The Bearman courtyard rose from a "dead zone" of gravel in a pit where nothing would grow.
This was the owners' entry too. And their porch looked out toward this gravel pit onto more gravel beyond where the cars are parked.
The solution seemed clear to us:
Fence the front yard. Add a bridge element connecting the front door to the parking. This bridge would cross a tiny water garden for wildlife - frogs and dragonflies. Plant the courtyard lushly with native plants, grasses and a Japanese maple that does well in our climate.
Result? The owners say they never enjoyed their front porch before. It is now a destination and a nice place to spend time.