The pergola in your backyard is an enhancement to your curb appeal that allows you to spend more time outdoors and extends your living space. 

It adds an opportunity to enjoy your backyard while offering shade and beauty. Your pergola lets you enjoy your patio even when the sun is high and it may even protect you when it’s raining.

Styling your pergola helps create a personality or mood for your backyard. You can work with a landscape professional to customize yours, or you can purchase a ready-made kit. 

Here are 14 great ideas on how you can decorate your pergola.

#1: Paint it a New Color

assorted-color paintbrushes

Painting your pergola is the quickest way to give it a new look. If you’re leaning towards a more traditional look, paint it a wood, tan, or another natural color. 

For a more trendy look, paint it white or something vibrant.

If you decide to paint your pergola, use acrylic paint, which is long-lasting and weather resistant. 

Paint should be done when humidity is low and the season is dry, so the paint dries quickly. This will prevent you from trapping water particles in the paint which makes it brittle and prone to crack later on.

After you apply a couple of coats of paint to the pergola, apply water sealant to protect your work and keep it shiny.

#2: Install a Swing

Sonyabecca Hammock Chair Macrame Swing 265 Pound Capacity Handmade Knitted Hanging Swing Chair for Indoor/Outdoor Home Patio Deck Yard Garden Reading Leisure Lounging (Not Included Cushion or Pillow)

Make your pergola an even more enticing space to kick back and take it easy by installing a swing. 

First, reinforce the pergola to make sure it can carry the weight of the swing and people using it. 

Then, attach the swing to the beams to make sure it’s fully supported. The swing’s weight limit will be determined by the size of the swing and the size of the pergola’s beams.

#3: Add More Shade with a Cover

Alion Home 8' x 12' Waterproof Woven Sun Shade Sail in Vibrant Colors (8 ft x 12 ft Retangle) (Burgundy Red)

A pergola cover adds shade as well as character and privacy. It will still make your pergola usable even when it’s raining or snowing.

There are several types of material you can use for your pergola cover. Fabric covers are less costly and easy to put on and remove. 

Just make sure you tie the cover on with some rope and grommets, and you may even want to secure the cover to the ground.

Another option is to install retractable awnings on your pergola that you can open when you need more sun or close when you want more shade.

You can also opt to cover the top of the pergola and the sides for increased privacy. You can even DIY it by installing curtain rods and put up curtains, or purchase ready-made ones.

#4: Add String Lights

string lights

If you use your pergola more often at night, it would be helpful to add heavy-duty outdoor string lights.

You’ll get more light for activities, but you’ll also enhance the beauty of your backyard. String lights provide soft lighting that makes the space look magical and whimsical.

To determine how many lights you need, make sure you measure your pergola’s dimensions. As these types of fairy lights are popular both indoors and outdoors, it is imperative that you check which type you are purchasing.

#5: Make it Green with Potted Plants

shallow focus photography of green leafed plant

Create a garden within your backyard by adding potted plants in and around your pergola. You can add more shade by planting strawberries, vines, or some other type of climbing plant to cover the top of your pergola.

Plants you grow in your pergola may not get as much sun so make sure you select plants that don’t need too much direct sunlight to thrive. They also may not get as much rain, so it will be up to you to provide enough water, so your plants don’t get dehydrated.

#6: Create an Outdoor Dining Room

dining table and chairs set in the middle of the woods

Hang a chandelier on your pergola, set up an outdoor dining table and chairs, and voila – you can have your alfresco dining experience every night of the week.

If you add a wet bar and covered grill, you can prepare meals right there without having a full kitchen.

Enhance the ambiance of your outdoor dining with music from a sound system set up in your pergola. Choose speakers that are the same shade as your pergola, so they blend in!

#7: Hang a Hammock

Patio Watcher 11 FT Quick Dry Hammock Bamboo Wood Spreader Bars Outdoor Patio Yard Poolside Beach Hammock with Chain Hanging Kits, Waterproof and UV Resistance, Dark Blue

There is nothing more perfect than spending a lazy summer day lounging on a hammock in your backyard with a glass of cold lemonade and a good book.  

Easy to install — hook up a hammock to two sides of your pergola, and you’re good to go.

#8: Build Some Planters

El Patio Designs Adjustable Hanging Planter: Wrap Around Square Container for Flowers and Herbs. Design Outdoor Vertical Gardens on Porch Posts, Pergolas, Mailboxes and More.

Create an herb garden, a succulent garden, or whatever type of mini garden you wish by building some planters around your pergola. You could also create privacy walls out of your pergola planter boxes!

Building your planters around your pergola also allows you to save space. These planters are pretty inexpensive to make and can be made from on-hand materials like wooden crates or concrete blocks. If you want an earthy look, you can have them made from rocks and stones.

#9: Suspend Plant Hangers

green plant

Using plant hangers is another way to add some greenery to your pergola and your backyard. Plus, using plant hangers saves space! 

For a summery feel, plant colorful flowers in your hangers.

If you have potted plants you’d like to hang, you can use these as well. Just bore small metal hooks into your pergola beams. Next, attach some metal wire hangers to your pots by drilling them into the sides of the pots. 

Hang them by hooking the hooks to the wire hangers. Remember to choose species that thrive in a lower light setting since the pergola structure will block some of the rays.

If you want to get creative, you can use old bottles as vases and place your favorite flowers inside. Tie some string or twine around the bottle and hang them from the pergola beams. You can replace them with different fresh flowers as needed, giving them a different look each time.

#10: Build a Fire Pit


Ideal for pergolas with an open-top, building a fire pit lets you create a cozy atmosphere if you opt to use your pergola during cold evenings.

Pro Tip: Do not install a fire pit in your pergola if there is not enough ventilation because you can suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning if one is used in a place that doesn’t let the smoke out sufficiently.

Before purchasing a fire pit, check the regulations in your city for which styles are allowed. Once you have purchased your fire pit, make sure to place it in an area where there is enough clearance – no overhanging branches and leaves from surrounding trees. 

Ensure it is also far away enough from your house and always keep a fire extinguisher in the area. For safety, you should have enough space for people to walk around the fire pit and move furniture around the fire pit if needed.

#11: Hang Paper Lanterns

white and red paper lanterns

Hang paper lanterns at different heights on the beams of your pergola. 

For a classic look, go with white paper lanterns, but you could go with other hues if you’re looking to add a pop of color to your backyard or to match flowers you have in your garden. 

You can also hang wisteria alongside the paper lanterns to pull the look together. 

#12: Create a Boho Vibe

blue swimming pool near brown wooden fence during daytime

The boho look doesn’t have to be limited to décor in your house – you can use this for the space covered by your pergola as well. 

Use decorations, chairs, and tables that give off a bohemian vibe.  Add some throws, cushions, and rugs to make the area more comfortable and cozy. 

Keep the colors neutral and earthy, and install some soft lighting so the place can be utilized even when the sun sets.

#13: Put In Some Outdoor Lighting

shallow focus photography of clear glass and silver chandelier

For a pop of color, hang a colored metal lantern on your pergola to add some ambient lighting to the space. Or, if you have enough space, use some floor lanterns that you can place anywhere under the pergola. 

An additional way to add some lighting is to use candle lanterns for a romantic glow.

The power source is one consideration you need to make when deciding on which type of lanterns to use. You can opt to use solar-powered lanterns, which you can place anywhere as long as the sun can charge its panel. 

Or you can go for battery-powered lanterns that can run for hours before you have to charge them again.

Outdoor lighting is made from various materials such as wood, copper, or glass. They also come in different designs and colors to fit the look you’re going for.

#14: Install a Ceiling Fan

allen + roth Valdosta 20-in Brushed Nickel Indoor/Outdoor Ceiling Fan (3-Blade)

Installing a ceiling fan can create a cooling breeze that adds to your guests’ comfort during those hot summer nights. 

Summer also means mosquitoes are out on the prowl, and an outdoor fan can keep these pests at bay! To add lighting to the space, you can also purchase an outdoor fan that comes with lights.

Make Your Backyard Pergola Your Oasis

With a little bit of creativity, you can turn your backyard pergola into a delightful oasis where you will want to lounge for hours. Lights, plants, and decor can turn a simple structure into a stunning beauty.

Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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