Before + After: Relaxed New Orleans Courtyard

Exterior designer Catherine Arensberg gives this multi-functional courtyard a much-needed facelift.

We all have an outdoor area, whether big or teeny tiny, that needs some TLC. For Gary and Jennifer Zakutney, that outdoor area was their courtyard. They cook, hang out and entertain in this space, but realized it needed to be more functional for all of their needs.

When I met with the Zakutneys to find out more about how they use their courtyard, the space had a ton of potential, but not much function. Gary needed a more cohesive cooking area, and Jennifer wanted a more styled place to entertain. Like any multi-functional space, I had to get creative so the courtyard would flow well and not feel cluttered by the various activities taking place simultaneously. After the consultation, I got to work creating an inspiration board to give them an idea of the colors, textures and overall feeling of their newly designed courtyard.

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Brick walls surround the entire courtyard, so blending the various colors from the brick was really important to the new design. The homeowners also described their style as “relaxed New Orleans” so I pulled elements into the design that were both traditional in style but comfortable in function.

The Zakutneys have both a smoker and a gas grill which we combined into one cooking area. To stay within budget, a contractor built a simple wood table, and I designed the legs of the furniture for a custom look. We painted the wood and used a piece of remnant granite for the countertop which also gives the outdoor kitchen a high-end, custom cabinetry look.

For the seating, we created a conversation area with mismatched but coordinating sofa, chairs and coffee table, and added pillows, accessories and plants to match. This is key in creating a “built over time” style that truly makes a space look professionally designed.

The brick walls that surround the courtyard needed to be broken up visually, so we hung window boxes with flowers spilling over the sides. These simple boxes helped break up the hard surface of the brick wall, and visually softened the space as a whole.


How to get the look:

  • Use a mix of wrought iron, painted surfaces, flowers and ferns. Bonus if you can pull in brick elements! Remember: It’s about coordinating, not matching.
  • Create different areas for each function but make sure they flow as a cohesive space
  • Add lighting overhead (cafe lights, for example) to add ambience to evening gatherings.

Catherine Arensberg is an exterior designer who specializes in finding ways to create your ultimate outdoor space, no matter the budget. Browse more of her work here:

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