A poolside retreat, a shelter for an outdoor entertainment center, a place to nap or swing, a bit of privacy around your hot tub — pergola ideas cover a lot of ground. If you’re struggling to find the perfect balance between appearance and practicality, look no further. Here are nine pergola ideas to add shelter and style in your yard.
What is a Pergola?
Long and narrow, a pergola’s pillars and open ceiling of trellis-like latticework bring beauty, shade, and ambiance to your outdoor living space. The pergola design ideas can be as complex and intricate or as simple as you want.
Wrap fabric through the top beams of your pergola for a splash of color or focal point in your backyard. Plant some climbing or flowering vines to give your pergola a Mediterranean feel.
Where to put your pergola in your landscaping plans? That’s the first question. Then it’s all up to you to figure out how best to use the pergola once it’s standing. Here are nine pergola ideas you can try out in landscaping your yard.
9 Cool Ways to Use Pergolas Around Your Home
1. Install a Poolside Pergola
Create a shady spot on your pool deck with a freestanding pergola — it’s perfect for lounging, cocktail, and book in hand, in between swims. For extra protection from the sun, hang curtains down the sides or install a retractable cover.
Besides shading a large area, a pergola can add visual interest by acting as a focal point and boosting the overall beauty of the surrounding environment.
Plus, the open beams allow air to circulate for added cooling.
Customize your pergola to match the architectural design of your home, or keep things simple with a DIY pergola kit.
2. Build an Entertainment HQ
Transform a lackluster backyard patio into your own, private entertainment venue. Ideal as a seating area for family game nights or for outdoor dining with friends, a patio pergola can designate a portion of your backyard as a party space.
Level up the ambiance of this al fresco living room with string lights (the solar option means no worries about access to outlets), a chandelier, potted plants, or speakers for music. Ceiling fans hung from the overhead slats will help keep things cool on summer nights, while a fire pit can warm things up in fall and winter.
3. Embrace Mediterranean Vibes
Especially functional for a small backyard (or if you have no backyard at all), a pergola is a great way to extend your outdoor space and take advantage of vertical gardening.
Here’s how: Attach one to an exterior wall of your home to grow climbing plants or flowering vines, as they do in Italy, such as clematis, wisteria, ivy, or roses. In fact, as early as the ancient times of Rome and Egypt, people used pergolas for this very purpose.
Or, if securing to a balcony area or incorporating a freestanding one into your deck design, consider hanging baskets from the slats. Using the “thriller, filler, and spiller” method, plant a mix of climbing and clumping plants, including geraniums, heliotrope, petunias, ivy, and ornamental grasses.
4. Provide Privacy for Your Hot Tub
By covering the open sides and top with panels or retractable shades, you can soak the day’s stress away in your hot tub — without the worry of prying eyes.
Not only will privacy screens create a sense of tranquil seclusion from the outside world, but they’ll also block the sun’s rays, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors a little longer.
Another way to establish privacy is to attach trellises to cover the pergola’s open spaces. Along these trellises, you can train vining plants to grow, giving you living walls that also enhance your view, increase your property value, boost your mood, and provide shade.
5. Introduce Color and Contrast
Mostly made of wood — think cedar or redwood — other materials to choose from for your pergola design include brick, fiberglass, and vinyl.
While each pergola material brings its own textural addition to a space, fiberglass is the easiest to customize with color (it’s also the most expensive choice).
Brick and wood pergolas also can be painted, like the white pergola pictured above, while vinyl is limited to the color it comes in.
However, if you’re simply looking for a low-maintenance pergola option, vinyl is your best bet. You’ll never have to worry about repainting or staining and vinyl can never be infested with termites.
6. Swing into Relaxation
Upgrade your porch with a pergola swing. What better way to take in your property’s views than by swaying back and forth as the breeze blows by and the sun filters through the slats?
Taking time to relish nature in this way also helps lessen stress and anxiety and improve your overall mood. Commit to further relaxation by allowing the swinging motion to gently rock you to sleep.
7. Designate a Napping Nook
If you’d rather not risk a nap on the front porch in open view of the neighbors, you can set up an outdoor area specifically for sleeping. Attach your pergola along your fence line for privacy or build a freestanding napping space, hanging the hammocks from your pergola’s beams or posts.
Better than an outdoor bedroom setup with an actual bed, hammocks have been shown to help people fall asleep faster and sleep deeper, thanks to the rocking motion they provide.
8. Create a Kids-Only Place
Not enough square footage indoors for a playroom? Take the toys — and the kids who love them — to a pergola clubhouse. Or, give your older ones a place to escape for quiet studying or movie watching on their laptops.
A pergola can be situated atop a child-friendly hardscape, such as soft, shock-absorbing patio tiles, and enclosed with colorful curtains and a retractable pergola roof cover. These add-ons will lend brightness to the space, and they’ll also protect your mini-me’s from wind, rain, and excess sun.
9. Shelter Your Outdoor Kitchen
Make your bar the focal point by installing a small pergola specifically over it; or, keep your cool as you cook by shading the grill area with one.
Come winter, hang curtains and put in a retractable cover so you can protect your costly outdoor kitchen appliances from the elements — and make your dreams of grilling in the snow a reality.
Adding an outdoor kitchen to your home might increase your home’s resale value.
FAQ About Pergolas
If the custom-built option is the way you’d like to go, and you’re not well-versed in building, well, anything yourself, hiring a contractor might be your best option.
The national average cost of a pergola by size:
• 10 feet x 10 feet: $3,000 – $6,000
• 11 feet x 11 feet: $3,630 – $7,260
• 12 feet x 12 feet: $4,320 – $8,640
• 10 feet x 14 feet: $4,200 – $8,400
• 12 feet x 18 feet: $6,480 – $12,960
• 10 feet x 20 feet: $6,000 – $12,000
If you intend to hire a contractor, add an additional $20 to $60 per hour for manual labor. Don’t let the prices deter you.
Besides adding beauty to an outdoor space, other benefits include:
• Enabling vertical gardening
• Providing protection from the sun and other elements
• Acting as a privacy screen
• Extending living rooms from the inside, out
If you’re looking for design ideas to replace your outdoor pergola, consider adding a gazebo, awning, or shade sail in its place.
• Maybe your wooden pergola that covered your outdoor dining area is getting old and you want to try something new. Adding an awning can offer you that same shade while also giving you something different for your outdoor room.
• A gazebo is also a good option, if not a little expensive. Gazebos can grant a lovely section in your yard shade and comfort away from prying eyes.
• For a cheaper alternative, go with a shade sail or two. Attach these to the walls of your house so that they cover your patio area and patio furniture nicely.
The simple answer is yes, depending on where you live. Permits area written form that says an area is safe and stable for construction.
It’s a good idea first to check your local HOA’s guidelines for outdoor structures before you start planning a building project. Also, contact your city’s building development department for local laws and regulations. You might find that you don’t need a permit for your backyard pergola.
When to Call in the Landscaping Pros
For those of you always up for a DIY project, building a pergola may be a perfect fit. If you’re a homeowner who’d rather leave the heavy lifting to someone else, it’s time to call in the pros.
A landscaper can help you choose a location for your pergola, as well as assist with material selection and appropriate sizing. Then, a general contractor can come out to do the actual construction.
Either way, you’ll have the same end result — a spruced-up space you can’t wait to enjoy.
Main Photo Credit: Randy Fath / Unsplash