Interior Courtyards

 In Garden Design, News

Interior Courtyards seem part of the architecture in places like the Middle East and the Far East. They are also seen in properties in the Mediterranean, Mexico, and South America. One could argue that warmer weather permits these spaces to exist more easily. However, they are starting to get popular in the UK too.

Are interior courtyards a new phenomenon within the world of architecture and garden design or have they resurfaced from history? It seems internal courtyards did exist in the history of architecture more for function rather than aesthetics. In history, they used to be a pit in the middle of a dwelling. The pit was open to the sky allowing smoke from the fire to escape. As architecture developed these pits also served the purpose of collecting rainwater and housing livestock. With progress through history and developments in technology, people were able to enjoy more leisure time. This created changes in the use and details of courtyards.


Concrete House in Kensal Rise is a wonderful example of a small space used to stream light into the house. Whilst the architecture looks brutalist the greenery feels like it is breathing life into the property.

A private interior courtyard within the middle of this property creates a calm, relaxing, and inviting space. The brick wall provides a lovely backdrop to the tree. As the plants mature this space will feel like an oasis.


The Chinese used to build courtyard houses. These were essentially an open space surrounded by the rooms of the house. They were known as heyuans. The central courtyard was a family social space similar to the way we use our gardens and courtyards today.

Central courtyards also existed in ancient Greece. It was a multifunctional space used for worship, cooking, and arts and crafts activities.

Interior courtyards not only enable you to bring elements of the outdoors into your inner space, but they also have positive effects on our health. Research has shown that being in a green environment can put us in a better mood, reduce fatigue, increase our attention span thereby increasing productivity. For business’ this can only be a plus.

Interior courtyards can be an opportunity to create a micro-climate within which to grow tender exotics. If it is a small courtyard there is the opportunity to install a living wall. Interior courtyards can lend themselves to various looks. If you are going for a minimalistic Japanese feel inside why not expand that into the courtyard with raked gravel, some rocks, and a stunning Japanese cloud tree. A small glazed courtyard can be turned into your private oasis.


This interior courtyard is part of La Quinta in San Miguel de Allande, Mexico. The interior courtyard is kept permeable by the use of the gravel surface. The Yucca rostrata will grow into three architectural specimens whilst the succulents will slowly spread. The creamy coloured walls create a lovely light within the courtyard. It feels like a very protective and calm space.

One could argue that if you have a front and back garden, why would you want a courtyard in the middle. However, interior courtyards are a great way of introducing light in the middle of the house. Keeping the walls of the courtyard light in colour helps to brighten the space. Victorian terrace houses are a prime example where light is limited. The middle of the house can feel dark and gloomy. I have recently been working with a client who owns a period property. He wanted to create a wow factor along the staircase. The architect that I was working with created a small interior courtyard which benefits the house hugely by streaming light into the middle of the house. Instead of planting the courtyard, I came up with the idea of getting a graffiti artist to paint a Japanese style scene with an Acer blowing in the breeze. The client is thrilled as it makes a jaw drop feature when you see it.

Credit: and Natasha Levy

A small Japanese style courtyard which is part of Tsubo House in Hackney. The space was cleverly designed by architects Fraher and Findlay for the current property owners. The courtyard offers glimpses of old and new parts of the property. This is a fine example of a small interior courtyard within a Victorian property, bringing light through into other areas of the house.

The courtyard acts as a pivotal link between other spaces of the house. It brings in air and light, providing the property with positive energy.

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