1. Home
  2. Outdoors

Finding the Right Pergola for You: 40 Fabulous Ideas

We all get trapped in the hustle and bustle of modern life and the pace of things around us. It is good to have an escape that takes you away from it all. Of course, all of us cannot afford a weekend getaway home and having a serene space to rest and relax in the backyard is the perfect alternative.

And having a pergola really ‘completes’ your serene getaway at home! Pergolas as an idea, are definitely not new and revolutionary. They have been around for a few centuries now and were a staple of Mediterranean and ancient Roman design. In their new avatar, pergolas promise to up the style and functionality of your favorite outdoor hideaway.

Finding the right lighting and decor for the large modern standalone pergola

Whether to provide shade, frame a garden, or offer privacy, pergola ideas can be a vital element in your garden design. They can also be used to frame pathways or create structure. Considering the purpose of the pergola is crucial to the design that you choose. Will it be a focal point or a transition? Will there be seating under it? Typically, it should create its own statement with lower-lying plants on either side.

Leading the eye upwards by delivering interest on the vertical plane is also essential to include in your garden ideas. Pergolas are excellent for training a wide variety of scented, flowering climbing plants and creeping vines over for vertical garden ideas.

Wicker chandeliers hang from a white pergola over a teak dining table surrounded by aqua blue dining chairs.
Photo Credit: Urban Grace Interiors

The many advantages of pergolas are obvious and yet, the one that is right for you is much harder to pick. Different pergola designs offer different perks, with some just serving as casual hangouts with little shade while others provide a more complete ‘outdoor room’ with total protection from the elements. Coming in a multitude of shapes and sizes, this is a guide to choosing a pergola that fits your needs along with many inspirations –

With the growing popularity of outdoor living spaces, a pergola can increase a home’s value. Before jumping into a pergola project, consider the following:

  • Orientation: North, south, east, or west-facing.
  • Materials: You can incorporate hardwood, plywood, metals, prefabricated materials, fabric, and glass.
  • Budget: The two most influential expenses will be labor and materials. If your budget is limited, this is where resourcefulness, clever planning, DIY skills, and originality come into play.
  • Contractor vs. DIY: Think about who will be constructing your pergola. Will it be a do-it-yourself project, or will you hire a contractor? A prefab pergola kit is an option, too.
  • Building codes:  Most outdoor structures need the approval of a building inspector or planning commissioner. Your local government officials should have guidelines on setbacks and height restrictions.
  • Zoning laws: Do you need to obtain city, county, or regional zoning laws and approvals? Depending on where you live, this process can take a long time, so stay on top of it if you want the project done within the next few months or even years. Committees occasionally meet sporadically, and applications can fall through the cracks.
Teak double pool loungers with blue stripe throw blankets sit under a white pergola in front of an inground pool.
Photo Credit: Mindy Gayer

What does your Pergola offer?

It is important to decide the exact purpose of the pergola structure before you step into a world of other choices. If you are someone who hosts friends and family on a regular basis and spend more time outdoors than inside, then you might want a pergola that is large, spacious, and possibly a standalone structure at the heart of the garden. Nature lovers and couples who prefer a bit more privacy could choose one that is much smaller and has far less latticework so that they can embrace the garden around the pergola in a more unobstructed manner.

Custom wooden panels with pattern and warm lighting shape this tropical style pergola [From: Calumma Creative Landscapes]
Exquisite wooden pergola structure with ceiling fan and comfy outdoor décor [From: Magleby Construction]

Style of the Pergola

Pergolas were traditionally crafted using wood, brick, and concrete and this approach works well in the modern garden as well. Most pergolas crafted using natural materials have a more natural look and give the garden that timeless look. For a more modern landscape, pergolas in materials like steel, aluminum, and fiberglass offer a wonderful range of options. Corten steel is another increasingly popular material that is being used for pergolas in modern homes.

Traditional materials were used to craft this gorgeous home and pergola with Mediterranean style
Minimal pergola frame is draped with greenery in an organic fashion

Extending the Home Outdoors

While a freestanding pergola structure is great to have at the heart of the garden, maybe you need something entirely different. In modern homes with a backyard that features large, modern pool, a pool deck and a barbecue area next to the main residence, a smart pergola that is structurally an extension of the house is a great choice indeed. These pergolas are far more cost-effective to create, extend the living area outdoors and weave together the social space on your deck while offering just the right amount of shade.

Metallic structure of the pergola feels like a natural extension of the home next to it [From: Southwest Fence & Deck]
Give the outdoor hangout some shade with a smart pergola structure

Meeting your Outdoor Needs

The standalone pergola structure is an entirely different beast, with its presence making a huge difference to the persona of the rear yard. It is a great choice in the lush green garden where you need a small, central space for the members of your family. Choosing the right seating for this pergola is the next big step and here, everything from custom wooden benches to contemporary outdoor décor comes in mighty handy! It is all about creating enough space to host everyone comfortably.

Mediterranean style deck and pergola offers ample shade [From: David Casa]
Innovative contemporary pergola in gray turns the backyard into a wonderful hangout

The furniture that you choose here should also reflect the style of the pergola and the backyard as well. This is why choosing the style of the pergola is so important before you move on to the materials used for building it and the furniture that you wish to bring in. Once you have a woodsy, Mediterranean-style pergola in place, it is hard to move back to a style like ‘contemporary’ with a simple change of outdoor furniture.

Wooden pergola structure coupled with stone walls create a relaxing and comfortable hangout outdoors [From: Unique Homestays]
Modern rustic patio with outdoor dining area and a standalone pergola structure [From: TLC Gardens]

Weave in Greenery

Our most beloved pergola designs are those that combine the beauty of nature with the elegance of a relaxing outdoor hangout. Allowing vines to weave around the pergola structure improves the shade it offers. These could be either flowering or non-flowering vines; you still end up creating a dreamy, cheerful, and healthy setting that offers the possibility of a wonderful staycation every weekend.

Pergola structure is entirely covered in vines giving it a dreamy, whimsical charm [From: Clearwater Landscape & Nursery]
Greenery coupled with contemporary pergola in the relaxing backyard [From: Santiago herrero paisajista]

A pergola can convert a basic wooden deck into an attractive outdoor space. Dress up the structure’s supports and slats with climbing vines to offer extra shade and add a natural element to the design. Hang outdoor string lights from the pergola to make al fresco dinners more pleasant.

For patio areas located just outside the back door, a pergola attached to the house creates a suitably shaded oasis. Adding a pergola extends the roof outward to stretch the shade under the eaves. Combine the structure into your home’s exterior by constructing it with similar materials and colors.

pergola hanging off side of house with string lights and candle chandelier hanging in middle modern picnic table underneath
Photo Credit: The Created Home

Accessorize your pergola to make it even more alluring. Line the pergola’s perimeter with containers planted with bright blooms. For extra appeal, choose flowering vines such as morning glory that will scramble up and around the pergola. Hang a pendant light above your dining or seating area so you can continue enjoying the space after dark.

outdoor pergola at night with white hanging paper lanterns outdoor dining area with wood chairs surrounded by greenery
Photo Credit: Johner Images via Getty Images

Combine a pergola with trellis screens to convert your deck into an intimate retreat. A pergola supplies shade overhead to make seating areas more relaxed, while a trellis can block views and sounds from the neighbors. Choose trellis and pergola designs with narrow openings and train vines through them to further increase privacy and shade.

pergola with black hanging string lights over outdoor dining area
Photo Credit: SF Girl

If you have a spot in mind for your pergola, evaluate existing landscape elements before you start building. Luckily, pergola designs are adaptable and can be tweaked to best fit your space and needs. In this yard, a pergola is built off the home to provide subtle shade for a seating area next to a pool.

Rustic stone clad spa is accented with gray pool line tiles and positioned in front of two pool loungers with gray cushions topped with gray striped bolster pillows. The loungers sit beneath a white pergola.
Photo Credit: Marianne Simon Design

A pergola can stand on its own, or it can work well with another outdoor structure such as a patio or deck. Its placement can help outline various zones, such as a dining area. This pergola design helps distinguish a cozy eating spot and incorporates a bench, and chandelier and then is shaded by climbing vines overhead.

Amazing garden with pergola accented with a white lantern illuminating a round bistro table lined with French bistro chairs.
Photo Credit: Ballard Designs

Pergolas add supplemental structure and scale amid other outdoor living conveniences. Here, the massive beams on this pergola complement the sturdy structure of the stucco fireplace. A casual, relaxed seating serves as both a defining edge for the pergola and an extra outdoor living space, too.

Chic outdoor space features a gray pergola placed over a stone fireplace accented with a herringbone firebox facing a wicker sofa and chairs.
Photo Credit: Four Point Design Build

Although many pergolas have four open sides, the addition of privacy screens or curtains can increase seclusion on one or multiple sides. Four linen curtains line the corners of this pergola, creating a more intimate setting.

white pergola with curtains seating area with black patio chairs and outdoor rug
Photo Credit: Love of Family and Home

Pergolas are a good way to ease the transition from house to other hardscape luxuries. Here, both the dining area and outdoor kitchen received a shading structure that ties in with the home’s architecture. Space the pergola’s roof boards as needed to shield them against the sun; in this case, this one relies on fabric panels to provide deep shade, but they can also be removed or drawn back when the sun is wanted.

Gray rope dining chairs surround a teak outdoor dining table placed beneath a pergola.
Photo Credit: Pure Salt Interiors

Space constraints can limit the pergola designs you can include in an exterior space. But even a smaller pergola design adds an attractive accent to a deck or patio, providing an interesting background to an otherwise plain exterior facade.

Large concrete pavers lead past a white metal bench to a gray plank wooden French door positioned beneath vines covering a black pergola.
Photo Credit: Kelly Nutt Design

Fabric can be a useful accessory in pergola designs, especially to shield the space from sunlight or unwanted views. Consider hanging curtains between the pergola’s posts that can be pulled across the openings if needed. To prevent color-fading or weather damage, be sure to use fabric that’s designed for outdoor use.

Stone pillars accent a rustic wood pergola finished with canvas and positioned over a teak plank dining table surrounded by teak slatted back dining chairs placed in front of an in ground swimming pool.
Photo Credit: Brooke Wagner Design

This charming structure mixes trellis, arbor, and pergola designs into one. The resulting construction forms a lovely entrance to this zen garden space. Two chairs offer restful spots for seating, while the pergola’s overhead spacing offers room enough for a flowering vine.

Zen garden features a pergola over a pair of white modern chairs and outdoor accent table placed before three black planters.
Photo Credit: Style at Home

Materials in different hues can add visual impact to pergola designs. Here, wood columns are accented with black iron castings that add visual interest. Stained wood slats across the pergola’s roof offer a more naturalistic complement to the landscape. The whole dining area is luxurious and spacious, creating an outdoor paradise-like retreat.

Under a pergola, iron and glass lanterns hang over a long dining table surrounded by wicker dining chairs.
Photo Credit: Kristen Michelini

Although space and budget might be restrictions, pergola designs are typically very flexible. You can customize the structure with a variety of materials, finishes, shapes, and other stylistic choices. Here, two layers of the pergola’s ceiling make a more vibrant top, while columns lend formality that lends nicely into the stone base.

A white pergola on gray stone posts is fitted with dual hanging settees accented with gray cushions topped with white and blue pillows. In front of television mounted over a gray stone fireplace an outdoor dining table is surrounded by teak dining chairs.
Photo Credit: Jane Beiles
The outlines of this modern pergola offer structure and a boundary between the gravel exterior space and the rest of the landscape. Using a pergola in this way offers a simple way to break up large backyards. Additional elements, such as the fireplace and modern patio furniture, help guests feel at home.
Wood and iron pergola with a fireplace in a backyard furnished with two brown teak outdoor sofas on a gravel surface.
Photo Credit: Tim Barber Architechts

A pergola can offer shade to a large gathering space, even if it’s not next to a house. This modern pergola creates a pool side shady place for a bar and lounge chairs.

Tan and black pergola features a white outdoor kitchen and white outdoor accent chairs.
Photo Credit: HW Interiors

If you are wondering ‘how do I add luxury to my backyard?’ a pergola can elevate the space into a stylish and luxurious outdoor living area.

Patio features gray rattan chairs at a teak outdoor dining table near a pergola.
Photo Credit: Morgan Harrison Home

For the ultimate in flexibility, in some instances, you might require pergola shade ideas during the hottest or sunniest part of the day. At the same time, at other times prefer light to flood into the patio or seating area, such as in the evening, to make the most of the last of the sun’s rays.

Beside an in-ground swimming pool, a white and gray rope sofa is placed beneath a black pergola with tan slats fitted over a TV niche fitted above a fireplace.
Photo Credit: Katie Martinez Design

Size Matters

Choosing the best place for your pergola can help to attract your eye to distinct areas of your garden, yard art ideas, or even frame the view of the surrounding landscape.

A black marble top outdoor kitchen seats black rope barstools beneath an oak pergola.
Photo Credit: Hendel Homes

You can also play a clever trick on the eye as a small garden idea and make the space feel larger by designing the pergola so that it gradually gets narrower the further away it goes. This creates a false perspective that makes the garden feels bigger than it is.

Shellock pavers frame an in-ground swimming pool positioned in front of a pergola and accented with blue and gold glass pool line tiles.
Photo Credit: Jenkins Interiors

Size matters when designing a pergola idea for your garden design, so it is essential that you think carefully about how to design a pergola. Make sure it won’t overpower the garden but that it will also be large enough to be practical.

pergola light wood white backyard fence outdoor sectional seating area concrete patio
Photo Credit: Room for Tuesday

A typical mistake is to make a pergola too narrow and too low. The size and dimensions of the uprights and overall frame will need to be considered carefully, as the size of these alters the feel of the pergola. It needs to be proportionally accurate so that it does not over-dominate the space.

white boho pergola on concrete patio with bamboo teak chair wood log slice coffee table
Photo Credit: Almost Makes Perfect

Placement Considerations

The best place for a pergola will depend on the layout of your backyard and your reasons for incorporating pergola ideas in your garden. The clean lines of this modern design perfectly complement the sleek, contemporary design of this home.

white wood thin strip pergola with hanging pendants white umbrella wood table outdoor dining area
Photo Credit: A Beautiful Mess

The placement of a pergola is key so that it does not block the flow of a garden. Pergolas are often places to retreat, so site them somewhere you enjoy sitting and where it will not harm your neighbor’s views.

outdoor pergola with seating area light blond wood with hanging white curtains dining area and outdoor couch patio furniture
Photo Credit: Brooklyn Limestone

Planning shade areas is a critical consideration when designing a sunny garden. A pergola is a perfect way to create a semi-shaded area that remains in keeping with the rest of the design.

Teak loungers topped with gray cushions flank a gray rope stool placed in front of a white pool house pergola accented with gray curtains. A white and gray striped ottoman is flanked by facing side-by-side teak weathered teak chairs finished with gray cushions topped with white and gray striped pillows. A flat panel television is mounted to the side of the pool house above white built-in cabinets.
Photo Credit: Cari Berg Interior Design
Pergola ideas can work well as both patio cover ideas in sunny spots, or placed in shady spots, depending on what time of day you will use it the most. If you have a south-facing garden, a partially enclosed pergola can create a tranquil retreat and offer respite on a hot summer’s day.

Proper Proportions

It is important to get the proportions right. Think about what you want to do under the pergola and ensure you have enough space. Measure any furniture for an outdoor seating idea you are planning to place within the structure and ensure that you allow enough room for people to move around comfortably.

A Moravian star pendant hangs from a pergola over a white outdoor dining table surrounded by gray woven dining chairs.
Photo Credit: Jenn Feldman Designs

If your garden doesn’t have a covered spot that offers protection from the sun, you can create a shaded pergola or grow wisteria and vines up your pergola to provide beautiful dappled light and relief from the heat or for more consistent shade, sail-type screens can be attached to the underside of the pergola roof.

White Mediterranean style home features a pergola on Greek columns over a patio with a round wrought iron dining table and wrought iron dining chairs.
Photo Credit: Mark D Sikes

Frequently Asked QuestionsFAQ

What is the point of having a pergola?

A pergola extends your living space and increases the amount of time you can spend outside. Designed and oriented correctly on your lot, a pergola can cast enough light shade to make even a warm afternoon enjoyable or if you still need additional protection, you can install a retractable shade cover for more shade.

What is the cheapest way to build a pergola?

Make use of existing garden structures to cut down on timber. Another option for your cheap pergola ideas is to make use of an existing fence or wall as part of your design. This means you end up buying less timber for your pergola project, which can make it much more affordable.

Is it cheaper to build a pergola or buy one?

Building a pergola yourself will be more cost-effective than buying one because you only have to pay for materials and not labor. The national average cost to build a 10 ft. traditional wooden pergola yourself is about $3,500; however, it varies depending on the project and the location.

Do pergolas add home value?

While there are many caveats, in short, the answer is yes. A pergola has the potential to add value to your home, with many estimates putting the return on investment at somewhere around 50% to 80%. That makes pergolas one of the more valuable additions homeowners can put to their homes.

Do you still get sun under a pergola?

Yes, sunlight filters through the roof beams of a pergola, which is designed to provide varying amounts of shade, depending on the structure's style and design. A popular addition to outdoor living spaces, pergolas shade your deck or patio without impeding views or breezes.

Sherry Nothingam

Sherry is a blogger who loves to live her life to the fullest. She enjoys everything associated with design, décor and stylish modern trends. Born in California, Sherry has grown up on open ranches and in a wild setting, which has defined her taste for design and developed her interest in examining how structures and homes interact with the beauti[...]

You might also like