How to style small spaces: courtyard gardens

Laura Fantacci’s London courtyard – forever my inspiration

We’re at a bit of a standstill in terms of big renovations, so we’re looking to sort a few areas of the house that can be spruced up (relatively) cheap. We have started to clear out the back bedroom as it has been housing a lot of crap we can’t move into other rooms currently, and we’re hoping to temporarily paint it and put the bed together for guests.

And now we’ve decided it would be REALLY lovely if we can sort a bit of the garden, too, because I’m not the kind of person who can just relax and enjoy where we’ve got to with the renovations, I’m a ‘what next’ type of person and I’ve accepted that. The heatwave almost killed us knowing we had outside space not being used! We’ve never had a garden in London, or in fact any outside space, and it was one of the sticking points for us when we moved. Our garden isn’t huge but it’s perfect for what we need (and can achieve with our distinct lack of green fingers) and I gave up the idea of having a large garden in London long ago – to have anything is a huge bonus! When we knocked down the old downstairs lean-to bathroom, we gained a bit of side access as a lovely little extra outside space which isn’t overlooked and I would love to turn into a little dreamy courtyard.

It’s not quite a walled garden (more concrete jungle) but it has a lot of potential.

So of course I bought an outside sofa and some ceramics to go in it before I’ve actually painted or prepped anything.

Sarah Clark’s courtyard garden, from Little Spree

I think the real skill here is not worrying about making the space look ‘bigger’, but ‘homely’ instead. Embrace the small space, bring in foliage and plants and hidden mirrors which will, in turn, open up the area and let even more light in. Another trick is to keep the furniture light, too, rather than too cumbersome. Cox & Cox are always great for outdoor furniture, as is Ikea.

We are going to paint the floor and rendered walls a light grey to keep the space looking fresh and airy (and perhaps one day, tile it but for now, paint will do!) and add some ceramic pots and hopefully a bench to sit and read – whether this will work and I will get any reading actually done is a different story but, for now, I can dream.

Laura Fantacci’s fences are painted in Farrow & Ball ‘Ammonite’.

Oh and fairy lights, outdoor cafe lights in particular, are a must for me.

Image via Style Me Pretty

We’ll be concentrating on painting for now and making it a usable space and hopefully we can work on foliage over time, as we learn more! Wisteria would be the ultimate wish but I think that takes around 10 years to flourish….

So hopefully we will have a space worthy of sitting in, at least, before the summer’s out. Watch this space (literally – over on IG stories!).

28 Comments

  1. Love the idea of creating a green hideaway in the middle of London. If it works with your light, exposure, etc… maybe get a jasmine vine? Mine came with the house- I have done nothing to or for it. The smell is divine and it looks lovely both when it is in bloom and also just green. X

  2. If you fancy tiles, have a look on Pinterest for some stencils for the flooring, we were on a budget for ours and bought a stencil from eBay, cleaned up our dodgy patio and then stencilled it, made a massive difference as a short term fix! X

  3. Great blog, thanks! We’re currently working on sourcing mirrors for our outside wall, I can see the linked one from Wayfair but I’m looking for something really really big like the one Laura Fantacci has. Haven’t been able to find anything online but if anyone has any tips please shout!

  4. Oooh really excited to see this unfold Alex! I’ve been avid reader of your blog for years and I have recently bought my first house. I love watching all your room transformations and it giving me lots of ideas. I have a small garden as well and have been thinking on how to transform it as well. Can’t wait to see what you create! xx

  5. Oh! Lucky you!I’m already curious. There is also beatiful (and practical) outdoor rugs…just one other point.

  6. Oh my goodness I can’t wait. I have a tiny yard which was given a bit of a makeover approx 11years ago, but now is in desperate need of an up date. You (and Laura Fantacci) are very inspiring xxx

  7. Hi I’m sure your garden will look as lovely as your house does.
    Jasmine is great, and not too hard to look after.
    And for general garden inspiration, have you ever visited local gardens which open as part of the National Garden Scheme? It’s a great day out, usually quite cheap, and you get the chance to get tips from local gardeners, and some sell plants (and tea and cakes !) too. There are some near you open this Sunday – see http://www.ngs.org.uk Isobel x

    1. Oh no we haven’t – as we just have weeds (and A LOT of weeds) currently I’ve always felt somewhat excluded from gardening chat so now I’ll have to catch up! Thank you for this xx

  8. The last image via style me pretty is Whitney Leigh Morris´s house in Venice Beach LA. I have been to her house and she has a beautiful garden in a tiny space. It´s practically an extension if her house – due to the climate they have a wardrobe in it! I can send you some other pictures of her place if you would like them for ideas.

  9. Looking forward to the post, take yourself off to Colombia Road Flower market on Sundays, loads of lovely pots and plants, baskets and all sorts of garden stuff. Don’t forget to plan upwards, Jasmine, Honseysuckle, Clematis, Roses (you can get thornless roses too) I plant herbs in galvanized buckets i.e. Italian bucket, Curry Bucket, French bucket and fill them full of appropriate herbs, trailing tomatoes in Hanging baskets look good, especially if you plant some herbs too. Good luck.

  10. Loving this inspo bc it was also mine! We have pretty much this and it’s our third summer since I started and super happy with it… It winters really well! My advice with the plants is to limit yourself to only getting a couple at a time… There’s a strong chance of things dying when you first start out and it hurts less if you’ve only spent a little. And also plan ahead – as stuff you plant now/next Spring won’t look fab until the Summers after! Also good old B&Q has great big inexpensive terracotta pots bc sometimes lovely pots are eyewatering! Look forward to seeing how it goes x

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