In recent years, I’ve had the opportunity to visit Japan, and among the many wondrous elements of Japanese design, one design feature that really struck me and continues to influence how I approach design is the harmony created by courtyard gardens juxtaposed within traditional Japanese architecture.
Many traditional homes, both large and small, have a central courtyard that visually becomes part of the interior of the home. Often separated by shoji screens (which are usually kept open during the day), these gardens are instantly accessible from within the home, and provide a refuge as well as ever-changing visual interest throughout the year.
Common elements of Japanese courtyard garden design include a bamboo fountain that pours into a low stone basin near an entrance, lanterns, sand, smooth gravel, artful garden boulders that suggest mountains, ponds, wandering paths, and small bridges. These elements are carefully planned within and around trees and other plants to create a contemplative, serene environment – a special place accessible only to those within the home.