Courtyard-style homes were popular in the 1950s and ‘60s with a move to celebrate the outdoors. Floor-to-ceiling windows in many of these modernist houses allowed the courtyard gardens to create a sense of space beyond the living areas. Today, as people prefer low-maintenance gardens that can be enjoyed, the past is influencing the present.

1. The Salter House by architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney –renovated by Jane Cameron Architects

Location: 16A Glyndebourne Avenue Toorak –images supplied

Nestled behind a contemporary home, this modest yet delightful home by Griffin and Mahoney is designed around a courtyard. Recently renovated by Jane Cameron Architects, the past and present have been lightly touched. The glazed link between the living areas and bedrooms allows the courtyard to feel integrated with the interior spaces. There’s also a separate courtyard adjacent to the kitchen that benefits from the morning sun. However, rather than seeing the courtyard all at once, there are initial glimpses from the smaller paned windows in the living areas. Although this house sits on a modest block, there’s a sense of privacy due the courtyard and the thoughtfully landscaped garden.

2. Molecule Studio

Location: 39 Canterbury Road, Toorak

This boat-shaped house punches well above its weight, given the size of the plot on which it sits: just 225 square metres. Designed by architects Anja de Spa and Richard Flemming of Molecule Studio for a family with young children, the brief was to include not only three bedrooms, but also a swimming pool. Although not apparent from the street, there’s a swimming pool in the front courtyard-style garden, concealed behind an overscaled timber picket fence (a nod to the Victorian houses in the street). The two-story timber-clad home also includes a small rear courtyard. And in this case, the architects have borrowed the laneway to the rear, increasing the sight lines from within the home.

3. Carr Design

Location: 4 Buddle Drive, Toorak

Originally designed by architect Harry Earnest in 1960, this house, a stone’s throw from the Yarra River, has been completely reworked by Carr Design. Although the house appears to be a completely new two-story abode (originally single storey), the large central courtyard, flanked by two glazed wings, has been retained. As well as this indoor-outdoor space, accessed through large sliding doors, there’s a rear courtyard garden and also a Japanese-style garden at the front.

4. Grounds House

Location: 24 Hill Street, Toorak

One of Melbourne’s architectural treasures, the Hill Street house was designed in 1953 for Sir Roy Grounds and his wife Betty. Pivotal to the design is a circular courtyard garden in the centre, often referred to as a ‘doughnut’. The Japanese-style courtyard, planted with bamboo, can be enjoyed from virtually every room in this iconic abode. A prelude to the National Gallery of Victory, designed by Grounds more than 10 years later, this modest home shows the importance of siting rooms around a garden.

5. B.E Architecture

Location: 111 Canterbury Road, Toorak

Designed by B.E Architecture, this two-story contemporary home features several courtyard gardens. There’s the sequence of front courtyards, including the appearance of an internal courtyard garden immediately beyond the front door, together with side and rear courtyard gardens that offer privacy from neighbours. This home also includes a small courtyard garden leading from the main bedroom on the first floor, beautifully landscaped with Japanese maples and stone walls. “It’s a much better solution to have a lush garden setting to look at than privacy screens that literally ‘cut up views,” says architect Andrew Piva, director of the practice. “Courtyards allow rooms to ‘unfold’, rather than creating predictable sight lines to a back garden.”

Text by Stephen Crafti

Images courtesy of Peter Clarke

Images courtesy of Peter Clarke

Images courtesy of Peter Clarke


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