A Charming Courtyard: Small Backyard Ideas by Hannah of Maple + Shade

Hannah Maple

Article Posted By: Hannah Maple

of Maple & Shade

Small Backyard Ideas: An Uudated, urban courtyard with a fire pit and a new outdoor dining set

In our Style Challenge series, we ask some of our favorite bloggers from around the web to surprise us with their ideas for creating a stylish and functional space using Home Depot products as a starting point.

As a talented designer, we knew Hannah Maple would come up with some terrific small backyard ideas for this year’s Patio Style Challenge, so we were delighted when she agreed to join in on the fun! Little did we know she would be moving to a new home in downtown Lexington, Kentucky just weeks before tackling this project! She lets us in on exactly how she turned her long neglected little urban courtyard into a bright and beautiful space for relaxing and entertaining.

Being that revamping spaces is very much my passion (and also my career), I was beyond ecstatic when the amazing staffers at Home Depot asked me to partake in their 2013 Patio Style Challenge. After all, I pretty much live for the outdoors (yes, even work there at times), and to say our newly acquired, city-centered courtyard had been well-ignored is a bit of an understatement. But, the Mister and I aren’t afraid of a bit of hard work, and were confident that a little elbow grease would more than spruce up this potential-laden patio space.

So, here’s a glimpse at the before:

Small Backyard Ideas: A small, drab urban courtyard before its makeover

Eeek–it’s bad, right? Like I said, the previous owners didn’t quite see its potential. And…there were a few challenges.

See those heinous, splinter-ridden boards on the old windows? They were challenge #1. So, handy hubby and I doused them with paint and built a simple trellis out of inexpensive lumber, which I painted the most gorgeous blue/gray (Winter’s Day by Martha Stewart for Glidden, at The Home Depot).

Challenge #2 came in the form of red paint. It had LOTS of red paint. Everything seemed so dull and lifeless. I immediately knew I wanted to add more contrast into the outdoor space to make that gorgeous brick wall stand out and to make our little walled-in backyard feel so much lighter, brighter…and airier.

See the result?

Small Backyard Ideas: An updated, urban courtyard with striped wooden fence, a new patio dining set and a vintage rattan peacock chair

Remember those dreary, boarded windows that once dominated the brick wall? Just look at what a coat of paint and a little ingenuity can do. Someday those trellises will be draped in vines, but patience is most definitely a virtue!

Now, being that our courtyard dates back to the 1800s, I wanted to keep it relatively classic. In fact, here’s a peek at my inspiration for the makeover! But, with that said, I couldn’t help but throw in some unexpected elements. That red wooden fence was pretty blah, and was just screaming for some alternating stripes! And those vintage rattan peacock chairs just had to find their home in the courtyard. Their height is perfect for that massively tall brick wall, and they add life and interest to an otherwise boring, expansive surface.

Now, the Mister and I entertain quite often, and, when we do, there’s nothing that I love more than piling in around an uber cozy table. Aren’t those meals just the best?

That’s exactly why I created a little nook for the Hampton Bay Shelburne dining set in aqua that The Home Depot so generously provided to me (that I love!). Note that this set has been discontinued, but The Home Depot has many other 5-piece outdoor dining sets to choose from. So, for interest (and to amp up the cozy factor), I added in an outdoor bench (that I already owned), and decked it out with an array of plush outdoor pillows. I also lined the brick wall closest to the dining nook with potted cypress from The Home Depot’s Garden Center. I love that they add a layer of softness to the space!

Small Backyard Ideas: The Hampton Bay Shelburne dining set in aqua is the centerpiece of this courtyard makeover

Small Backyard Ideas: Designer Hannah Maple spends time with a friend and her baby in her newly decorated urban courtyard

And, speaking of softness and interest, I knew I wanted to outfit our table with a gorgeous, drapey linen. But, tablecloths tend to be expensive (okay…the amazing, vintage, ethnic cloths that I love are pretty spendy), so I decided to make my own with an affordable (but durable), polyester white tablecloth and a hand-carved, Indian block stamp using black, outdoor-grade paint.

Small Backyard Ideas: Patio dining table with DIY Indian block stamp table cloth made from drop cloth

So isn’t the dining set the most gorgeous hue of aqua? I don’t typically gravitate towards uber-bright pieces of furniture, but I absolutely love the pop of color the set lends to the courtyard. That’s not to mention the gorgeous slatted backs of the chairs, and the slight curve of their arms. How I love those good design details!

Small Backyard Ideas: Hampton Bay Shelbourne dining set in a small courtyard

Aside from decking out the outdoor dining space, we added loads of interest to the overall courtyard area. I’m a sucker for gorgeous plantings, so we built planter boxes (pre-made ones could also work) to line our very back stone wall, and to edge our back porch (as seen below). These particular boxes will house all of our summer culinary herbs, including this pretty rosemary, as Hubby and I are pretty avid cooks.

The addition of the dining bench meant we had an extra aqua chair, which makes for the perfect shaded reading spot on our back porch.

Doesn’t it feel uber-secluded with the addition of outdoor drapery? Yes, folks–it’s actually just inexpensive 6 x 9-foot canvas drop cloths from the painting section at The Home Depot!

Small Backyard Ideas: An antique folding screen and a flower planter decorate a small urban courtyard

Small Backyard Ideas: An antique folding screen and a flower planter decorate a small patio

Doesn’t that aqua chair meld perfectly with my antique folding screen? And, just beyond the boundaries of our little back porch lies the dining and fire pit area (yes, we will be taking year-round advantage of this!):

Small Backyard Ideas: Friends enjoy spending time at a patio dining table and around a fire pit

Small Backyard Ideas: A wicker peacock chair, a fire pit and a new patio dining set in a small courtyard

Small Backyard Ideas: Fruit , flowers and coffee on  patio dining table with a DIY stamp block table cloth made from a drop cloth

Small Backyard Ideas: A patio dining table decorated with flowers, ready for breakfast

The most-perfect setting for a little al fresco coffee and breakfast soiree with good friends, no?

So, thanks to a little inspiration…a lot of planning…and loads of elbow grease…our city courtyard is finally in tip-top shape for this gorgeous spring weather! I’m quite excited to exclaim that my morning coffee and blog time will never be the same. It’s so fun to nestle into the corner, pour a good cup of brew, and start my work days in such an inspiring space. And when that long-awaited weekend rolls around, we’ll be hosting breakfast after breakfast (okay…lunches and dinners, too…) in our amazing little courtyard, around our amazing little patio table.

Hannah Maple  is the creative mind behind Hanna Maple Studio. Her blog Maple + Shade is what she calls “a digital treasure-trove that documents the most note-worthy inspirations and design musings that we happen to encounter.” She and her husband live in Lexington, Kentucky, and have been avidly working to revamp a little historic cottage in the heart of downtown.

For more small backyard ideas and inspiration, see other Patio Style Challenges as well as our Style Challenge board on Pinterest.

Style Challenge is a series of posts from guest contributors who aim to bring you fresh inspiration and ideas for your home and garden using a single Home Depot product as a starting point. Hannah received the Hampton Bay Shelbourne 5-Piece Dining Set from The Home Depot and a gift card, but The Home Depot provided no other compensation. The opinions and ideas Hannah expressed are her own.