Before & After: A New Orleans-Inspired Courtyard

A drab backyard gets an award-winning redo, with Big Easy style and entertaining in mind

As owners of two Woodhouse Day Spas, Tina Lovelace and Jeff Sporkin know a little something about relaxation and luxury. When the couple purchased their home on York Street in Denver, they knew exactly how they wanted to jazz up the backyard: They would transform the drab space into a New Orleans-inspired courtyard, with a serious emphasis on both entertaining and tranquility.

“I really enjoyed my time there,” Lovelace recounts of her three years in the Big Easy. “It was important to bring that aesthetic back with me.” The resulting New Orleans-style courtyard is such a popular party spot for the couple and their friends that there is parking in the back alley for up to 5 cars, an alley-accessed entry gate and even a doorbell.  

The design went on to win the National Association of Landscape Professionals 2017 Grand Award for Small Residential Design, and it’s easy to see why.

We love to entertain; we’re the house that everyone comes to.” 
— Tina Lovelace, homeowner

To accommodate intimate get-togethers and large parties alike, the outdoor living space boasts a den with a fireplace, a dining patio, a fully functioning kitchen, and a space Lovelace calls “the grounds,” the true courtyard area with a fountain centerpiece and garden. 


The original backyard, barren save for a 1970s red flagstone patio. 

The den and dining patio are the perfect place for Lovelace and Sporkin to enjoy a meal and chat with guests by the show-stopping fireplace. “This is by far my favorite ‘room’ of the house,” Lovelace says.

To create a similar appearance to the home’s turn-of-the-century exterior brick, the design team carefully curated the materials for the courtyard’s hearth and surrounding walls. Rough concrete pavers continue the historical theme, mimicking the cobblestone streets of New Orleans. 

Lovelace and Sporkin's dog Polly excitedly greets guests at the back entrance.

Green 19th-century Indo-Portuguese doors make a dramatic first impression upon entrance to the courtyard. The original arched window on the back of the home (visible in the before photo) was transformed into French doors (seen above, behind the fountain), enabling a seamless indoor-outdoor connection between the sun porch and the patio.

"It looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel."
— Tina Lovelace, homeowner

Mexican beach pebbles fill the accent at the base of the water feature. The Bevolo gas hurricane lanterns are from New Orleans.

“I love the New Orleans influence so much,” Lovelace says, “that it’s abundant at our Littleton location [of Woodhouse Day Spas], too.”

The outdoor kitchen comes fully equipped with all the amenities—a grill, running water, trash storage, refrigerator, and another pergola to create a visually distinct “room.” The subtle banding design in the pavers adds an extra Old World touch.

Sporkin serves Lovelace a drink at the kitchen bar. 

A raised spa sits just right of the kitchen for an evening soak.

While Lovelace and Sporkin enjoy being the life of the party, they also value the serenity of the courtyard and the peace it brings during the not-so-busy hours. “In the morning, I put on music and sip my coffee by the fireplace,” Lovelace says. “In the winter, if I’m up in the middle of the night, I look down onto the courtyard from the second story, and it looks like something out of a Charles Dickens novel, with the snow cover. Truly magical.”

LeAnn Ostheimer is Director of Sales & Marketing with Lifescape Colorado, a Denver-based design, construction and maintenance landscape architecture firm. View their profile or reach LeAnn at 303-831-8310.

Content for this article provided by Lifescape Colorado.

Categories: Landscaping & Gardening