Courtyard House Plans Then & Now

By Dan Gregory

The famous courtyard house in Beverly Hills by Wallace Neff from 1926 makes the circular motor court the "driving" principle; a recent descendant is the courtyard at the center of Plan 64-260.

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,as you can see in modern Plan 64-260 on the right at the top of this post.

One of the most alluring courtyard houses that I can think of is the home designed for silent film director Fred Niblo in Beverly Hills by Wallace Neff in 1926 and shown above (photo courtesy Propertypal). The dramatic curve of that entry court clearly celebrates automobiles and a theatrical sense of arrival by literally sweeping them around to the front door (plan image courtesy Stefanos Polyzoides of Moule Polyzoides Architects). The rest of the house falls into place around it like a perfectly drilled chorus line. The design is a silent movie in its own right — see  how the oval hall between living and dining rooms echoes the motor court, a Mini Me echo of the main event.

Jawed Umerani, a talented structural engineer very graciously gave me a tour of his wonderful new courtyard home (shown below) which was designed by Apple Stores architects Bohlin Cywinski 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.

Soaring window walls and framing overhangs dramatize the court, turning it into a true outdoor living room at the center of the house. From the street, it’s impossible to tell what lies ahead — you see only the garage and a ribbon of walkway

to a sheltered entry. That remarkable stone-paved residential piazza is the grand surprise 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 into the house from all sides and the courtyard glows at the center.

A courtyard design like Mid-century Modern Eichler Plan 470-6 is especially practical as a way

to gain private outdoor living space on a tight lot, and Mid-Century modern design makes a nod to the past by calling the central patio an atrium, which is what such a space was called in ancient Rome. 

Architect Gregory La Vardera has reinterpreted the Eichler atrium design for today, as shown in Plan 431-11.


Architect Ross Anderson wrapped this ranch house around a courtyard (Plan 433-2, shown below), complete with built-in

seating and an outdoor fireplace in one sheltered corner, leaving the rest of the space open.

The courtyard at the heart of Plan 935-5 by Janet Hobbs is mostly filled with a pool, creating a private space

for entertaining and swimming. The lanai off the great room acts as an outdoor living room. So a courtyard has many uses and variations!

To browse more Courtyard and Patio Plans click here.

Originally Published in Houseplans.com

Tue Jul 11 00:00:00 PDT 2017