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.

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 of 1927 by Wallace Neff (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 (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 motorcourt, a Mini Me echo of the main event.

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.

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

Jawed Umerani, a talented structural engineer 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.

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.

To browse more Courtyard and Patio Plans click here.

Originally Published in Eye On Design

Tue Jul 14 00:00:00 PDT 2015