Along with the sunroom, the courtyard has been the other major addition to the old schoolmasters house, built on the bare expanse of land out the back of the kitchen.
Courtyards can have a dreamlike quality; the enclosed flower filled space, the covered eating area dripping with grape vines, the table set with a white cloth. Inspiration found in photos of simple Mediterranean outdoor rooms, protected from the sun and harsh winds.
All I had to start with was a scrappy, weedy patch of land. A path that once led to an outdoor toilet. Apparently two former opera singers used to live in the house & would sing outside on the warm nights, to the listening kangaroos in the paddock over the fence.
My hope had been to build out of reclaimed bricks, but just a little investigation revealed how expensive that would be. So regular bricks then, two walls either side, a low wall at the end and eventually, above it a timber beam to grow wisteria on and frame the view.
But it was a mistake to have a solid wall obscuring the view, it gave the courtyard an suburban feel, like you were sitting in a city back yard. The solution – to cut out a window and make some shutters. A surprisingly quick operation, the vista it opened up meant the magic of the countryside came flooding into the space.
The next design challenge was to get the right colour on the walls. After many samples and tests that were never quite right, I ended up taking an old brick made in the area, to Porters paints for them to colour match it in a limewash finish. After a few big days of painting and spraying the walls with water so that the lime would come through, the result was a dusty pink, filled with depth and warmth.
Finally, a structure built out of local tree posts and sawn timber. Vegetables, vines, herbs and a lemon tree planted, all seemed to take instantly, happy in the little microclimate of the courtyard, protected from the wind and enjoying the warmth coming off the walls.