The Courtyard

Home Design's Oldest, Simplest and Most Affordable Luxury

Bruce Arant

It had been a difficult day at work. The boss was upset. Your co-workers were being difficult (as usual) and business was slow. But at last, it was time to go home and leave the headaches of your job behind. So...finally...after enduring a messier-than-usual traffic jam in front of the Parthenon, you arrived home and parked your chariot, anxious to change out of your work toga and relax in the peaceful, private surroundings of your home's courtyard.

Wait a second...  Yes...right along with the peaceful, private surroundings of your home's courtyard.

Times may have changed since chariots were grid-locked in front of the Parthenon, but courtyards -- then and now -- have always provided a pleasant outdoor living space to chill-out with fresh air and sunshine at the end of a long, hard day.

Traditionally, courtyards have been associated with house plans that are designed in Mediterranean or Southwestern styles. Today, however, these peaceful, semi-secluded "outdoor rooms" can be found in a wide variety of house plan styles. Furthermore, courtyards can be found in house plans of any size because their design does not contribute to a home's overall square footage.

The primary function of a courtyard is to provide a comfortable outdoor living space that is semi-secluded -- usually surrounded by at least three walls. This is especially appreciated when houses are constructed in close proximity to one another. A courtyard, unlike a patio, porch or deck, affords a greater degree of privacy from the neighborhood.

Courtyards can be found at the front, side, rear, or even center of a home's exterior. Front courtyards have traditionally provided a private setting, near or adjacent to a home's front entry. Often, however, courtyards access a home directly, and are designed to expand the practical use of a dining room, breakfast area, great room, or even master suite.

The charm of a courtyard is often enhanced with weather-resistant tiles, stonework, pavers, planters and landscaping details. Courtyard fireplaces, or even outdoor kitchens can expand a home's entertaining options -- practically to the point where family and friends won't want to come back inside. To be sure, these age-old living spaces are well-loved for their enticing atmosphere. But additionally, a courtyard can be the most economically constructed area of a home's design, from a cost-per-square-foot standpoint.

So, as you ponder the features of one house plan after another, don't forget to consider the inclusion of a courtyard. Historically, it's one of home design's oldest, simplest and most affordable luxuries. And of course, it's the perfect place to kick back in your favorite toga, protected from the prying eyes of the neighborhood.

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