Courtyards are a much sought after design element providing privacy, comfort, intimacy & quiet. They have been around since the days of the Romans and became popular in the United States in the early 19th century when Spanish & Mediterranean architecture was introduced and became wildly popular. There are many adaptations and materials based upon the region and architecture; the common elements they all share are water, walls, & sky. Most include walls that are substantial to protect & provide privacy, flooring of stone or brick, shady covered porches (portales) supported by columns or arcades, water features, & plants. Often courtyards can be accessed from interior rooms however the public access is through massive doors made from wood or fanciful iron gates.
Today’s courtyards appeal is privacy and the sense of quietude. To be outside in a secluded space surrounded by fragrant flowers & the sound of gurgling water offers a chance to exhale & relax; a place to start & end your day. Casas del Oso uses many of the same materials as those used in days past. Our flooring is either Canterra stone, adobe or brick pavers, occasionally we use Saltillo tile laid upside down with the rough surface up. All of these provide a smooth worn comfortable surface. We like to surround our courtyard paved areas with planters for small trees, bushes, flowers and of course many pots overflowing with seasonal flowers.
We like to see roofed portales (covered porches) on at least two or three sides of the courtyard to offer shade spaces for dining & resting. Most of our portales are flat parapets supported by arched columns covered in stucco. We often use San Miguel brick cornices at the tops of the parapets. There are Cantera stone scuppers for drainage on the roofs. Occasionally we use shed roofs with clay tiles set in mud (mortar). The clay tiles are exposed on the bottom providing a rustic feel. We love texture and use a lot of it. The rooms around the courtyard have French doors that open into it – giving a true indoor outdoor space.
Vintage doors, windows, grates, anything old offers a unique opportunity for character & romance. When we can find them we like to showcase them. Fireplaces & fountains are a requirement of our courtyards. We can use Talavera or stone tiles to frame them and they provide the sounds that are the backdrop.
Courtyards are a place where the ambience is more than the sum of the elements. It is the textures, colors, sounds, fragrance & love working in harmony.