Breathing new life into a historical courtyard

Felicity Watts admits landscape design isn’t typically part of their interior portfolio, but the interior design specialists were happy for the opportunity to try something new. The result is beyond expectations with a beautiful space that respects the farm’s heritage and the surrounding gardens.

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At the time of engagement, Felicity and her team were working with the clients on an interiors project before they began discussing the farm courtyard. “Our clients had been investigating paving options to a point, but were unsure which direction to take to best coordinate with the heritage of the property and the existing materials in the architecture and landscape,” says Felicity.

“Our clients wanted the courtyard to be an area they could enjoy, rather than just a transition space.”

The existing courtyard which provided a connection between the rear entrance, the guest quarters, laundry and garage, wasn’t doing the country homestead any favours. The concrete surfacing was looking tired, displaying cracks and movement, and there were significant drainage issues that needed addressing, explained Felicity.

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Working closely with the clients, Felicity and her team began the design process to create an outdoor area that clients could spend time in, rather than it sitting as a disused, transitional space. “Our main ambition was to do justice to the heritage of the property – to achieve a design that would lift the courtyard in line with the beautiful buildings and meticulously landscaped gardens that surround it.”

Felicity says their vision for the courtyard space was that it would age gracefully. “We followed the much-loved philosophy of ‘less is more’ by not overloading the courtyard with planting, objects or furniture, which has allowed the architecture to remain the hero.”

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While considering planting isn’t in a typical interior designer’s brief, Watts Studio was keen to showcase the existing trees and expand on the garden area to add softness and colour to the space. “We achieved this by increasing the garden area at the base of the tree and bordered this with a large radius of cobblestone pavers”, says Felicity.

The Porphyry stone Felicity explains was a “match made in heaven” that perfectly complemented the homestead.

“The colour variation in the stone picked up every shade of bluestone grey, sand and terracotta that featured in the homestead and stables.”

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By using a combination of the same material of different variations, Watts Studio was able to break up the large expanse of the courtyard by adding texture and depth. “We fell in love with the random, organic shape of Filetti, and while installation is far more involved, we were adamant that this stone would create the interest the courtyard space needed.” Cobblestones were specified as the garden’s accent border and the smoother finished split stone random lengths for under the veranda areas.

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It was during installation, the homestead’s courtyard revealed some challenges. Working collaboratively with Jason King of Kings Landscaping who undertook the construction, achieving levels and fall for drainage was an arduous task. “As often happens with properties of this vintage, we needed to approach this with a demolish to discover mentality. There were some old tanks under the existing slab and it wasn’t until the concrete came up that we were able to see their height.”

New storm-water drains and re-levelling were required causing more of the exterior building walls to be exposed and requiring finishing.  “It’s often the prep work that you don’t see once the project is complete that dictates its longevity. King Landscaping’s work was immaculate, with the utmost care taken with every last inch of the courtyard space”, says Felicity.

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This may not be a typical project for Watts Studio, however, their design vision and close collaboration with the clients and the landscape team has helped realise a sympathetic and useable outdoor space. “We are so proud to have been able to make our mark on this historical property, but even more so because a visitor to the farm would have a hard time deciphering what is old and what is new,” says Felicity.

“The new courtyard has made a beautiful space spectacular and the biggest win is that it is only going to get better with age.”

Designer: Watts Studio

Landscape Construction: Kings Landscaping

Photography: Simon Griffiths

Photoshoot Styling: Kimberley Wiedermann