Advice on rear courtyard

Am about to relet my terrace and may (if I could be bothered) paint or do something to change the rear courtyard. It takes a lot of water when it rains.

At the moment it is ultra glarey. Bright paint on concrete would have faded (as photo taken a few years ago). Maybe a shade cloth could be the go....certainly I could tone down the paint job. Not so keen on tiling. A few plants would soften it up...but I can see these dying if not watered or even disappearing (has happened before).
 

Attachments

  • Rear courtyard.jpg
    Rear courtyard.jpg
    32.8 KB · Views: 156
Am about to relet my terrace and may (if I could be bothered) paint or do something to change the rear courtyard. It takes a lot of water when it rains.

At the moment it is ultra glarey. Bright paint on concrete would have faded (as photo taken a few years ago). Maybe a shade cloth could be the go....certainly I could tone down the paint job. Not so keen on tiling. A few plants would soften it up...but I can see these dying if not watered or even disappearing (has happened before).

You're right to be wanting to do something about that yard. It took me a couple of views to realise it was indeed a courtyard and not a roofless vault.

As it stands it's not inviting for people wanting to relax there, but it's certainly got potential.

All you'd need are a few natural timber or soft outdoor furniture to break the area up, make it useful and and remove its prison-yard hardness.

A natural timber deck possibly with some built in seating, some greenery (2 or 3 large pot plants), and padded outdoor chairs + table could make a huge difference.

To break up that white back wall maybe either a good outdoor timber shelving unit (for storage of gardening and barbecue things) or creepers going up trellises in the corners might work. One or two of those large vases (with pebbles and dry reeds) might also do the trick and be low maintenance.

Keen gardeners might appreciate a potting table somewhere, otherwise that space could be taken up by a barbecue.

I'd imagine that things like the barbecue and outdoor furniture would be supplied by the tenant, but some things like decking and storage would I think would make the area more appealing.
 
Thanks for that input Spiderman. I've seen what you're referring to with quite a few other terraces around mine. Can already visualise it.

I have sort of acquired what was here when I bought it about 17 years ago and done very little to it.

The water that flows through here in heavy rain might be an issue with decking (mainly because there is no unconcreted surface anywhere for water to soak into)...but I could work around this...decking would have to be raised a bit with a small step up to it at some point. Terrace has 5" kauri floorboards throughout so another timber outside could look good.

A carpenter could probably knock up something here-including seating/storage, planter boxes and decking.

A few backyards below (as ideas on how it could be done)
 

Attachments

  • backyard 3.jpg
    backyard 3.jpg
    81.3 KB · Views: 96
  • backyard.jpg
    backyard.jpg
    103.4 KB · Views: 110
  • backyard 6.jpg
    backyard 6.jpg
    92.4 KB · Views: 110
Last edited:
Ajax

It does have that whole prison cell look to it, without seeing a 360 degree view it is hard to see what is around it and what is on the other side of the brick wall, but is there any chance you could fully inclose it and turn it into a additional room for the place
Jezza
 
Oh, boy, I'd love to get my hands dirty in this project.

That colour has to go. Why not re-consider tiling or brickwork? - it's such a small area and an attractive base would add value anyway.

The walls need to painted a soft green and lined with several sturdy trellises spaced apart so that it gives the impression of more depth. A tall potted cyprus tree would be hard to kill and even if the tenants ignore it, the idea is to look appealing in the first place. How hot does it get there? Any sunlight? A dwarf lemon tree in a terra cotta pot would be great.

I like Spiderman's idea of built in seating/decking and space for a BBQ too.

There are some people who actually rent places because of the appeal of a tiny outdoors area. My daughter for one - she lives in a ridiculous shoebox in the middle of Darlinghurst - you have to inhale to enter the joint - but rented it because it had a tiny outdoor terrace with charming brickwork, planter boxes all the way up the walls with cascading vines which she loves caring for, and room for a small BBQ and couple of chairs. I bet she's paying about $30 week more for this bit of outdoors.
 
Hi Jezza and Amadio,

I had been intending to extend the terrace house to the back wall (someone else has done the same in the row of terraces and ended up with the outhouse now inside) and left a small open space on the left side as seen in 1st photo (council required this). This would cost a lot of money. Its inner city so one day it will be cost effective to do this. Would like to take both levels (2 storey) as far back as I can...then single storey with space on one side back to rear wall.

I like your enthusiasm Amadio. It gets hot here and sunlight for 2/3 of day. Back courtyard did feel a lot like a prison when I lived here. Will need to give more careful consideration to tenants looking for outdoor space. Picture of front of terrace below (you would probably have some ideas for this as well)
 

Attachments

  • Front garden Redfern.jpg
    Front garden Redfern.jpg
    105.5 KB · Views: 98
you would probably have some ideas for this as well

:D Dead right! What direction does it face? Dimensions? This is another living space waiting to be unlocked. When tenants look upon any space as being livable, in their heads it makes the whole place larger. Easiest added value of all, especially in a large city.

In this space, because it faces the street, that big palm is useless close to the house -it actually has the psychological effect of closing the place in - you could sell it or give it away to a landscaper who needs a big established plant.

Then you would keep the palm on the left (I think it's a palm, just the trunk is showing) and plant a row of fast growing low maintenance hedging plants along the front and sides and this creates your "wall" which shields the occupants from view. Within that there is so much you could do inexpensively but post where the sun is, and if those trees or buildings cut much out, and how big that space is, and I'll give you some more ideas.
 
Hi Amadio,

the front of the house faces east. Sun is partially blocked by large avocado tree next door on right hand side-to the north. On left hand side facing house from front to back is a large dwarf date palm, a tall palm, a cabbage tree palm, and a rubber plant (I think).

Have already bought more plants- 2 cordelines, 5 small cycads and 3 other plants (the aim was to plant out the entire front section).

Garden at front of house is about 3.72m wide at the front (with path an additional 1 m)-total frontage 4.72m. I think it is about 7.5 m deep. I will take precise measurements in about 2 weeks time.

By the way the rear of property is 4.37m wide.

It has a picket fence with a gate at front-picket fence is on a retaining wall-top of picket fence is above head height....so already some privacy.

Previously made enquiries about a car space-council won't allow it. Property is a 10-15 minute walk away from Central station.
 
Hi Armadio,

the front is terraced...has brick boarders with the higher level terrace about 5 metres deep (which doesn't have plants in centre) and a slightly lower terrace about 2 m deep (which does have plants including a tree fern). The large cycad that you can just see was removed by a neighbour ("because it had died").

I was considering cutting back the avocado tree on my side to let in more light.
 
Here are some ideas. Bear in mind I'm not a pro landscaper, just a passionate gardener...

With an IP, the goal is simply to get a prospective tenant to think "I can sit out here" which has the effect of adding a room, and doing it as inexpensively as possible.

You need to create a sitting/dining area, create a sense of privacy on 3 sides around it, create a garden of colourful plants in the front and one side, and fill up the middle.

Details: that big palm smack in front of the house needs to go or be transplanted as I said before. It looks enormous. Once that's gone it will allow that verandah to be extended so that the first thing a tenant sees is a good size outdoor living area.

Whether it's tiles, brickwork or decking, the area needs to be uniform (same material). It needs to extend to about 2.7 metres from the front wall of the house ( including the verandah). A 4.72 x 2.7 tiled or decked area is great for a decent size table and chairs.

It's also the one part of the property which probably gets the sun in the morning to early afternoon,( so you need to make sure that prospective tenants inspect the property in the morning).

To reinforce the notion that this is an extra living area there needs to be some kind of green privacy screen on both long sides - either with a climbing plant, or a non invasive bamboo planting or a just a dense kind of sturdy trellis. This needs to extend a couple of metres out from the house along those fences. It doesn't have to be high - 1.5m is high enough to give a sense of privacy but it may depend on local codes as to how high you can go.

You say that there's some privacy from the street already so that's good - inside the front fence can go the plants you have acquired.

This next bit may not work with the borders you already have, but I'll throw it in anyway -
You could do some planting in a biggish curve extending from the beginning of the path streetside, about a metre in, around to the end of the privacy screen on the southern side. If you have a few different heights of el cheapo concrete pots with those cordylines they are always good for effect and virtually impossible to kill. The garden doesn't need to have a structural border, let the plants be the border. This means that it's a soft border rather than a hardline geometric one. If you can trim the part of the avocado on your side a bit, it would help letting some light in.

At this point you still have about 9 s m of courtyard left in the middle . Your budget would dicate what you can do - a huge pot with plant or a large patch of mondo grass or put big tiles with mondo grass surrounding them or all of those things. Mondo grass is hard to kill and you don't have to prepare the area like you do a lawn.

Can you picture this? Hope it gives you some ideas.

If this was a PPOR it would be quite different. In that case I'd be looking at changing the whole hardscape to eliminate that long straight path and putting a curved tiled patio extending out from the little covered verandah, adding lighting, doing something with water, creating a hill, some kind of green wall all the way longways on the 2 sides and some colourful plantings and dwarf fruit plants in large pots.
 
Wow Armadio,

I can picture what you are saying. I like the idea of extending the area at front of terrace out and using tiles.

Managing agent has already suggested that the palm at front could be removed. Privacy screen using non-invasive bamboo on southern side could be the go. On the northern side it would need to be thinner-maybe a trellis with creepers.

I have always liked the idea of big tiles and mono grass.
 
More photos of rear courtyard of my Redfern terrace. The second and third photos were taken today-2 years after the first one (while standing against the rear wall which you can see in photo one). Water falls towards the gulley trap which you can just see in the second photo-the gulley trap is under cover in the laundry area).

New tenants about to move in so I will look into changing rear courtyard later.

Dimensions of rear courtyard:-

Southern side 420cm deep (LHS on photo one).

Eastern side (closest to rear of house) 440cm wide.

Western side (back wall) 300cm wide Outside brick out house 120 cm long 140 cm wide.

Am thinking raised timber decking...about 8cm high at back (flush with floor of outhouse) and higher above the ground towards the house (maybe 12cms).

This would mean a step up from back of house onto the decking and allow water to run into gulley trap (as it does now).

Would also keep water off timber decking (though unsure about timber joists).

Demolishing the outhouse is another possibility to open things up. Last tenants just stored junk in there (never used it as a second toilet).
 

Attachments

  • Rear courtyard.jpg
    Rear courtyard.jpg
    32.8 KB · Views: 50
  • DSC00115.jpg
    DSC00115.jpg
    92.6 KB · Views: 60
  • DSC00116.jpg
    DSC00116.jpg
    88.7 KB · Views: 59
Last edited:
Am thinking raised timber decking...about 8cm high at back (flush with floor of outhouse) and higher above the ground towards the house (maybe 12cms).

A timber deck is good. More pleasant to sit on/lie on with a few outdoor cushions. Also better underfoot than concrete. Visually breaks up the hardness by adding a bit of natural texture. Even if it costs $1k in materials it's worth it.

Demolishing the outhouse is another possibility to open things up. Last tenants just stored junk in there (never used it as a second toilet).

Can never have too much storage.

If you're lucky the outhouse might have enough room to put in one of those $20 metal shelving units without removing the toilet. And maybe a benchtop over the bowl (extra storage surface).

If the door is inward-opening, turn around the hinges so it opens outwards - this will increase the storage space inside. And put on an outside lock.
 
Hi Spiderman,

I take your point on keeping the outhouse for storage. Its built like the proverbial (well it is the proverbial). There is room here and door is already outward opening. BTW it bangs like the proverbial on a windy night.

Silly problem but actually a bit of an issue.

I had forgotten about the feral cats that hang around these terrace houses and the smell of cats ****. They get into the roof space above the outhouse, have their kittens in spaces in the rear wall spaces between the terraces. They get into any area that is not easily accessible to people.

Any ideas on getting rid of these? I used to shove a broom handle into these spaces which would stir up one of the large feral cats. Not inviting a hell of a lot of good karma doing this.

This question went down a treat when I asked it years ago at a staff lunch.
 
Top