Here are creative solutions to outside storage needs.

If there's a problem finding exterior storage around a house, chances are Robert Chesnut has come across a similar problem and created a sensible solution. For years, the landscape architect has carved out functional spaces in many of the confined courtyard gardens of Charleston, South Carolina.

When Robert designed a new courtyard for Joan and Tom Bryce, he was quick to incorporate a storage facility into the plan. As a result, the Bryces have a lush outdoor living area extending off the back of the house and a functional place for housing outdoor equipment. In a limited space, Robert designed a closet that complements the garden while efficiently concealing and protecting all the necessary tools.

"It is not unusual to enclose a portion of a piazza or loggia for storage in Charleston," explains Robert, describing how the storage closet was carved from part of the newly added portico. A rectangular area was constructed with marine plywood painted a glossy black on the exposed side. With the lattice added to finish it off, the black shows through, making the closet look open and airy. The plywood, however, hides all the materials stored inside. Two low-maintenance fiberglass columns finish it with distinction.

"It's the perfect place for chemicals, garden tools, and other unsightly things that need to be covered but that you wouldn't want indoors," says Robert. "It's a great way to have storage that looks good from the garden."

And with an appealing courtyard, the Bryces wouldn't want anything to hamper their enjoyment of the space. Stucco walls create privacy and are softened with fig vine and a colorful border of annuals and perennials. Robert used bluestone, a native material, for the floors but framed the fountain with old brick to match the house. "The bluestone is an elegant partner for the brick," he says.

Even with the courtyard's quaint scale, Robert was able to incorporate all of the Bryces' requirements. From living area to plant materials to functional necessities, this space is a package of total design. Robert adds, "To fully enjoy an enclosed courtyard or a garden, every part of it needs to be beautiful--including where you hide the tools."