With today's busy lifestyles, most young couples, singles and even empty nesters chose to live in higher density multi level dwellings to avoid time consuming maintenance tasks associated with single dwellings. Consequently most apartments, townhouses and condominiums tend to have only pocket sized backyards, courtyards or balconies. The challenge then becomes how to make the most of such compact areas as a space for entertaining or relaxing by landscaping or configuring the available space in the best possible way. But you don't have to be a professional landscape architect to create an inviting courtyard space - you just have to follow a few basic design principles.
Whilst you can't physically increase the size of a small garden, you can certainly employ a few visual tricks to create the illusion of space.
One simple way of achieving this is to create a thematic link between the indoor and outdoor areas. Linking the backyard or courtyard to the family room or kitchen, breaks down the division between inside and outside, making the total area appear larger. To establish this link you can use paving materials that are similar to those used in the house. If you have a solid wood or wood laminate floor, the best solution may be to use interlocking wood deck tiles in the courtyard (see www.ezydeck.net for example). These tiles can be laid right up to the doorway and although they are best laid over a concrete pad, can be laid over a level and well compacted gravel surface. And one of the major benefits of modular wood tiles is that they can be moved and re-laid at will should you decide to change the design of your outdoor space at any time.
To create an impression of space, use light colours on the courtyard walls. Lighter coloured deck tiles would also be an advantage in creating the illusion of extra space.
In confined spaces, it is better to devote more of the available space to seating and pathways rather than to plants, which should be placed in relatively wide, raised beds. Wood deck tiles could be used as 'stepping stones' along a pathway interspersed with gravel or stones and bordered by appropriate plantings.
Clean simple lines are generally better in small situations rather than a 'busy' appearance and a formal look is usually more suitable than an informal look. Don't overdo the garden art. One sculpture or water feature is more than enough. And several large pots or planter boxes will always look less cluttered than numerous small ones.
When choosing plants, avoid flowering plants which have strong red, yellow or orange colours as they tend to 'advance' towards you. Blues, purples and greys are preferable because they are not dominating. And make sure plants are selected for all round appeal and not just for a brief burst of colour over a few weeks, but otherwise dull for the rest of the year.
About The Author: Malcolm Kay is the CEO of Intex Pacific Pty. Ltd., an international supplier of garden & landscape goods including modular decking tiles.
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