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Courtyard Makeover

Our ground floor apartment is small, but one of the best things about it and what made us fall in love when we saw it, is the outside space that comes with it. Leading from our kitchen door is a long corridor and a courtyard a bit bigger than an average parking bay. In Cape Town terms, this is basically a lush garden!

When we moved in, it was very boring and basically just a service passage. But we saw the potential and had some big dreams for this humble little space.

Thanks to a visit to the magnificent Akasha Mountain Retreat and a fair amount of Pinteresting, I decided to create a Moroccan-style space where we could relax, cook breakfast on summer mornings and entertain our friends. Now that all this is done, I may consider redecorating or replacing the siding on the outside of the house using this marietta siding company, or perhaps another more local – I’ll have to have a search around! I’ll make this so it goes with the theme of my courtyard.

My challenge when planning the space was the very hectic Woodstock wind. In this corridor it can reach around 80km’s per hour and it once picked up my dining room table. It also burns the leaves of any soft or tropical plants, so I had to plan carefully and experiment with where to put plants and what kind of plants to keep.

I wanted to use Moroccan colours and tiles to give the space the feeling of being somewhere exotic. I liked the idea of a secret courtyard, or something special hidden in the middle of the city. We replaced a big heavy gate with a garage door so that the space could double as a parking bay when we weren’t using it, and created a little planter box in the one corner that’s sheltered from the wind.

We teamed up with Builders Warehouse for the project. Builders has a huge selection of pretty much everything you need to make your outdoor space summer ready and the staff there are always so knowledgeable. They knew how to answer all our questions about what kind of paint we could use outside and which plants would survive. I do love how our courtyard turned out, but my only wish is that it could have been a bit bigger. I just had so many ideas that it was hard for me to condense it down to what could fit and what our budget was. I’ve always dreamed about having a lovely garden bench that could be placed on the outskirts of the yard so you can have a nice place to sit and have some peace and quiet. If I were to get one, I would prefer it to be made out of recycled plastic, as I’ve seen some around and they actually look just as good as normal benches. You wouldn’t know the difference and recycled plastic benches are environmentally friendly outdoor furniture so we would be helping the environment if we were to get one. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in our plans for this makeover, but I hope we can get one soon, at least when we have some more money and a bigger space.

In the end, we went way over budget. We had no idea how much building material (sand, concrete, cement) it would take to even out the uneven ground and how much paint we would need for the high walls. But it was really worth it and we’ve been spending every possible moment in our new “little Marrakesh”.


Sussex House Courtyard Before
Sussex House Courtyard Before
So very uninspiring.


Nats&Keenan Outside-1
I used North Sea from Dulux as a feature wall and a terracotta colour to offset it. Reds and blues work well next to each other as they are across from each other on the colour wheel. Any orange-red is even better next to blue and really makes it pop.
Nats&Keenan Outside-4
We spent a lot of our budget on concrete, sand and cement to even out the corridor and courtyard, which were very wonky. I wanted to leave them the cement colour because I really like it. I’d like to plant some wind-hardy plants along here in the new year – there’s so much more we could do with this space! Since this was historically used to be a service way, there are also a couple of drain covers that we had to work with.
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Here you can see that the one delicious monster leaf that gets hit by the wind is curled and brown, because the strong wind burns it. We built the planter box against the one wall that is protected from the wind and filled it with potting soil and plants to bring some nature into our space.
Nats&Keenan Outside-6
I looked around in Woodstock and saw that a lot of homes have these banana palms, which seem to grow well in the neighbourhood, so we used them in our planter box. I also love the look of them – so lush and they grow to be really tall.
Nats&Keenan Outside-7
I looked everywhere for Moroccan-style tiles and could only find really expensive ones. I even considered making my own. In the end, I found these at CTM.
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This is my coffee table from inside, which I will bring out when we entertain. I’m going to look for a beaten metal one to buy in the new year. It hasn’t been easy finding Moroccan-style decor at affordable prices. I could really only find speciality stores that would bankrupt me.
Nats&Keenan Outside-9
For this pattern, I cut a stencil from a piece of plastic and then just painted over it. Easy. The Mosaic tiles add a small detail that makes a big difference. The wooden bench is covered in pot plants right now but will double as extra seating when we have people over- just add a couple of cushions.
Nats&Keenan Outside-11
I wanted to bring lots of colour to the space, so I’ve used items from inside to decorate. This rug is from Superbalist and is actually just for outside – we keep it rolled up under the bed when we’re not using it. I’ve been thinking about purchasing a rug to go in our living room and my friend told me to check out bazaar velvet. I still haven’t bought a rug but I’ll get round to it soon!
Nats&Keenan Outside-12
These glasses are from Superbalist and the table cloth is a piece of fabric I bought in India.
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I wanted to maximise the space, I like to create two separate areas for entertaining. One “dining space” and one “wine and chatting space”.
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The lights are weather proof and are from a place called New Neon Lighting in Paarden Island. I think they really complete the whole area.
Nats&Keenan Outside-19
Most of the decor items here are from around the house and we will only bring them out to entertain or when we use the space. When we don’t have people, the table and benches get packed away on the tiled area and this space doubles as our second parking bay.
Nats&Keenan Outside-20
I like pot plants for outside because you can always bring them inside if the wind gets too hectic.
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These little chairs are from Chair Crazy in Woodstock and are so versatile. I use them all over the house. Inside, they serve as bedside tables which double as seating if we have lots of guests over.
Nats&Keenan Outside-22
These blue pot plants bring more Moroccan vibes into the space. The succulents are wind hardy so they can survive out here.
Nats&Keenan Outside-23
I love these mosaic tiles. They were quite expensive and they aren’t really even a statement feature but I think they bring so much to the space.
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I can’t wait to spend every windless day of the year out here with friends.

Thanks so much to Builders Warehouse for believing in our vision and supporting us in our makeover. We couldn’t have done it without you! Follow Builders on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, where they share useful tips and fun inspo.

There is no way we could have actually done this job without our trusty builder Tsepo. He’s the man who helped me calculate how much material I would need and who did all the hard work while I did the easy stuff like pot planting and paying. He’s the living best and I built him this little website in case you need someone to help with your DIY, www.capetownbuilders.com

All pictures by my friend Alex du Toit.

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  1. Gorgeous – I love what you have done with the space. You have an amazing talent for utilizing space :)!!

  2. This is so inspiring – the initial space would have intimidated any creativity out of me but it turned out so beautifully!

  3. So stunning! This is an amazing make-over.

  4. Hi!

    Thanks for the article, truly an inspiring change!
    Could I be upfront and ask for the name of the Morrocan tiles you got from CTM and when you got them, as I have been looking for them for about a month for my kitchen’s renovations and can’t find them anywhere…

    Kind Regards

    1. Hi Thalitha, I’m so sorry – I wish I could help you, but I honestly don’t remember! I found them at CTM in Paarden Island, maybe they can help?