Living with Neale Whitaker.
Moroccans have long had an internal affair with indoor courtyards. Australians should be falling for them, too
Please don’t hate me, but as you read this column I will be relaxing in a Moroccan riad. A genuine one, in Marrakech. A riad, of course, is a traditional Moroccan home with rooms leading off a central courtyard that’s open to the sky and the elements. In Morocco (sorry, did I mention I was going there?), you’ll often see those decorative tiles we’ve come to know and love in the courtyard. And where larger riads have been converted to hotels, the original courtyard is usually where you’ll find the pool. Now, we Aussies think we have indoor/ outdoor living nailed, with our decks and our terraces, but quite frankly I can’t think of anything so elegant and luxurious – and private – as an indoor courtyard.
It might seem quite a leap from Marrakech to St Kilda’s Grey Street, but it was internal courtyards that the contestants revealed last week on The Block. In past seasons of the show, I’ve always claimed that kitchen week is when the hearts of the homes really start beating, but to be honest, this season it’s hard to go past those courtyards for sheer wow factor and – my new favourite word – chutzpah. That’s what a ninemetre-high, triple-storey void will do.
All of the contestants delivered show-stopping courtyards (Melburnians Jesse and Mel scored a win with those
“I can’t think of anything so elegant and luxurious as an indoor courtyard”
extraordinary ivy-printed mosaic tiles, punctuated by 12 wall sconces), but it was Cairns couple Tess and Luke who seemed to really understand the transformative and connective impact of a well-designed internal courtyard. They were the only contestants to incorporate a spiral staircase in a courtyard that also featured steel cladding and 3500 stack bond bricks.
As in previous weeks, the newlyweds called in builder and hipages ambassador Matthew Menichelli of Elevate Building Group (hipages.com.au; elevatebuilding. com.au) to help them achieve their plans. “An internal courtyard is a huge drawcard,” says Menichelli. “It creates an opportunity to open up the living spaces with natural light and greenery.”
He continues: “The perks of the triple-storey void meant two of the second-floor bedrooms were facing into the courtyard. That was the motivation behind the stack-bond brick wall; to draw the eye upwards and emphasise the sheer scale. It was a big gamble that, in my eyes, really paid off.” As it has for centuries, in those Moroccan riads.
Neale Whitaker is co-host of Foxtel’s Love It Or List It Australia on Lifestyle, and a judge on Nine Network’s The Block.
OUTSIDE CHANCE (from top) Queenslanders Tess and Luke were the only couple on The Block to install a spiral staircase in the courtyard; their climbing trellis made for a stunning green wall against the charcoal backdrop; courtyard winners Jesse and Mel chose “extraordinary” ivy-printed mosaic tiles.
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