14 Pergola Ideas That’ll Transform Your Outdoor Space

Paul Pogue
Written by Paul Pogue
Updated December 27, 2021
Large deck overlooking a backyard with a wooden pergola
Photo: Iriana Shiyan / Adobe Stock

Add shade and style to your backyard with a pergola

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If you’re looking for a way to take your outdoor oasis to the next level without sacrificing your comfort or breaking the bank, consider adding a pergola to your backyard. This popular outdoor structure, similar to an arbor and sometimes confused with a gazebo, is usually supported by posts that can be freestanding or attached to your home. With the increasing popularity of outdoor living spaces, a solid pergola structure can even increase a home's value.

We've found 14 cool pergola ideas that represent different styles, sizes, materials, and budgets sure to inspire you.

Garden-Inspired Pergolas

Shaded pergolas were meant to be found amongst the sprawling beauty of a garden. Sit and smell the roses.

1. Freestanding Garden Patio

Dark brown cube-shaped pergola with white Adirondack lounge chairs surrounded by a garden
Photo: feferoni / Adobe Stock

For an interesting geometric look, add a cube-shaped pergola to your backyard. You can choose to paint the structure a dark color to create an extra-shady spot. To complete the look, opt for outdoor wood or wicker furniture that’s dark with cushions or pillows in a lighter color for contrast.

2. Garden Oasis

Wooden pergola with slatted roof housing tropical plants
Photo: Unclesam / Adobe Stock

Plant lovers, this one's for you! Use your pergola to shelter your beautiful plants or bring your bland structure to life by hanging planters from the beams or walls. For some natural (and beautiful!) shade from the sun and showers, grow climbing plants up and across the top of the structure.

3. Open and Airy Lattice

Wooden pergola in backyard with green lattice walls and hanging plants
Photo: imagesab / Adobe Stock

Channel the vibes of an English garden with the design and functionality of lattice sides on a pergola. Paint the lattice with a weather-resistant color to match your home or leave it as is for a more natural look. Either way, it’ll add some sophisticated style to any al fresco sanctuary.

Luxurious Pergola Additions

While a classic pergola structure can help you create a space that’s both stylish and shady, why not customize your plans? Just hire a professional for tough builds and let your imagination run wild.

4. Outdoor Kitchen With An Awning

Pergola with awning housing an outdoor BBQ grill
Photo: keleny / Adobe Stock

Don’t let bad weather tarnish your outdoor kitchen dreams—construct a pergola awning to cover it. You can design the kitchen to simply include a grill and countertops on each side for prep, or you can expand the framework of the pergola to add a fireplace and some bar-height seating.

5. Sleek Pergola with Glass Ceiling

Black pergola with glass ceiling housing an outdoor kitchen and dining set
Photo: brizmaker / Adobe Stock

If you love having an open pergola that doesn't block your view of the summer sky but you want to avoid the worry of tree debris and inclement weather, install glass panels on the roof.

6. Island Escape With Thatched Cover

Secluded pergola on a platform with a thatched roof
Photo: Stewart / Adobe Stock

For an authentic island feel, build a thatched roof over your pergola for some cool shade. You can use cables to support the vines and vegetation, or simply use the slats. For a bit more magic, wrap LED lights around the side and cross support at the front.

7. Poolside Pergola

Dark, modern pergola with patio furniture under it next to a pool
Photo: mathilde / Adobe Stock

After taking a dip in the pool, relax under the shade of a poolside pergola. You can keep it simple by adding a few lounge chairs and a table, or deck it out with a fireplace and full outdoor kitchen.

8. Modern Urban Rooftop

Modern pergola made of metal on top of a building
Photo: I-Wei Huang / Adobe Stock

If you live in an urban area with no backyard, don’t fret! You can turn your sun-soaked rooftop into an oasis with a pergola. For a softer look, construct a classic pergola structure made of wood and incorporate lights and plenty of hanging planters and potted plants. To complement the urban landscape, opt for a bare modern metal structure that’ll perfectly frame your city view.

9. Rustic Grecian Pillared Pergola

White Grecian pergola with pillars and a statue
Photo: Poliorketes / Adobe Stock

Construct a patio fit for a Greek God in your own backyard. To achieve this design look, paint the columns of your pergola white to mimic the look of Grecian columns.

Small Design and Decor Updates

Maximize your time spent hanging out under your pergola by adding accessories that encourage you to stay awhile.

10. Boho Light Fixtures

White pergola with seven woven lanterns in different shapes
Photo: Melanie / Adobe Stock

Shifting the look of an outdoor hangout from day to night requires a single key element: lighting. If you’re looking for a more interesting way to illuminate your pergola, hang a mix of light fixtures like pendants or woven lanterns from the top of the structure for a dramatic look.

11. Keep It Cool With a Fan

Pergola with bamboo roof and an outdoor ceiling fan
Photo: vladdeep / Adobe Stock

Make your pergola oasis an extension of your home interior by adding a ceiling fan to it. It’ll make entertaining and relaxing on hot summer days a breeze.

12. Hammock and Chill

Wooden pergola with intricate white hammock
Photo: Nataraj / Adobe Stock

A pergola is the perfect hangout spot to get some rest and soak up Vitamin D. The only thing that could make it better is by adding a warm-weather must-have: a hammock. They’re available in a wide variety of colors and prints so you’ll have plenty of options—just make sure to check whether your pergola can support the hammock and your weight before you go shopping.

13. Dreamy Daybed

Wooden pergola with roof that has a hanging daybed
Photo: murmakova / Adobe Stock

Hammocks are always a solid option, but for those that love to lounge outdoors in warmer weather, an outdoor daybed is the way to go. To select the right one for your pergola space, check out the size of the space, decide whether your pergola structure can support a hanging daybed, decide who's going to use it most, and then buy accordingly. You'll get all the comforts of being in bed, plus the serene vibes from being outdoors.

14. Romantic and Curtained

Pergola with a white roof and white sheer curtains surrounded by flowers
Photo: Emoji Smileys People / Adobe Stock

Don’t you love the thought of being at a fancy poolside resort where you can sit in a cozy cabana and sip on cool cocktails all day? Bring a secluded cabana feel to your own backyard by upgrading your pergola with a set of outdoor curtains. You can choose a thicker fabric that matches the color of your outdoor furniture, or go for a sheer lightweight fabric that’ll give your space a whimsical vibe.

What You Need to Consider For Your Pergola Design

You can outfit your pergola with table settings, chaise lounges, even wet bars, windows, lighting, garden boxes, and sound systems to make it into the alfresco sanctuary of your dreams. 

Before jumping into a pergola project, you need to consider some essential details. Among them:  

  • Location: Think about whether you want to design a pergola attached to a deck, add one to your house or next to a pool, or build a pergola around a tree. You can even place your pergola in a specific direction for optimal shade.

  • Budget: The average cost of a pergola is $10 to $60 per square foot. The two biggest expenses will be labor and materials. If you have a small budget, plan carefully and use your DIY skills.

  • Materials: Pergolas can come in all different materials including hardwood, plywood, vinyl, metal, fabric, and glass.

  • Construction: Those with some construction experience can create their own structure or use a pergola kit. If construction isn’t your forte, hire a patio and pergola contractor.

  • Building codes and zoning laws: Most outdoor structures require the approval of a building inspector, check your local guidelines and zoning laws in advance to avoid setbacks.

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