There is much you can do with an existing courtyard. Consider the following design aspects when refurbishing an existing courtyard.
Enclosure. A distinguishing characteristic of a courtyard is having the space feel as though it has four "solid" walls. Solid is more visual than literal. A vine-covered trellis or a hedge may close in a small space (perhaps less than 10 feet square) without making it feel claustrophobic.
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An open roof or canopy adds even more sense of enclosure. Whatever structure you use should allow plenty of light into the courtyard so there is no mistaking its feeling of welcome.
A retractable awning is one way to add enclosure. A temporary roof that covers the courtyard completely in winter also extends the time you can use the area and protects the plants within.
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Styles. The style and look of the courtyard is to some extent predetermined by the walls that define it. However, these walls can be altered to create the setting you want.