Courtyard Houses

By Dan Gregory

The Umerani's modern suburban ranch house (by Apple architects Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson) wraps around a central fountain courtyard (photo courtesy Umerani Associates).

A well executed courtyard makes a house memorable as well as more livable. The strong indoor-outdoor connection is a powerful lure but also the geometry of the space, its openings and wall surfaces, and paving materials play important roles.

A courtyard design like Mid-century Modern Eichler Plan 470-6 is especially as a way to gain private outdoor space on a tight lot. Architect Gregory La Vardera has reinterpreted the Eichler atrium design for today, as shown in Plan 431-11.

At a lecture recently I met Jawed Umerani, a talented structural engineer who very graciously gave me a tour of his wonderful new courtyard home, which was designed by Apple Stores architects Bohlin Cywinksi Jackson. Of course
Jawed, whose firm Umerani Associates  is a frequent consultant for the Bohlin firm, did the engineering and contributed much to the design. It shows how to fit an exciting light-filled, outdoor-oriented, one story house onto a tight suburban lot. From the street, it’s impossible to tell what lies ahead — you see the garage, a ribbon of walkway leading to a sheltered entry. That remarkable stone-paved outdoor room awaits just beyond the front door, on the other side of a small sitting area. The elegant U-shaped house puts the bedrooms on one side and the great room on the other. Light floods in from all sides.

Originally Published in Eye On Design