Courtyard hacks: 5 design ideas to create an outdoor oasis

With spring in full bloom and summer just around the corner, the great outdoors is calling your name for lazy weekends and backyard BBQs in the warm weather. So – is your courtyard ready?

Courtyard furnishings
Careful choice of furnishings can make a courtyard a space for entertaining or relaxing solitude. Photo: Pindan (Image source:

With spring in full bloom and summer just around the corner, the great outdoors is calling your name for lazy weekends and backyard BBQs in the warm weather. So – is your courtyard ready? 

As modern, low maintenance living soars in popularity, courtyards everywhere are being transformed into lush and vibrant urban oases perfect for reading, relaxing and entertaining. To help you bring yours to life, here are five easy courtyard hacks – just in time for the sunny season. 

  1.     Sitting pretty

Clever furniture selections are key to making the most of your courtyard. The trick is to avoid overcrowding, so opt for modular dining tables that are designed so that bench seats can neatly slide underneath, freeing up valuable space when not in use. 

Look for as many opportunities as possible to bring comfort to your relaxing sanctuary, whether that’s an outdoor lounge, a luxe daybed, or stylish outdoor cushions and pillows that can be fitted to outdoor furniture. Bringing the indoors outside, like laying a decorative rug, makes the courtyard feel like a natural extension of your living areas. And when space is at a premium or you want to evoke a low-key holiday feel, a hammock adds laid back charm and can be taken down to open up your courtyard when entertaining guests.  

  1.     Bring your walls to life

Those bare courtyard walls are blank canvases begging to be brought to life with a vertical herb garden – especially when you don’t have the floor space for stylish pot plants. Not only do they make a beautifully space-saving feature wall, vertical herb gardens produce fresh food for your cooking, naturally filter the air, and can insulate your home against the sun.  

To create your vertical garden, simply attach a collection of small wall-mounted planters to one of your courtyard walls and fill them with the greenery of your choice. There are some great DIY kits around designed for busy people with limited gardening experience that can be easily fitted - look for planters made from UV treated polypropylene that are made to last in the hot Australian sun. 

The type of herbs you plant depend on how much sun your vertical garden gets. Cherry tomatoes and rocket thrive in full sun, chives and parsley work in part shade, while mint and basil love full shade. 

  1.     Keep your cool

To set up your courtyard for the warm afternoons you’ll need protection from the sun. Retractable awnings and large umbrellas are relatively simple solutions, but many courtyard owners opt for shade sails as they’re super flexible and can provide near full cover of compact outdoor spaces. 

There are many stylish products and customisable options in different colours, sizes, UV protection levels and water resistance. It will all depend on personal taste, how often and when you intend on using it. Do your research to find a shade sail that fits your unique outdoor space and use.  

  1.     Light up your life

Courtyards often suffer from stark white lighting that sucks the atmosphere out of a dinner party. Ambient lighting can bring your courtyard to life after the sun goes down, creating an intimate mood on those balmy evenings entertaining friends.  

The trick is to go for soft, warm lighting. Festoon lighting is a popular trend right now, available in different sizes and lengths to hang in your outdoor space. For a simple option that creates a cosy atmosphere in lounge areas, go for lanterns or tea lights. If you’re going for a dramatic feature statement, up-lights can be used as a dazzling highlight to accent your vertical garden or illuminate a water feature. 

  1.     Pamper your fur babies

Small-space living may throw up some challenges for pet owners, but with a bit of creativity you can make your courtyard a stimulating sanctuary for your fur babies too. When designing your space, give your pet a spot that’s theirs alone. There are some beautifully designed pet products on the market that match stylish modern décor, from wicker baskets to big cushions, climbing trees, foldable tunnels and mountable climbing shelves. 

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