What used to be called a patio roof is now commonly referred to as a pergola―it provides shelter from the sun, rain, and wind while extending your home’s living space. A major architectural structure, pergolas consist of rafters, beams, and posts and can be attached or detached to a house. While opinions vary on what differentiates it from a gazebo, usually a gazebo is freestanding and has a pitched roof, while a pergola’s roof is flat. The terms arbor and pergola are often used interchangeably, but an arbor is more of a structure used to support vines or to direct foot traffic within a garden.
Get Inspired by These Pergola Ideas for Your Backyard
If you have a patio or deck, a rooflike structure will extend the amount of time you spend outdoors entertaining guests or relaxing. With the growing popularity of outdoor living spaces, it can increase a home’s value.
What Is a Pergola?
A pergola is an outdoor structure consisting of columns that support a roofing grid of beams and rafters. This roofing grid may be left open or covered so as to create an area sheltered from the elements. Pergolas may be freestanding or attached to a house.
DIY Options and Pergola Considerations
Before jumping into a pergola project, consider the following:
- Orientation: North, south, east, or west-facing.
- Materials: These can include hardwood to plywood, metals, prefabricated materials, fabric, and glass.
- Budget: The two most significant expenses will be labor and materials. If your budget is limited (and that’s most of us), this is where resourcefulness, smart planning, DIY skills, and creativity come into play.
- Contractor vs. DIY: Who is going to build it? Will it be a do-it-yourself project, or will you hire a contractor? A prefab pergola kit is an alternative.
- Building codes: Also, who is going to design it? Most outdoor structures require 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 sometimes meet sporadically, and applications can fall through the cracks.
- Attached or standalone: Do you want the pergola attached to your deck or standing alone in the yard with nothing but landscaping around it?
We’ve found 25 pergola ideas that represent different styles, sizes, materials, and budgets sure to inspire you.
Extend Your Porch Space
Adding a pergola to your deck or patio not only provides some much-needed shade but architectural interest as well. This all-black version matches the wooden porch perfectly and gives the impression of a larger-than-life outdoor area. A simple bench and a hanging swing attached to one of the beams complete the look.
Opt for Personalized and Private
We love the way this pergola almost feels like a room of its own. While plenty of pergolas typically stick to traditional beams with open space in between and a grid or slat-like top, it’s not unheard of to add walls to the structure for some privacy. Additionally, you can also add a set of curtains that can be pulled closed when you need some alone time, or left open when you want to enjoy the beautiful day.
Use It as the Perfect Garden Entrance
Pergolas can often be found in gardens, and it’s easy to see why. This stunning setup from Lady Landscape has a sturdy structure surrounded by lush greenery, and it looks right at home. The pergola serves as an entrance that leads you to a simple wooden patio and a few comfortable chairs to enjoy the garden views from.
Add Decorative Screens for Personality
Adding covers and screens can give pergolas extra shade, but they can also add a distinct personality. This cozy corner already makes a name for itself with pink and white pillows, bench seating, and plants on either side, yet the leaf print screens really set it apart. While the screens can be mounted to walls, as shown here, they can also be installed at the top of the pergola to give shade and cast gorgeous shadow patterns when the sun hits.
Try a Metal Pergola
Wood is far from the only material that can be used to create a gorgeous pergola, as evidenced by this stunning metal design. While usually bit pricier than wood, other options include fiberglass, vinyl, or even galvanized metal like the one shown here. The plus side of metal is having a unique yard feature, as well as an increased likelihood that it will have a long lifespan.
Embrace White and Wicker
This patio space has a decidedly boho-chic atmosphere thanks to the wicker furniture and lampshades paired with the white pergola and fabrics. The wooden pergola extends out long enough to more than accommodate the seating area and outdoor rug, which can work great for backyards and patio where you only have limited space to work with.
Use as an Extension to the House
Designing a pergola that extends from the back exterior wall of the house using the same materials and colors can be a gamechanger. Ideally, a pergola and outdoor space are designed at the same time as the house, and everything relates. This dark wood pergola connects one portion of the house to the other and blends in so well, you almost don’t notice until you’re closer.
Use Natural Materials for the Win
This outdoor space is perfectly shaded by a pergola made of wood, yet the shade at the top is provided by reed mats that can easily be added or removed for convenience. While pergolas are typically made out of wood (and therefore out of natural materials already), other accents added can make all the difference. The added texture from the mats gives the space a much more relaxed feeling.
Prepare for Any Weather
This desert paradise from Dazey Den is an absolute dream. Several areas are dedicated to different activities, and the white pergola with thick curtains made for the outdoors on all sides is the perfect place to retreat to beat the heat. The space is well-versed in plants and trees suitable for the Arizona climate. Cushions and pillows in vibrant reds and oranges help to create a stunning outdoor oasis.
Create Ambiance via Firepit
Added ambiance is always ideal for a patio or deck setting, and pergolas can provide a great structure to make it happen. This dark wood grid pergola easily holds strings of edition lightbulbs and perfectly shelters a firepit that brings all the charm and comfort you would strive for during a late, chilly evening.
Allow the Ivory to Grow
This larger-than-life pergola is made of steel and is already an attention grabber. The structure is detached from the building yet also effortlessly blends into the rest of the scenery. The designers from Mint Design AU describe it best: “The steel pergola itself is a showstopper but add in some Boston Ivy, and it’s a living piece of art.” By allowing ivy or vines to grow on your pergola, you can give the structure a more natural feel.
Create the Perfect Hideaway
The outdoor area shown here may be an extension of the house but also feels like its own private nook. The pergola stretched across the space allows the small corner to not feel too boxed in, while still providing the perfect hideaway to sit in on the deck.
Make It Personal
Ultimately, your outdoor patio should not only accommodate your needs but also reflect your personality. This large, black pergola with thin slats for the top already sets itself apart, yet the added hanging swing, the hammock, and large piece of art surrounding the space make it feel much more personalized.
Try a DIY Kit
While it makes perfect sense to have a professional build a pergola, there are also plenty of DIY kits that are worth looking into. This setup by Nicole from Fancy Fix Decor is already the perfect entertaining space, and she reveals this pergola was actually a kit that came from Costco—proof that DIY can absolutely be the way to go!
Keep Things Small and Simple
While pergolas can come in plenty of styles, colors, and styles, it often feels as though pergolas can be towering structures taking up large amounts of space. The reality, though, is that you can custom build a pergola to be any size that you want. This pergola perfectly covers the small deck area built into the ground, giving the space a much more defined presence. The perfect sized pergola is the one that fits your needs.
While the classic white, black, and wood combo seems to dominate with pergolas, it doesn’t mean you should avoid other colors. This lively patio area is proof of that—the lush plants, fire bowl, and paper lanterns make the space feel inviting, but the pop of yellow for the pergola truly makes it shine.
Light It Up
Transitioning an outdoor deck or patio from day to night requires one key element—plenty of lighting. Pergolas, in particular, are ideally suited to hold plenty of light, especially if you opt for string lights to easily wrap around or hang from the beams. This pergola from My Dark Home truly lights up the night with plenty of string lights, paper lanterns, and candles across the space, ensuring that the evening outdoors doesn’t end when the sun goes down.
Elevate and Decorate
This outdoor seating area started as a totally empty space until Christine from 31 The Council House decided to change that. The constructed deck sits on top of the gravel, and the black pergola built on top draws the eyes upward and gives the impression of a larger space. The sheer curtains, matching patio furniture, dual plants, string lights, and patterned rug are perfect additions.
Try a Cantilever Pergola
When Emma of Home on the Grove was trying to figure out what to do with an unused section of her patio space, she had plenty to consider. She decided to create zones, and in this area, she wanted a space that would be great to sit and relax in, yet not entirely block the sun. She went with a cantilever pergola, which is attached to two legs rather than the traditional four, giving a much more open feel.
Pergolas often tend to match the same material as the surrounding deck or home, but that doesn’t always need to be the case. Mixing materials can add dimension and texture to your space in a subtle way. This gorgeous pergola area from Becky of Westgate House is a combination of cedarwood, composite decking, and timber, with lighting installed in the seats and outlets constructed behind the pergola. “We created this area to make use of a random corner of our garden that was a mess and had a rogue hill.” She also added, “We wanted a different kind of hang-out space in the garden… one where we could relax in the shade through the day and sit out toasting marshmallows with the kids around the fire on a night.”
Customize for Curb Appeal
It’s no secret that adding a pergola can instantly boost your curb appeal—which is exactly why Julian Porcino of Home Consultant decided to add one to this Spanish-inspired home. Having a pergola custom built can be a bit of an expense, but the possibilities in design and function can be well worth it. Here, a warm wooden version was constructed at an angle to match the design of the home—and naturally, a hanging swing was also a must.
Go for a Poolside Pergola
This large pergola structure truly does make the backyard (and honestly, the house itself) feel incredibly luxurious. The dark wood contrasting against the white home and patio is stunning, and having it positioned near the pool creates a perfect transition from splashing around to sitting back and relaxing later on.
Is it less expensive to buy or build a pergola?
Assuming you have the carpentry or DIY skills, it is less expensive to build a pergola yourself. A small, budget DIY pergola can cost as little as $1,000-2,000 in materials, bearing in mind that the cost will vary depending on the type of materials used and the cost of materials in your area.
How many years do pergolas last?
A wooden pergola has a lifespan of approximately five years. Annual cleaning, staining, and sealing can improve its chances of survival by an additional 10 to 12 years.