What's better than a backyard? In these modern homes, a courtyard offers its residents the same benefits—outdoor space for hanging out and entertaining—plus the coziness that comes from enveloping walls and a view back into the living spaces. Here are some of our favorites.
A wide cut across the top of this house in Toronto made room for a second-floor courtyard where the residents and their kids can catch some sun but maintain their privacy. On the ground level, the front door is tucked into an ivy-covered alcove lined with ipe, a material used throughout the house. Photo by Juliana Sohn.
The glass wall separating the main living area and the inner courtyard garden in this eight-foot-wide house in London opens like an accordion to create a barrier-free transition. Built-in planters along the walls of the courtyard add greenery without eating into the valuable surface area of the courtyard. Photo by Charlie Crane.
Built of metal studs and a steel tube frame on a site that’s been graded and compacted, the passively sustainable Courtyard House was designed to endure a century of drought, El Niño rain, and the odd earthquake. The stucco walls and galvanized-metal roof moderate heat, while the cool concrete floors suck it into the bowels of the earth. Roof overhangs control sunshine, shunning it in summer and allowing it to creep through the house in winter. And the central courtyard offers a protected place for the residents to hang out.
For Paul and Shoko Shozi, a pair of retiring Angelenos, the goal was to shut out the neighborhood but bring in the sunny skies. Their new prefab home, the Tatami House, designed by Swiss architect Roger Kurath of Design*21, makes a central courtyard the physical, and maybe even the spiritual, center of the home. From the kitchen and living room you’re well connected to the courtyard and the rest of the house. The trim and accents are white oak; the kitchen is by Leicht. Photo by Jessica Haye and Clark Hsiao.
At the vacation home owned by the acclaimed Italian designers Ludovica+Roberto Palomba—a serene retreat carved out of a 17th-century oil mill in Salento–the indoor-outdoor Grand Plié sofa and Piaffé table, which the couple designed for Driade, perfectly suit the whitewashed courtyard, with curving silhouettes that echo the surrounding stonework. Serafini and Palomba purchased the metal lanterns at a local market. Photo by Francesco Bolis.