Before and After: How to Create an Unfussy French Courtyard!

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! Before and After: How to Create an Unfussy French Courtyard will show you how a little work can lead to transformation.

Charming French country inspired garden with pea gravel and boxwood. #hellolovelystudio #gardendecor #frenchfarmhouse #frenchcourtyard #peagravel #outdoordecor

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Before and After: How to Create an Unfussy French Courtyard!

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.

Wodsy exterior of our charming cottage sited on a hill with a front stone walled courtyard. #hellolovelystudio #cottageexterior #cozycottage

The entrance looked anything but French inspired, timeless, or tranquil when we started.

BEFORE

Wildly overgrown with shrubs, weeds, and grass, this courtyard shouted STAY AWAY! Yet we knew we could make it special.

Knotty alder front door with speakeasy opens to a pea gravel French inspired courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #entry #courtyard #frenchcountry #frenchfarmhouse #europeancountry #interiordesign

This was truly one of the easiest transformations we have ever tackled. When you favor a light and airy landscape and have a limited budget, SUBTRACTION is your friend, friends.

So subtract is just what we did.

River rock stone accents on our European country inspired cottage exterior. #hellolovelystudio #cottagedesign #houseexterior #rivercottage #riverrock

DIY French Courtyard…How We Did It!

The only original thing we left in place was the burning bush you see on the right near the front door.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
AFTER

Everything was weeded and cleared away before we laid landscape fabric and planted boxwood and lavender.

Savory snacks on a disposable plate made from palm leaves upon a rustic wood stool used as side table in our French inspired courtyard - Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #summergarden #rusticstool
Loving our bamboo plates – read more about compostable plates at Globosurfer.

Then we arranged the outdoor wood furniture I snagged for a song from a friend’s moving sale and painted out (custom mix of 50% FARROW & BALL Hardwick White and 50% Cornforth White (whites that are actually putty greys).

Our French country courtyard with bench and linen pillows - Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcourtyard #frenchcountry #frenchfarmhouse #outdoordecor #romanticgarden

Thrifty Courtyard Ingredients

In came pea gravel and a few containers, and out went eroded stone wall tops. While I came up with an inexpensive temporary solution of $.94 cement 12″ x 12″ pavers to replace the top, these pavers have not yet been replaced with real stone.

Our rustic knotty alder door with speakeasy. #hellolovelystudio #alderdoor

Rustic Alder Front Door

The upgraded front door made a dramatic difference, and it is made of rustic knotty alder with a walnut finish, clavos, and speakeasy.

French farmhouse inspired courtyard with pea gravel, wood furniture, and vintage galvanized buckets. #hellolovelystudio #gardens #courtyards #frenchfarmhouse #peagravel #outdoorfurniture #outdoordecor

Sometimes, pretty rattan chairs are placed on the porch, sometimes it’s Tolix-style industrial French chairs, and sometimes it’s a vintage bamboo chair. With my weakness for chairs, there are plenty of options!

Grey rattan chair with ivory cushion on front porch. Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #rattanchair
Photo: Hello Lovely Studio. Find this rattan patio chair HERE. Before and After: How to Create an Unfussy French Courtyard!

Tall planter boxes flank the front door, and these have turned out to be extremely longwearing and chic investments.

French Touches in the French Courtyard

An ornate French mirror on the exterior wall is slightly unexpected and enhances the courtyard by helping it feel more like an outdoor room.

French country courtyard with boxwood, gravel, bisto set, baskets, and a French mirror. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #bistroset #courtyard #gardendecor #boxwood #frenchbaskets #outdoordecor #outdooroasis

This mirror has been brought into service in at least five other places over the years in several of our homes. (You can also plainly see I rotate furniture outside just like inside!)

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
I used “less-than-a-dollar” cement pavers throughout the courtyard in the gravel.

The small lumbar pillow is RH, and the large one is discontinued, Grandin Road.

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More Finishing Touches in the Garden Courtyard

We later added a little black iron gate to the entrance of the courtyard. It was an inexpensive, on-the-shelf gate we found as a temporary solution (we’re both dreaming of a less mediocre, rustic cottage-y reclaimed wood arched gate) until we build something special.

Black bistro set in my French country courtyard set up for brunch - Hello Lovely Studio. #frenchcourtyard #bistroset #frenchcountry #hellolovelystudio #summergarden

Turns out lavender didn’t like the soil here, so in came containers with herbs and a mix of blue blooms.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

See the Project in Progress

Below, is a look at how things looked 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.

BEFORE

Here is how it looks without containers…very spare and peaceful.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

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.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

Little chipmunks and birds find uses for them and shelter this way.

Fallen leaves, autumn trees, and turning colors in my Northern Illinois yard - Hello Lovely Studio.

The teak 3-legged stools are a favorite, and I bring them inside after the fall for use inside.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

How I Use This Courtyard

The French courtyard gets southern exposure so it’s the perfect spot to soak up rays, commune with wildlife, and collect your thoughts.

BEFORE
French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
AFTER

The burning bush you see above and below was lost after a long rainy season (this specimen is vulnerable to excessive moisture) so it has been replaced by a baby burning bush that turns that lovely crimson!

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

Stenciled French Mirror in Garden

The mirror (above) with the etched look is actually just a salvaged vanity mirror leftover from a bathroom demo here which I stenciled with this: French script stencil (a poem about spring).

My French farmhouse inspired courtyard in summer with pea gravel, ferns, galvanized buckets, and boxwood - Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio

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!

BEFORE
French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
AFTER

Pretty in Every Season

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.
French country courtyard with boxwood, gravel, bisto set, baskets, and a French mirror. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #bistroset #courtyard #gardendecor #boxwood #frenchbaskets #outdoordecor #outdooroasis

See THIS POST for info on my bistro set.

My French inspired courtyard in fall with autumn fallen leaves and boxwood - Hello Lovely Studio.
Wood burning fire pit in our French country courtyard with pea gravel is the perfect little addition to enjoy roasted marshmallows and family time. #firepit #woodburningfirepit #outdoordecor #patiodecor #hellolovelystudio

See THIS STORY for more info about this inexpensive firepit.

Snowy French country courtyard in Northern Illinois looks serene and peaceful - Hello Lovely Studio. #courtyard #wintergarden #serene

Rotation of Chairs on the Porch

Here’s one of my rattan chairs, and I love their grey tone which harmonizes with the quiet tones I favor.

Grey rattan chair with ivory cushion on front porch. Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #rattanchair
Find this patio chair HERE. Hello Lovely Studio.

They sometimes live on the back patio we rarely use since it is mostly shady on the North side of our home.

Calm and serene interiors at our fixer upper which we renovated entirely ourselves. #hellolovelystudio #interiordesign #calm #spare #serene
Find my patio chairs RIGHT HERE. Hello Lovely Studio.

One of the most gratifying things about having a French courtyard is how one can incorporate a collection of treasures: grainsack pillows, vintage galvanized cans, old mirrors, painted furniture, chairs, and quiet color.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

Spacious Yet Low-Maintenance Outdoor Room

As you have seen, there are two seating areas and even space for a harvest table in the center.

White farm table set for a party in my French Courtyard. Hello Lovely Studio.
Hello Lovely Studio.

It’s truly a blessing to have this much space for an outdoor room!

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
Vintage grainsack pillow: SassycatCreations
BEFORE
French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
AFTER

More French Courtyard Glimpses

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation

Here’s a small burlap pillow cover with a French farmhouse feel.

French country courtyard with stone walls, pea gravel, boxwood, lavender, wood furniture, and vintage touches. Come see the before and after of our project on Hello Lovely Studio. #hellolovelystudio #frenchcountry #courtyard #gardeninspiration #renovation
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French Courtyard Shopping Finds

I have a vintage French wire basket like this INSIDE our home, and I think it would be right at home outdoors to store any number of things!

Vintage reproduction collapsible French Wire Basket.
Stephenie Wooden Garden Bench
. Stephenie Wooden Garden Bench
Stephenie Plaid Patio Dining Chair
Stephenie Patio Dining Chair
Hatten Acacia Wood Garden Bench
Hatten Acacia Wood Garden Bench

Here’s a closer look at the weave…

Detail of cotton throw.
Lutyens Wooden Garden Bench
Lutyens Wooden Garden Bench
St. Francis peace prayer. Hello Lovely Studio.
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Are you dreaming of springtime and a place for peaceful time in a courtyard or park with the bees and butterflies?

Snowy trees in my winter yard in Northern Illinois - Hello Lovely Studio.

Should this Covid winter prove unkind and you long for a boost, think of this site as a sort of virtual French courtyard sanctuary…find me here and feel free to reach out.

Peace to you right where you are.

-michele

Shop for items you already intended to buy on Amazon RIGHT HERE (not just items in posts), and also find home decor here to keep decor inspiration flowing on Hello Lovely!

Hello Lovely is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

White Slipcovered Sofa
French Country Kubu Basket Set
Whitewashed Table Lamp Set of 2
Antique Chinese Wood Rustic Round Stool
French Country Bed
Tuscan Terracotta Urn Vase
Round Farmhouse Table
French Country Settee
Deconstructed Wingback Bed
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Milagro Heart
Linen Slipcovered Chairs
Rustic Farmhouse Stool
Edgecombe End Table
Silver Rectangle Accent Table
Black or Bronze Accent Table
30″ French Storage Basket
Chevron White Quilt Set
French Country Rattan Basket Set
Marble Subway Backsplash in My Kitchen
French Wire Laundry Basket
White Ruffle Bedding
White Linen Club Chair
Handmade Sunburst Mirror
Wide Pine Sideboard
Linen Napkin Set
French Country Lamp
French Country Wall Mirror
French Lidded Baskets
French Panel Mirror
Distressed White French Country Chandelier
Distressed White Artichoke Lamp
French Country Headboard
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Antique Brass Pharmacy Floor Lamp
Round French Tufted Ottoman
Kinston Wood Bench
Italian Candelabra Chandelier
Colleen Slope Arm Linen Chair Set
Warner Upholstered Bench
Rustic Country French Dresser
Rustic French Confit Pot
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Reclaimed Wood Dresser
Louis Upholstered Bench
Pardon My French Doormat
Stripe Turkish Towel Throw
Pamela Arm Chair
Sweater Weave Basket
French Carved Wood Chandelier
Terracotta Pots & Basket
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair
Gustavian Cabinet
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Bar Stool
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Diptyque Oyedo Candle
Cross Back Dining Chair
French Country Candle Holder
French Industrial Metal Chairs (4)
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Holborn Lantern Pendant
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
Rustic End Table
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
Wicker Trunk Set
French Ticking Stripe Pillow
Jute Area Rug
Mohair Throw
Rustic Industrial Farmhouse Shelves
Belgian Linen Sofa
White Duvet & Bedding
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Concrete Pillar Table Lamp
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Style Lamp
Kendall Skirted Dining Chair
White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Highback Armchair
Mini Pendant Light
White Vase Set
Round Woven Placemat Set
Cashmere Throw With Fringe
Black Bergamot Soy Candle
Fireclay Farm Sink (Reinhard, 30″)
White Waffle Coverlet
Light Grey Vienna Quilt
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Rustic Pedestal Farm Table
Rattan Hanging Chair Swing
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18 Comments

  1. Kathy
    February 3, 2019 / 8:41 am

    Wow! Just beautiful, Michele! What a difference! You’ve got me dreaming about making some changes come spring!

    • michele
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:52 pm

      Yay! It’s the perfect time to dream and anticipate the spring! 🙂

  2. Sandra Hinds
    February 3, 2019 / 9:01 am

    What an amazing transformation! It is so beautiful! I’d been looking at pea gravel and have not seen the whitish colors that you have. Do you mind telling me the name/source of the pea gravel?

    • michele
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:52 pm

      It is small river rock pebbles – we bought it locally from S&H Nursery.

  3. Joanna
    February 3, 2019 / 10:27 am

    It feels like a peaceful oasis.

    • michele
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:50 pm

      When the temperature warms a little more, I’ll give it a winter shoot! Thanks so much. 🙂

  4. Ann
    February 3, 2019 / 12:07 pm

    I made a Pinterest board but I can’t figure out how to save this great post to read again. It just shows me individual items. Can you help?

    • michele
      Author
      February 3, 2019 / 4:46 pm

      Hi! You can choose any image to pin and the link to the post will accompany the image. When you go back to your board, and click on the image, you’ll have the option to “visit” the post. Hope this helps, and thanks so much!

  5. February 4, 2019 / 12:01 am

    Michele,
    Your updated front courtyard is filled with French-inspired elements I love. Pea gravel is at the top of my list of how to create a French Country look in a garden. My driveway in the countryside has been pea gravel from day one, over 30 years ago. We have had to add pea gravel a couple of times over the years, but not a complete re-do of the driveway.

    Judith

    • michele
      Author
      February 4, 2019 / 4:34 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind words. I love a pea gravel driveway! So charming in the country. We will have to add some pea gravel to our courtyard in the spring to refresh it, and it has been a pleasure living with it!

  6. February 8, 2019 / 12:06 pm

    Michele,
    I need to check in on Hemp oil and that chocolate bar. I wish I had time to make many of the fabulous project ideas that are posted. Thanks for stopping by Thursday Favorite Things. I love how you transformed your outside patio. What an amazing transformation. You must love sitting out there.
    Have a lovely weekend.
    Hugs,
    Bev

    • michele
      Author
      February 9, 2019 / 12:49 am

      An easy makeover as DIY renovations go for sure – thanks so much for the kind words, Bev. xox

  7. February 11, 2019 / 1:14 pm

    Michele, I love it all!! Your Frech Country yard transformation is simply beautiful! I’m so glad you linked this one up. Thank you so much for sharing with us at the TFT party and thank you for your oh-so-kind comments. I really am starting to look forward to everything you do and say each week!! pinning and probably featuring you again next week. I’ll try to pop back over and let you know ahead of time! God be with you, sweet lady.
    ps. I grew up singing that version of St Francis’ prayer. Fond memories. 🙂
    Hugs back xo
    Theresa

    • michele
      Author
      February 11, 2019 / 1:57 pm

      Yay! I’d like to hear you sing this prayer in my courtyard, Theresa. I’m so glad I found your TFT party so we could visit each other. Blogging gets lonely, yes? xox

  8. February 13, 2019 / 3:33 pm

    Your courtyard is beautiful! Thanks for sharing with Thursday Favorite Things! I’ll be featuring you tomorrow! Angelina @ Petite Haus

    • michele
      Author
      February 13, 2019 / 4:20 pm

      Thank you soooooo much, Angelina. Your blog is so beautiful, and I’m so flattered! 🙂

  9. Cheryl Swarthout
    January 26, 2021 / 1:04 am

    New subscriber and I loved this post. Got so many useful ideas for an area under a new deck that I am going to have to deal with this spring when construction is completed. I also want to say that I love your product posts. They are well chosen to relate to your theme, and everyone that I clicked on was reasonably priced. I need someone to help me find the goodies on overwhelming shopping sites.

    • Michele
      Author
      January 26, 2021 / 12:15 pm

      So happy to have you here, and I appreciate the feedback. Winter is just the perfect time to strategize and gear up for spring and summertime DIYS! I love sharing the courtyard on this blog because it was the easiest thing we did here and has over-delivered with minimal maintenance! Keep in touch as I look forward to hearing about your project.

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Let’s SHOP!

White Slipcovered Sofa
French Country Kubu Basket Set
Whitewashed Table Lamp Set of 2
Antique Chinese Wood Rustic Round Stool
French Country Bed
Tuscan Terracotta Urn Vase
Round Farmhouse Table
French Country Settee
Deconstructed Wingback Bed
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Milagro Heart
Linen Slipcovered Chairs
Rustic Farmhouse Stool
Edgecombe End Table
Silver Rectangle Accent Table
Black or Bronze Accent Table
30″ French Storage Basket
Chevron White Quilt Set
French Country Rattan Basket Set
Marble Subway Backsplash in My Kitchen
French Wire Laundry Basket
White Ruffle Bedding
White Linen Club Chair
Handmade Sunburst Mirror
Wide Pine Sideboard
Linen Napkin Set
French Country Lamp
French Country Wall Mirror
French Lidded Baskets
French Panel Mirror
Distressed White French Country Chandelier
Distressed White Artichoke Lamp
French Country Headboard
Oval Back Counter Stool, Set of 2
Antique Brass Pharmacy Floor Lamp
Round French Tufted Ottoman
Kinston Wood Bench
Italian Candelabra Chandelier
Colleen Slope Arm Linen Chair Set
Warner Upholstered Bench
Rustic Country French Dresser
Rustic French Confit Pot
Round Farmhouse Dining Table
Reclaimed Wood Dresser
Louis Upholstered Bench
Pardon My French Doormat
Stripe Turkish Towel Throw
Pamela Arm Chair
Sweater Weave Basket
French Carved Wood Chandelier
Terracotta Pots & Basket
French Country Wood Chandelier
French Linen Dining Chair
Gustavian Cabinet
French Farmhouse Dining Table
Bar Stool
Beachy White Slipcovered Sofa
Rattan Armchair
Diptyque Oyedo Candle
Cross Back Dining Chair
French Country Candle Holder
French Industrial Metal Chairs (4)
Designer Favorite Wall Mirror
Holborn Lantern Pendant
French Country 6-Light Chandelier
Rustic End Table
French Country Upholstered Arm Chair
Wicker Trunk Set
French Ticking Stripe Pillow
Jute Area Rug
Mohair Throw
Rustic Industrial Farmhouse Shelves
Belgian Linen Sofa
White Duvet & Bedding
Rustic Wood Candlestick Set
French Market Basket
Linen Modern Wing Chair
French Country Farmhouse Baskets
Concrete Pillar Table Lamp
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Style Lamp
Kendall Skirted Dining Chair
White Charleston Sofa
Scrubbed Wood 5-Light Chandelier
Arched Champagne Wall Mirror
Moravian Star 1-Light Pendant
Highback Armchair
Mini Pendant Light
White Vase Set
Round Woven Placemat Set
Cashmere Throw With Fringe
Black Bergamot Soy Candle
Fireclay Farm Sink (Reinhard, 30″)
White Waffle Coverlet
Light Grey Vienna Quilt
Boheme Madera Bench
Belgian Linen Duvet Set
Round Marble Side Table
Rustic Pedestal Farm Table
Rattan Hanging Chair Swing