Any ideas for improving this stark courtyard?
This is a great space to work with. If it was an area I was working on I would definitely look at refreshing the fence as my starting point. Whether it be painting or staining, not too sure.
I actually love the look of the brick, but they aren't leaving much space for a garden. I'd keep some of the brick area, that would be good for a nice outdoor setting that can be used for entertaining. However I would probably remove some of the bricks and put in some grass or garden area to bring the courtyard to life. You could even use the bricks you remove for raised garden beds or a veggie garden if you wanted to.
If you didn't want to go to the trouble of removing the bricks from the courtyard, you could spruce it up with some quick changes like adding colourful potted plants or a vertical garden to bring some plant life into the area.
An outdoor setting would be ideal for this area though. Especially with a great BBQ like that one. Perfect for parties!
I agree with @kaylah_rose on the fence. This would be a great start and would make a huge impact. I'd even look at introducing some wall art (http://www.bunnings.com.au/matrix-58cm-x-58cm-charcoal-lotus-wall-art_p2800841) to add more character to the area and the fence.
Planter gardens and pots are also an easy way to spruce up the area and add colour and vibrance.
I'd also suggest a fire pit (http://www.bunnings.com.au/chapala-large-tibor-mexicana-chimenea_p3170115) as another feature. Not so relevant at the minute being summer but come winter they are really quite handy. We have one at home and tend to place plain citronella candles in it for the summer so we can still make use of it in our outdoor space. On the otherhand, maybe a water feature is something you'd prefer more.
Hope that helps!
You might find some inspiration in this image. I particularly like how cosy it feels with the outdoor couch hugging the garden. And you see what a difference the greenery makes, even with such limited room.