With the extreme temperatures and polar vortex conditions many of us are shivering through, dreaming of balmier spring-like days spent in our French courtyard feels right! My sweet private sanctuary (at the entrance to our home, sited on a woodsy hill in a country-ish neighborhood of larger homes) was once an eyesore which still somehow attracted me to the property back in 2015 as we shopped for just the right fixer upper. It looked anything but French inspired, timeless, or tranquil! The courtyard was wildly overgrown with shrubs, weeds, and grass and shouted STAY AWAY! Yet we knew we could make it special. Get ready for Spring Decor: Before and After French Courtyard!
Spring Decor: Before and After French Courtyard!
You know I’ll always give it to you straight and not lead you to believe a complicated renovation project was easier than it actually was. So let me tell you, this was one of the easiest transformations we have ever tackled!
Truly! When you like a light and airy landscape look and you have a low budget anyway, SUBTRACTION is your friend, kittycats. And subtract is just what we did.
Spring Decor: Before and After French Courtyard…How We Did It!
The only original thing we left in place was the burning bush on the right near the front door.
Everything was weeded and cleared away before we laid landscape fabric and planted boxwood and lavender. Then we arranged the outdoor wood furniture I snagged for a song from a friend’s moving sale and painted with a custom mix of FARROW & BALL whites (which are actually putty greys).
Thrifty Courtyard Ingredients
In came the gravel and a few containers, and out went the eroded stone wall tops. While I came up with this checkbook-friendly temporary solution of $.94 cement 12″ x 12″ pavers to replace the top, they have not yet been replaced with real stone yet! Too many other projects needed our attention!
Rustic Alder Front Door for French Farmhouse Charm
The upgraded front door made such a huge difference, and it is a rustic knotty alder door with a walnut finish, clavos, and a speakeasy. I sort of mix it up as far as decor for the front porch. Sometimes, I’ll have my pretty rattan chairs out here, sometimes it’s one of my Tolix-style metal industrial French chairs, and sometimes it’s a vintage Mid Century Modern bamboo chair I love. I have a thing for chairs so there are plenty of options!
Here’s the planter box I chose to flank the front door, and I actually paid more than the Wayfair price for them…they are longwearing and so chic.
French Touches in the French Courtyard
The ornate French mirror hung above one of my benches is slightly unexpected and enhances the courtyard by helping it feel more like an outdoor room. This mirror has been in at least five other places over the years in several of our homes.
The small lumbar pillow is RH, and the large one is discontinued, Grandin Road.
You may also notice in the image below that I used those “less-than-a-buck” cement pavers throughout the courtyard in the gravel.
We have since added a little black iron gate to the opening to the courtyard. It was an inexpensive on the shelf gate we found at Menard’s as a temporary solution (we’re both dreaming of a custom rustic reclaimed wood arched door!) until we build something special.
Turns out lavender does not care to grow in this courtyard so out it went, and in came containers with herbs and a mix of blue blooms.
See the Project in Progress
Below, is a look at how things were looking as we cleared the weeds and imagined a more functional use of the space. The trees in front of the courtyard buffer us from the quiet street below. Rustic stone steps up the hill create a charming path to our front door.
Here is how it looks without containers…very spare and peaceful.
French-y Imperfection & Unfussy Ease, Please
I have a collection of old galvanized watering cans and buckets I use and often leave in a heap like this. Little chipmunks and birds find uses for them and shelter this way.
The teak 3-legged stools are my favorite, and I bring them in after the fall and use them inside.
How I Use This Courtyard
The French courtyard gets southern exposure so it’s the perfect spot to soak up the rays, commune with the birds, and collect your thoughts.
The big burning bush you see above and below is healthy now and turns that lovely crimson!
Stenciled French Mirror in Garden
The mirror above with the etched look is actually just a salvaged mirror leftover from the demo of a bathroom here which I stenciled with this incredible French script stencil (it is a poem about spring). The beauty of this particular stencil and project is that the stencil is huge so it takes no time at all to roll a little paint over it and wind up with a big impact.
The birds love to admire their beauty in the mirror, and we quietly gaze at them mirror-gazing from inside the house!
A Rotation of Chairs on the Porch
Here’s the rattan chair I alluded to earlier. I love the grey tone which is so chic and perfect with the quiet tones I favor.
Below, I have placed them on the back patio which we rarely use since it is so shady on the North side of our home.
One of the most gratifying things about this French courtyard for me is how it incorporates the collection of things I love: grainsack pillows, vintage galvanized cans, old mirrors, painted furniture, chairs, and quiet color.
A Spacious Low-Maintenance Versatile Outdoor Room
As you can see, there are two seating areas, and I have even brought out a rustic farm table and set it in the center for a little summer get together. It’s a blessing to have this much space for an outdoor room!