A Guide to the Best Pergola Design Ideas

pergola and patio

Spaces Images/Getty Images

More Than Just an Outdoor Roof

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 is flat. The terms arbour and pergola are often used interchangeably, but an arbour is more of a structure used to support vines or to direct foot traffic within a garden.

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. Before jumping into a pergola project, consider the following:

    • Location
    • Orientation: North, south, east, or west facing.
    • Ventilation
    • Architectural style of house
    • Materials: These can include hardwood to plywood, metals, prefabricated materials, fabric, and glass.
    • Budget: The two biggest expenses will be labour 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 office should have guidelines on setback 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 year. Committees sometimes meet sporadically, and applications can fall through the cracks.

We’ve found 25 diverse pergolas that represent different styles, sizes, materials, and budgets certain to inspire you!

Cedar and Reclaimed Barn Wood

sweet pea design pergola

Sweet Pea Design

After completing the interior renovations of this charming, 1920s-era home in Chicago’s northern suburbs, the Sweet Peas Design team added a limestone patio sheltered by a natural cedar pergola trimmed with reclaimed barn wood. The pergola anchors and defines a curvaceous patio and rear entry while providing architectural interest, texture, and heft. The natural cedar, which will turn grey over time, is a rustic complement to the vintage bricks of this nearly 100-year-old home, while the barn wood is echoed in the shutters on the carriage house.

Southwestern Patio

pergola and patio

Forte Homes

Connecting to three exterior walls of this Chandler, Arizona-based home, the rugged-beamed pergola shelters this area into a courtyard-style patio. Not only does it unify the area, the roof helps to cool down rooms inside, helping to cut down on air conditioning use. The home was designed and built by Forte Homes.

Cleveland Contemporary

modern patio and pergola

9th Avenue Designs

While the architectural style of this house in the Cleveland, Ohio suburb of Pepper Pike is considered traditional, its back garden and pergola are contemporary or even modern. Designed by ​9th Avenue Designs, the pool is rectangular, the landscaping echoes or frames the pool and patio, and the pergola is flat and simple. A sleek, modern outdoor sectional, rectangular fire pit and slat tables make this a clean, inviting space.

Outdoor Dining

pergola ideas

Michele Lee Willson Photography

Built between two outside walls, this pergola takes on an arbour-like role in that it supports vines and a New Zealand tree fern (which resembles a feathered palm). Constructed by Bay Area Construction Homes, the home is located in Atherton, California.

Midcentury Ranch Pergola

pergola design

CJ South / Exactly Designs

Space between the new addition of this Detroit-area house and the garage became a deck. Homeowner Elin Walters of Exactly Designs added a partition wall to block her family’s view of their next-door neighbours and serve as a window treatment for the sliding door. The pergola ceiling is made of plumbing pipe, while the house, partition, and garage are faced in cement board.

Light-Filtering Pergola

pergola design

Tom Olcott

Designed by Emeritus ​in Nantucket, Massachusetts, this pergola helps define the south-facing outdoor space, which is located directly off the interior living areas and filters the strong southern light. The pergola also serves to animate the space as the sun moves from east to west throughout the day.

Pergola in Paradise

maui pergola

Tropical Light Photography

On the southwestern shores of Maui, this Makena Beach home designed and built by Architectural Design & Construction, Inc. features seamless transitions from indoors to outdoors. Not surprisingly, from any angle, the view is breathtaking—whether it’s the turquoise sea, lush tropical trees, or carefully selected native plants throughout the landscape. Supported by stone-covered posts, the wood beams and rafters are flat, simple, horizontal, and do not block that view. The architect was Nishikawa Architects, Inc. and interior designer was Ahura Designs.

Hot Tub Hideaway

pergola for hot tub

Paradise Restored

While this pergola doesn’t project too far from the back of the house, it does serve an important purpose: It provides shelter and privacy for the homeowners’ hot tub. Designed and built by Paradise Restored, the Portland, Oregon garden was completely redesigned to incorporate separate areas of activity that blend effortlessly.

Greenwich Pergola

pergola ideas

Nathaniel Cooper

While an overhead is practical, it also creates a dynamic architectural element to a landscape. Luminosus Designs’ simple wooden pergola makes the outdoor dining area more intimate while providing shelter.

Indoor/Outdoor Transition

pergola design ideas

Bernard André / Meridith Baer Home

Walk a straight line from the back garden through the dining room/den to the terrace/veranda and you won’t be interrupted by any doors. The terrace is clearly an extension of the open interior, protected by a pergola. Furnishings were designed by the internationally recognized firm Meredith Baer Home.

Pergola in a Petite Space

pergola and pool

Andrea Calo Photography

Austin, Texas Architect Elizabeth Baird cleverly worked around the challenge of a small space by incorporating a casita (pool house), pool/spa, patio, deck, built-in seating, and a pergola. The custom-built steel trellis was welded from steel pipe, with part of it sitting on a custom wood and concrete bench. The challenge of working with a limited space: smart design and creating levels or using vertical space.

Shady in Austin

pergola in austin

Casey Dunn Photography

Austin architectural firm Webber Studio designed a pergola that extends from the back-exterior wall of the house, using the same materials and colours. Ideally, a pergola and outdoor space are designed at the same time as the house, and everything relates. Lime green chairs provide a pop of colour to the subtle taupe/brown and tan of the structure.

Urban Escape

pergola ideas

Arjan Boekel

In Amsterdam, where outdoor space is tight, a basement door leads to an outdoor living room sheltered by a pergola. Designed by Arjan Boekel, the outdoor space is an even mix of plants and hardscape. The pergola is covered with outdoor shade cloth, and lights were added for evening use.

Desert Beauty

desert pergola

Beau MacDonnell

For this Arizona back garden, Elle Interiors handled everything from furniture selections and placements to materials and overall exterior design schemes and plans. The firm is well-versed in plants and trees suitable for the Arizona climate. Cushions and pillows in jewel tones help to create a stunning outdoor oasis.

Custom Shades

pergola with shade

Dian Garbarini

Instead of using the standard 2 by 2 foot slats that tend to warp, Dian Garibaldi of Designs by Dian’s solution was custom-fabricated fixed Roman solar shading panels that provide filtered shade. Made of Phifer shading material, the panels block out about 90 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. To clean, just hose off as needed. The panels also help to cool down the home’s interior, saving energy by cutting down on air conditioner use.

Tranquil Space

rattan pergola

Jodi G Designs

Santa Barbara, California-based Jodi G Designs focuses on interiors and landscapes—a growing necessity in California and other warm climates, where outdoor spaces need just as much design and detail as interiors. This is Jodi’s home in nearby Montecito, which is a Balinese-style retreat. Thatch-roofed palapa/pergolas give authenticity to the rainforest-like landscape, which features lush, tropical plants and places to meditate and relax.

Modern Pergola

pergola ideas

Dale Alocock Homes

Inspired by the Midcentury modern style, materials, and colours, this outdoor space by Dale Alcock Homes in Perth, Australia features an inset concrete block feature and pergola with panels that allow light to shine through.

Wild West

western pergola

David Wakely

A rustic, California ranch-style home designed by the Carlson Design Group and ​built by Carroll & Strong Builders incorporates a wood-beam pergola under the tile roof that cools off the porch. The house is located in Santa Lucia.

Mountain High

pergola ideas

HighCraft Builders

Designed and built by HighCraft Builders, this charming, cosy country house in the foothills of Loveland, Colorado features a cross-beam pergola decorated with string lights for simple gatherings to dine or gather around the fire pit.

Kitchen Pergola

kitchen pergola

9th Avenue Designs

In order to be used for as many months as possible, 9th Avenue Designs created this custom-built outdoor kitchen in Cleveland, Ohio with a pergola and fireplace, which provide warmth and shelter as the homeowners grill and dine.

California Dreamin’

beach pergola

Meghan Beierle-O’Brien

For a California coastal house with an ocean view, Smith Firestone Associates designed an outdoor room with a clean, flat-roofed pergola in soft greys and off-white.

Solid Cover

pergola pictures

HighCraft Builders

Supported by posts sunk into stone pedestals, this solid pergola from HighCraft Builders is illuminated with light strands to coax people outdoors in the evening.

Private Porch and Pergola


Mariko Reed Photography

Architectural firm Zero Ten Design collaborated with landscape architects Randy Theume Design, ZFA Structural Engineers, and Beaman Construction for a contemporary farmhouse in Napa, California. This gazebo is off the master bedroom, providing a private retreat on the covered deck.

Solarium and Pergola

solarium and pergola

Darragh Hehir

A rooftop deck in Milan, Italy includes a solarium with an attached pergola that supports climbing vines. Walls are painted in plum–repeating accents throughout the interior of this modern urban home. Courtesy of Darragh Hehir Photography.

Quad Scotia Beams

pergola ideas

HighCraft Builders

The ends of beams or rafters in a pergola have names to identify how they are cut. Most are designed to complement a home’s architectural style. This particular cut, from HighCraft Builders, is a quad Scotia.

By Lisa Hallett Taylor