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PHOTOS BY BRENDA COFFEE ©1010ParkPlace, 2018.

Two years ago I bought a house that had been “flipped.” As the inspector told me, if he could “have them”… the flippers… “arrested for fraud,” he would. Whether it was sinks, toilets, shower heads, shower floors and doors, plumbing pipes, the dishwasher, doorknobs or light switches and sockets… NOTHING was hooked up or installed. They’d just pushed things into place, sometimes held with SCOTCH TAPE, but I bought the house anyway. I bought it because I loved the location and knew I would be happy here; I envisioned the changes I’d make, and I loved that it’s built in a u-shape around a central courtyard.

I have so much left to do outside, but I wanted to share what’s happening in my courtyard. 

The courtyard’s been slow coming together because I’ve been waiting for Annie and Lulu to get a little older. This time last year they were seven-months-old and were chewing and swallowing everything they found outside. I call them my $10,000 dogs because of all the emergency room visits and surgeries to retrieve nuts and bolts and screws, wires and PVC shards. All those times I sat in the waiting room, wondering if my babies would survive…

And yes… I watched them like a mama hawk, and they still got into trouble!

After each crisis I sifted through the entire yard WITH A HAIR COMB and filled nine garbage bags full of “stuff” and rocks… Lulu’s favorite. When the girls kept finding and swallowing harmful things…

I had four inches of my entire yard removed.

Now Annie and Lulu are 19-months-old, and they’re either ripping up my jasmine or working on digging their way to China, but I couldn’t wait any longer! I wanted a pretty, livable outdoor space.

For starters I had an irreparable Spanish fountain removed—jackhammered—from the middle of the courtyard. It was a breeding ground for mosquitos, plus it didn’t leave room for outdoor living.

Photo of the old Spanish fountain from the “before” video tour of my “new house.”

Next I tore out some of the old landscaping that had gone wild, painted the outside of the house a warm cream and put in two, black, iron wall sconces.

Then I drew my initial ideas and emailed them—plus photos of the courtyard, my small backyard and Pinterest garden elements I love—to Tara Dillard. If you don’t follow Tara’s blog, she’s an award-winning residential landscape designer who’s studied historic gardens of Europe; she’s an author, speaker, and hysterically funny!

Tara spent hours, studying my photos and then drew her ideas to scale and mailed them to me. As it turns out we think a LOT alike! The best thing she did was teach me about focal points, and that garden design begins inside your home. Stand inside and look through your window to the area outside you want to change. Then stand outside… in the place you want to change… and look back at your home. Both are key focal points that need design elements. They don’t live independently of one another but are the yin to the other’s yang.

Except for the smaller, antique iron chair Shannon Kirby helped me buy (I saw it on her Instagram page @shannonkirbyint and we met in California at the Contessas’s house for lunch) all of the furniture, Sunbrella fabric pillows and pots I’ve had for over 20 years. They’ve either been in storage or were at the Little House at the ranch. 

This smaller, antique, iron chair is similar to the two larger ones I’ve had since 1996.

Notice the bare area mid-right and all along the back wall on the left. Right now there’s just dirt. You can also see Annie’s butt sticking up in the upper center of the picture. She’s looking for Mr. Lizard.

I want an outdoor dining table to put between the day bed and the larger iron chairs. The jasmine, growing up the iron arch needs to fill out, and I want more topiary. I’m having a love affair with topiary… They’re the perfect mixture of architecture and horticulture.

The inside view of a focal point at the end of a walkway and a topiary.

That focal point from the outside, looking back at the same topiary.

This fall after our brutal Texas heat makes it’s way into the record books, I’ll have the areas around the courtyard and the backyard filled with new soil and landscaped with grass and non-toxic plants to dogs. Then I’ll have the courtyard floor power washed. It will lighten the existing built-up mud by orders of magnitude.

The creeping jenny in my big, olive pots needs watering twice a day, and even with bougainvillea food, I have trouble keeping the bougainvillea blooming. It’s been a while since I’ve given this much thought to my yard, but like caring for Annie and Lulu, I’m having fun and doing it with love. 

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46 thoughts on “A LOOK AT MY COURTYARD”

  1. I love it all – the chairs and day bed are lovely and I think they’ll look even better when you find the perfect table. I’m glad your beloved dogs have survived their various imbibements of metal and sundries and now only have lizards to fossick for – it must be such a relief for you. Autumn in your courtyard is going to be gorgeous.

    • Thanks Jennifer! I’m amazed the dogs haven’t gotten on the furniture yet. I’ve been expecting dirty paw prints… It’s just a matter of time. Thanks for leaving me a note! Brenda

  2. I am so excited to see more of your gorgeous new house! I had a designer tell me years ago to carry the color scheme from the inside to the outside and it really works to make both spaces look larger and cohesive. I love outdoor living rooms and am fortunate to live in Southern CA and can use my outdoor rooms almost year round. I loved the look of your fountain but your courtyard looks fantastic without it, and I really love the larger pots, what a great look. Enjoy your new space, I can’t wait to see more pix of your lovely new home! XOXO

    • Hi Michaele, Good deal! That’s good to know because I painted the courtyard the same color as the inside of my house! The fountain had so many problems and was so large, it rendered the rest of the space unusable. When the jackhammering started, I never looked back! The giant pots… I’ve been looking forward to getting them out of storage. Glad you like them! Thanks for the input and your comment. I appreciate it. xoxox, Brenda

  3. What a lovely space! It looks like the perfect place to entertain as well as enjoy a few quiet moments with a good book. Enjoy! Hugs, Nina

  4. It is just awesome. I saw it when it was a blank and bare. You have really created a wonderful space to enjoy both inside and out! Let’s do margaritas when it cools off some. Hugs.

    • Hi Kona, Thanks so much, but then you’re the master at putting together a great outdoor space! Yes, let’s do margaritas… maybe in the courtyard… and you can give me some ideas. xoxox, Brenda

  5. Very very pretty! It must be nice to be able to leave your furniture out year round. We have to haul ours up to the garage attic every November and it’s a terrible pain.

    I could see an outdoor “rug” in the middle of the space but then again Annie and Lulu would probably go to town on the corners.

    • Hi Mithra, We do get rain and a little bit of snow, but for the most part we don’t need to pull things inside… except for my two ficus trees. I added those this summer, wondering if they’d survive the Texas heat, but other than needing water more often, they’re doing great. It’s bringing them in when the temperature dips really low that worries me. Ficus trees are so picky! Yes… Everything outside is based on how Annie and Lulu will react to it. xoxox, Brenda

    • Thanks, Haralee! So much left to do… I can’t wait to finish landscaping and then have all of Annie and Lulu’s mud power washed away! I turned it from an unusable space to one that makes me happy! xoxo, Brenda

  6. Best garden picture EVER, Annie’s butt !

    Your garden is NORMAL. Using lots of what you already own and putting it in over time. Can’t wait for the interior courtyard to be done.

    Happy for you Brenda, I know what your dogs mean to you, a home to nurture you, and this garden.

    • Hi Tara, I so appreciate your time and input and am disappointed my homeowner’s association wouldn’t let me grow anything “on the walls.” The Mexican brick is so soft and won’t hold up if things grow up the walls. They don’t get espaliers, either… I may go crazy with topiary in the backyard but still leave enough room for the dogs to run. Oh! I have an “alter table” in the little area off the dining room! One of those things you and I both came up with. Will post photos when it’s further along and more interesting looking. xoxox, Brenda

  7. Love love love what you’ve done! So beautiful and restful. I love how you’ve been able to use the beautiful pieces from before that you have saved for this perfect setting. Gorgeous! I love your style. It’s lovely! Thank you for sharing!

  8. It’s a gorgeous property and I love what you are doing with it. The dogs certainly add to the view, whether it’s with their tongues hanging out or their butts. Can’t wait to see more transformation.

    • Kalpana, The rest of the house is finished except for a rug here and the right pillows there. Guess I’m a perfectionist, but I’m waiting to post photos until I find those. Thanks for your note! Brenda

  9. Your courtyard is absolutely stunning, Brenda. What a beautiful place to sit and read, to sip wine, watch your dogs play, chat with a friend….or all of the above!

    • I’m glad you like it, Christine! It’s been rewarding and fun to see my house come together. “Those scoundrels… ” are my next door neighbors!!! Thanks for stopping by and leaving me a comment, Brenda

  10. It looks so beautiful (VERY Brenda!) and peaceful in your courtyard! I’d love to take a nap on that daybed….minus the scorchingly hot temps!

    • Thanks, Val. Yes, the naps will have to wait until the heat… and now the rain… disappear. I loved the IG shot of your porch and your fabulous view, and oh yes… Nice toes! xoxox, Brenda

  11. It looks peaceful, uncontrived, and beautiful. I love hearing the details as to how it came to be – these projects are always more successful when they have been layered with collected treasures and begin with function rather than an aspiration to show off. Bravo!

    • Thank you, Michele. Using collected treasures is all I know how to do. You can always spot a room where the owners or a decorator walked into a furniture store and said, “I’ll take that and that and that… ” There’s no heart. No personality, and it will look like a million other rooms. I appreciate your comment, Brenda

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