillo tile. If you have plain concrete, this is a good option–plain concrete is cold and uninviting.
- Bring in a new material to blend with an existing one. We had two colors to contend with: warm terracotta (courtyard floor and one wall) and cool grey (another brick wall and the ipe fence). These colors were not going away, so we brought in elements to blend them. The deck and light fixtures almost identically matched the ipe fence, and we had some custom steel containers made that will start out a steel grey color and then weather to a rusty terracotta. The Mexican moon pebbles are also a grey color.
- Consider a contrast color. While you need to be careful about choosing another color to add, it works in that adding a contrast helps you to avoid everything being “matchy-matchy.” Yes, blend colors–but avoid matching every single element. That gets a bit boring. We did this by bringing in brilliant cobalt blue pots–the cool blue blends well with the grey while providing a fantastic contrast to the terracotta. These pots have become the focal point of the courtyard, and they are nestled in to a previously unused inset in the courtyard.