Courtyards are by no means a modern architectural revelation, though they have surged in popularity in recent years as architects look to capitalize on natural light and outdoors spaces. Traditionally an open-air area surrounded by buildings or walls, courtyards are found in homes dating back to 6400 BC, and are equally effective in condensed urban environments and rambling rural settings. Today, not only do courtyards provide fresh air and natural light, but they have vast landscaping, entertaining, and relaxation potential as well.
Modern courtyards offer the epitome of indoor/outdoor living, and range from poolside oases, to lush gardens, to havens for at-home hosting. As these four world-class properties prove, the functionality and design of a courtyard can elevate an entire home.
A Sprawling Hamlet Village in Novara, Italy
Novara, Italy | Isabella Masserini, Italy Sotheby’s International Realty
It’s impossible not to notice the spectacular courtyard in the center of this nine-bedroom Italian farmhouse, especially when seen from above. At ground level, the property’s subtle grandeur and charm come to life through its white rose gardens, tasteful sculptures, and terraces for al fresco dining. The swimming pool and landscaped courtyard elegantly complete the village of buildings, which includes a guesthouse and caretaker’s house. Indoors, contemporary design blends perfectly with traditional ornate accents for an elegant yet comfortable feel. Built in 1900, the home offers residents the chance to experience countryside Italian living at its finest, where proximity to peaceful Lake Maggiore and excellent golf courses only add to the home’s appeal.
The Water House, Vancouver, Canada
Vancouver, Canada | Monique Badun, Sotheby’s International Realty Canada
True to its name, this stunning six-bedroom house exudes waterside serenity upon entry. At the front of the property, guests are greeted by a courtyard enclosed in lush greenery with a central water feature, an innovative and contemporary interpretation of this design element. Throughout the three-story home, floor-to-ceiling windows ensure plenty of natural light, and highlights include a pivoting front door, floating walls, and a glass-enclosed staircase. With two additional wings and ample storage solutions, the home is as spacious as it is a dramatic architectural statement. Vancouver’s temperate climate can also be fully enjoyed with seamless indoor/outdoor transitions for taking full advantage of the covered swimming pool, gardens, and terraces.
A Romantic Retreat in Tinos, Greece
Tinos, Greece | George Kasimis, Greece Sotheby’s International Realty
The courtyard of this five-bedroom villa on the Cycladic island of Tinos exudes a dreamy, spa-like atmosphere, complete with a swimming pool and lounge chairs for relaxing under the Mediterranean sun. Mistico, as the home is called, offers a divine getaway with Venetian-style design throughout its main house and two guesthouses. The home also offers endless opportunity for outdoor dining, entertaining, and relaxation with teak pergolas, an outdoor fireplace, colorful gardens including a native fig tree, and multiple patios serving views of both the Aegean Sea and the village nearby of Ktikados. Imagine days spent exploring picturesque Greek towns, savoring traditional food and drink, and reclining on white sandy beaches, only to return home to catch an incredible sunset.
An Enchanting Wine Country Estate in St. Helena, California
St. Helena, California | Kelly Brophy & Stephanie Van Zandt, Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty
You don’t have to be an oenophile to be excited by this six-bedroom Napa Valley property. Located less than two miles from downtown St. Helena’s vibrant art, dining, and shopping scene, and in a prime spot for exploring some of the world’s best vineyards, the contemporary Californian property is an understated oasis set on over 12 acres. At the entrance is a Mediterranean-style courtyard with a soothing fountain, which sets the tone for the tranquil property. Mature gardens provide privacy around the grounds, which include an infinity pool and outdoor shower, bocce court, and two ensuite casitas. Inside, the home features a gourmet kitchen, showstopping primary bedroom, 1,300 bottle wine vault, and gym.
The modern courtyard can be many things: a restful retreat, a private garden, an architectural statement, or all of the above. As these four luxury properties demonstrate, innovation has brought this storied design element into a new era; in each of these homes, the courtyard is a true highlight.
Inspired by these exceptional courtyards? Learn more about the history of this essential architectural element.