Liv­ing with Neale Whi­taker.

Moroc­cans have long had an in­ter­nal af­fair with in­door court­yards. Aus­tralians should be fall­ing for them, too

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - with NEALE WHI­TAKER

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.

THE BAL­CONY GAR­DEN pot, from $50, the­bal­cony­gar­den.com.au IKEA tealight holder, $7.99, ikea.com/au GRANADA chair, $590, globe­west.com.au AERIN pen­dant light, $1310, mon­tauk­light­ingco.com

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