A tiny courtyard in the backyard of a small suburban home was revamped on a tight budget to provide a pleasant place to sit outdoors and accommodate informal al fresco meals. All but the established creepers and climbers were removed from the area and bricks were loose-laid (without mortar) parallel to the wall to create flowerbeds. The most difficult part of the project was tiling the arched fountain feature that sees a lion’s head spurting into a wall-mounted shell-like dish and then flowing into a pond below. The pond was built using a precast cast shell that was “contained” with a very low two-brick wall made with bricks and mortar and then tiled to match the wall. A narrow brick-paved walkway next to the house (seen in the foreground) makes way for an inexpensive but very effective flat gravel surface. Paris cafe-style chairs and table and a number of planted terracotta pots complete the picture.
Decks and patios are great for outdoor entertaining and there are so many different options in terms of configuration, style, size, and the materials used it can be difficult to decide what to opt for. Furthermore, outdoor entertaining areas range from very simple areas with no more than a table and chairs to very sophisticated outdoor kitchens where you can barbecue, cook in a pot over an open fire, and even make pizzas. Some even incorporate a running water source for preparation and cleaning up.
Of course, the magnitude of the design and the elements you decide to incorporate will depend entirely on your needs and budget. The tiny courtyard featured above was a DIY project undertaken by a young, newly married couple. She was an interior designer and had a keen eye for color, pattern, and good proportions. They bought a badly rundown property and revamped it in beautiful Mediterranean style for resale as cheaply as possible.
But your yard and your needs may have nothing in common with this one. So where do you start?
Analyze Your Remodeling Options
If you want to remodel your backyard so you can use it for outdoor entertaining, the first thing to do is assess what you have and what you can do to either improve it or change it.
So, if you already have a deck or patio, whether it is adjacent to the house or not, identify its positive and negative characteristics. For instance:
Is it flat? If it isn’t you will probably have issues with tables and chairs. The next question then will be, can you level an area that you can use for seating?
Is it protected from wind, sun, and noise? If not can you build screens or screen walls, and is it viable to construct a pergola of some sort that will protect those sitting there either from sun or rain? While a solid roof might seem like the obvious answer it may not be. In rainy, windy weather you probably won’t want to be outdoors. A semi-solid cover over the top might be the answer instead.
If you want to cook outside, is there space either for a portable barbecue or a built in cooking facility of some kind? If you do have an outdoor area that will accommodate a built-in barbecue or more, careful planning is essential. You might even need to have plans drawn up depending on the needs of your local authority.