What was done? An external courtyard space was designed within the overall design of this new family home in the Perth suburb of Floreat. The house was designed to fit comfortably with the suburbs modernist built form history and the ‘Garden Suburb’ planning ethos of the original subdivision of the suburb. Board marked off-form concrete walls and ceilings are prominent throughout the house as this material features in the local iconic buildings.

As is the case throughout the house itself, we designed many hand crafted custom designed elements of the central courtyard. The custom designed mild steel balustrade with the aged brass handrail runs like a ribbon around the perimeter of the open courtyard. The stone pavers surrounding the central tree are custom designed to allow the floor surface to continue uninterrupted through the courtyard while allowing the tree to obtain drainage and avoiding compaction around the tree.

The custom designed outdoor table brings together the highlight colour of the wall tiles, the white concrete of the roof and the blue of the sky above. The table, designed by Neil Cownie, is titled ‘Sea Breeze’, as one part of a collection series of furniture items titled ‘Iconic Perth’.

What did the brief ask for? An outdoor space that was accessible from the kitchen and family room to enable the family to enjoy alfresco dining. Along with being responsible for the architecture of the house, I was also the interior designer, selecting all of the contents of the house including curtains, furniture and some custom designed items. Suitable external furniture for the family to enjoy alfresco dining was required to the courtyard.

What was the inspiration? The goal in the design of this outdoor space was to create an external room in which there was a strong sense of belonging. Contained on three sides, the fourth side opens to the garden, while above is open to the sky. A sense of enclosure to the sky is provided in summer by the deciduous Gleditsia Triacanthos, below which the family enjoy breakfast and evening meals. A sense of calm is achieved though the ‘modesty’ of the colour palette and the consistency of the matt finish to all selected materials. Materials were chosen that would age gracefully as they gained a patina over time.

How has the new design benefitted the owners? As intended, the external stair visually and physically links the ground level garden to the garden of the roof terrace. The garden and courtyards ‘carved’ out of the mass of the house provide opportunities to obtain winter sun deep into the house along with excellent cross ventilation. These courtyards and the integration of the garden as part of the house make subtle references to the Garden Suburb history of the suburb. The central courtyard connects directly to the kitchen and family room via the stacking external glass doors. Once these doors are open the internal and external spaces become one.

What is your favourite element of the room – or the way it functions? The sense of belonging within this outdoor space is very strong. Along with the consideration of proportion and scale of the courtyard, it is the use of the steel beam visually closing the open side of the courtyard that provides the feel of ‘containment’. I love the continuous ‘ribbon’ like feel of the steel beam that starts at the base of the stair, running around the perimeter of the void to finish above where it started.

A statement from the owners about the space. Our open plan kitchen is the working heart of the home, and it is great to have our gorgeous courtyard directly opposite. We eat most of our meals out there in the warmer months. The courtyard is connected to the kitchen on one side and the family room on another through two sets of glass sliding doors that slide all the way back to create one large indoor/outdoor space.  Our beloved courtyard tree provides summer shade and, being deciduous, allows full winter sun through. Our courtyard combines so many beautiful elements, not the least of which is a curved steel beam which defines the space overhead and then wraps down to form part of the external staircase.  Gotta love those curves!

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