A pergola can be the perfect fit for those who wish to add a little living space outdoors. Depending on the style, it can shelter you from sun, wind, and rain. 

In general, pergolas have posts, beams, and rafters. They can be attached to the house or be built as a freestanding structure. Some people get pergolas confused with gazebos, but pergolas have flat roofs while gazebos are pitched.

23 Pergola Design Ideas

If you are considering adding a pergola to reinvent your backyard, you can’t go wrong with one of these 23 design styles.

Attached to the House

metal pergola attached to house

Having a pergola that attaches to the house on one or more sides may be the best way to maximize your outdoor space. By attaching it, it can feel like more of an extension of your house, and it can be added over an existing patio just outside the back door. 

Depending on the size of your attached pergola, you may not need all four posts. An attached pergola may not be suitable for a DIY project as it will be directly affixed to your house. 

No Frills Modern Style

modern metal pergola with outdoor seating

For those that prefer a contemporary design style, the simple lines of the modern pergola will probably be a safe choice. Those who want to incorporate a backyard fixture to seamlessly tie in with the clean, straight modern lines will likely prefer something that isn’t too ornamental. 

The use of straight posts, a flat top, and simple brackets keep the lines clean. Some modern styles also have a full roof as opposed to the traditional pergola slats. Whether you go with a natural wood color or paint it white, a no-frills modern style will be an excellent addition to a contemporary backyard.

A Pergola for the Corner

If you have a small or oddly shaped backyard, you may think a pergola is out of the question, but you may not have considered installing a corner style. These triangular-shaped structures give you all of the style and drama of the traditional shape, but they can fit into a tighter space. 

You can find corner styles that are attached to the home or that are freestanding. They can make a great spot for some seating in the corner of your garden or on the edge of a backyard pool. 

Weather Protection with a Glass Roof

glass-topped pergola over a car port

If you live in a region that has a lot of rainy days, you may need more than the traditional pergola slats to keep your outdoor space usable. Many people opt for a glass (or plexiglass) roof over their pergola. These can be designed with the glass in place, or it can be added later. 

Adding a roof gives you the freedom to enjoy your outdoor living space even on days when the weather is not cooperating. Places like the Pacific Northwest where there seem to be more rainy days than sunny will likely want a roof to keep things dry making the glass-topped pergola a sure choice.

Cedar Wood Pergolas

wooden pergola on a wood deck

Opting for a pergola made from cedar wood can be an excellent option both for its beauty and durability. Being out in the weather takes a toll on outdoor furniture and structures, but cedar’s unique properties make it able to withstand decay caused by the elements. Plus, it is naturally bug-resistant as well. 

In addition, cedar is also very strong wood. It doesn’t tend to sag or warp as it ages which will keep your pergola looking great for years to come. As cedar wood ages, it takes on a silvery gray sheen which can be quite beautiful.

Sheer Pergola Curtains

There is no rule that says you can’t accessorize your pergola! Adding sheer curtains to the unattached sides of your structure can take it from lovely to outstanding. Plus, they give you a level of privacy which can be a nice touch if you live in a busy neighborhood.

Sheer curtains can also be used to block out the worst of the sun’s rays and cut down on the wind blowing through your structure. Sheer curtains come in various colors and styles to help match the decor of your outdoor furniture or paint choices.

Hot Tub Hideaway

hot tub underneath a wooden pergola

When relaxing in your hot tub, you probably want a modicum of privacy which can be difficult when you live in a modern neighborhood. Adding a privacy pergola around your spa can give you the privacy you crave while maintaining a lovely design in your backyard living space. 

Cedar is likely a good option for this type of pergola because it is resistant to moisture and humidity. The cedar beams won’t warp or crack being near the steam rising off of your hot tub thus your pergola will last longer.

Sustainable Bamboo

Bamboo pergolas are a great option for anyone that has an Asian-inspired garden or decor style. Plus, bamboo is a sustainable material making it a greener option as well. Since it grows to full size in a matter of months, bamboo is considered a more eco-friendly pergola than one made from a hardwood. 

The pergola itself will be lighter than one made of wood, but it will still be strong and durable. Processing bamboo is also greener since it doesn’t require chemical treatments to keep pests away as it is naturally resistant.

Add a Little Greenery

pergola with greenery on top

If you really want to add some style to your outdoor space (while also adding shade under your pergola), adding climbing vines to the posts and slats of your structure is a great idea. The vines will create a canopy while adding natural beauty.

There are a few vines that will work better than others, including Boston Ivy, Virginia Creeper, Bougainvillea, and Chinese Wisteria. One thing to consider when planting vines is that they are often aggressive plants and can choke the rest of your garden if you don’t prune it appropriately.

Stenciled Floor

When it comes to pergola designs, people mostly think about the roof or the structure itself. However, you can also add the wow factor by giving the floor a little pizzazz. If your pergola is over a concrete patio, you can add a lovely design with a stencil and some outdoor paint.

There are a lot of stencils for purchase online including places like Etsy, Amazon, and even Home Depot. Most DIY experts recommend using a primer and paint meant for exterior spaces and starting with the lighter color first. It is easier to put a darker color on top of a lighter color rather than vice versa. 

Make It a Bar

Do you like to entertain? Then why not turn your pergola into your own personal bar? You can go all out with a wet bar, barstools, and a TV for watching the big game, or you could keep things a bit more simple with a makeshift bar that holds a cooler. 

Installing a full bar like the one pictured above will likely require a plumber and an electrician. Since it will be outside and open to the elements, you want a professional to ensure that you won’t ruin your TV or run the risk of shocking yourself.

Your Outdoor Fireplace

outdoor living area with fire pit and white pergola

In many parts of the world, an outdoor fireplace can be used all year long, which makes it a great add to your backyard pergola. You can choose to install a traditional fireplace made of brick or stone, complete with a chimney, or you can go with a fire pit or fire ring style. 

If you will be opting for a fire pit or other wood-burning design, be sure that the roof of your pergola is far enough away from the open flame. You may want to consult with a design expert to ensure everyone’s safety when installing your fireplace or pit. 

Reclaimed Wood Pergola

For those that prefer a more rustic vibe a reclaimed wood pergola is a great choice. It adds a certain charm to the outdoor space not found with freshly cut timber. Reclaimed wood is also an eco-friendly choice as it prevents new trees from being cut to build your structure.

Wood that is more than 100 years old is a great choice when it comes to making things from reclaimed woods. Wood at this age would have a tighter grain, and it is more resistant and durable. 

Poolside Pergola

wood pergola beside a swimming pool

If you spend your summer months splashing in your pool, adding a pergola to your pool deck can be a great way to give you a little refuge of shade on those blistering summertime days. A structure made from timber can also give you a bit of UV protection by blocking out some of the rays. 

You can build your pergola next to your pool or even over your pool if you have the space. If your pool deck is already existing, you will likely want to consult a professional to ensure that you do not damage your pool when installing your pergola posts. 

Outdoor Dining Room

outdoor dining space under a pergola

If you love to dine al fresco, then adding an outdoor dining area under your pergola is an excellent choice. Depending on the climate in your area, you can opt for a pergola with a full roof or a slatted roof. 

There is plenty of outdoor dining table options available in home furnishing stores and online. If your pergola has a slatted roof, you will want to find weather-resistant furniture, and it may need to be painted or sealed at regular intervals. 

Pergola Ceiling Shades

Adding retractable shades or canopy to your pergola offers a dynamic solution to the midday sun. You can have complete control over how much shade you want at any given time, and these types of shades are often easy to remove should the need arise. 

When choosing a shade for your pergola, look for a material that offers UV protection. You will block the worst of the sun’s heat while still enjoying the breezes and fresh air. You will find that your pergola stays significantly cooler, and you may even be able to cut down on glare. 

Mid-Century Modern Design

mid-century modern outdoor living space design

Mid-century modern refers to the design style popular in the mid-1940s lasting until the 60s when North America was booming both in population and economy. This design style has unique characteristics including clean lines, graphic shapes, and pops of vibrant colors. 

It is a design style that works really well in the outdoor setting — especially poolside. You can find pergola designs that give off the mid-century vibe, and once you pair them with the appropriate furniture, you can have a knock-out living space in your backyard!

Rustic Pergola Design

No rule says your pergola must have a highly polished design! There are plenty of options when it comes to something a bit more rustic such as the option above made with freshly cut logs that have not been milled and thus retain their more natural shape. 

Rustic designs like this are often built to appear like the wood is freestanding by hiding the bolts using a countersunk method. Wood plugs can also be used to hide the screws or other fasteners to give it a truly rustic feel.

Sparkling Fairy Lights

pergola with small lights

Decor for your pergola doesn’t have to be difficult. You can completely transform the look of your structure by adding a few strings of fairy lights. It will give your outdoor space a magical feel.

When choosing your lights, be sure to purchase ones that are meant for exteriors. There are plenty of different types on the market in different sizes and shapes. You can even purchase LED versions that allow you to change the hue of the light with a remote or even your smartphone.

Complete Roof

A pergola with a solid roof allows you to enjoy your outdoor space rain or shine. You can create the roof out of the same material as the pergola structure or use something else like thatch or metal. 

Before adding a solid roof to an existing pergola, you need to make sure that the structure can bear the weight. This is especially true of a freestanding pergola as a solid wood roof may be too much weight for the supports to handle. Going with a lighter roof like aluminum may be a better option.

Glass It In

You can turn a pergola into a sunroom by glassing it in! There are different options when it comes to glazing your pergola, including making the glass walls and ceiling permanent or adding ones that can be removed. 

Glassing in the pergola is a good way to enjoy the outdoor space without worrying about mosquitos or flies bothering you. However, if you live in a very sunny place or a warm climate, the glasses in space may become too warm to enjoy in the summer months. 

Pergola Turned Outdoor Kitchen

pergola over an outdoor kitchen with people grilling and eating

If you practically live in your backyard for the majority of the year, you might as well cook your meals there too. An outdoor kitchen pergola can sport a simple grill and cooler set-up, or it can be a full kitchen with stove, fridge, and sink. Some people with large backyards add a pergola kitchen and dining room to maximize their outdoor living space.

Installing an outdoor kitchen should be left to the professionals as it will require plumbing, electricity, and maybe even gas lines. 

Cozy Pergola Pod

You can really think outside the box when designing your ideal pergola. This pergola pod makes for a cozy little backyard hideaway perfect for reading a book or enjoying a morning cup of coffee. 

Creating your custom pergola pod design can be a DIY effort, or you can hire a professional to bring your ideas to life. A pod gives you a lot of privacy and is a good option for those with small backyards or who live in busy neighborhoods.

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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