4 Outdoor Pergola Design Tips

outdoor seating area with modern pergola design

An outdoor pergola is a functional and aesthetic addition to the outdoor space of any home. Outdoor pergolas are rather easy to assemble and can be built as a part of DIY home-based projects. A pergola is used for decorating the outdoors and creating a shaded seating space. You can use a pergola for a more specific purpose, i.e., creating an embellished house entrance.

Essentially, all pergolas act as the focal point in the outdoor space to a large extent. Thus, it is vital to have a basic understanding of designing outdoor pergolas to ensure that the outdoor space is utilized in the best and aesthetically pleasing manner. Use the following tips to understand and choose a pergola design:

1. Freestanding Pergola Designs

These pergolas are the most flexible in terms of placement. They can be installed in any part of the yard, part of the patio space, or around the pool. Making such pergolas puts forth greater time and cost considerations. This is mainly because the freestanding structure means that they rest upon four sturdy posts. Wooden posts are usually used for this purpose. This also involves a bit more woodworking skills to balance the pergola.

Rectangular freestanding pergolas are the conventional option in this niche, but you can also establish slightly curved edges. Choose the space for a freestanding pergola with care. Establishing such a pergola near the walls can render the space between the posts and walls useless.

wood pergola with outdoor seating area

2. Attached are Pergola Designs

Attached pergolas are a common option in the niche of residential pergola designs. These pergolas are also easier to make since they use an existing structure of the house as support. While the supporting structure anchors one end, the other end is secured with posts. Lesser posts mean lesser expense on lumber and decreased woodworking requirements.

An attached pergola should match its supporting/surrounding surfaces. For instance, if the pergola is near stone or brick surfaces, unfinished wooden pergola posts aren't the best option. You would need to paint or stain the pergola posts to ensure that they appear complementary to the surrounding landscape.

pergola attached to a house

3. Tips for Embellishing Outdoor Pergolas

You can give even the most humble-looking pergolas an embellished appearance by adding climbing plants, like vines. The presence of flowering plants also softens the look of bigger pergolas that can sometimes have a rigid appearance.

Along with directing the climbing plants along the body of the pergola, you can add hanging baskets of flowering plants from the top of the pergola. More decorative options include hanging chimes from and decorative strings along with the pergola posts.

You can cover the posts with drapes to neutralize their functional look and establish a more aesthetic appeal. Other options include establishing slightly curved arbor tops. A functional-cum-decorative addition can be attaching a small swing at one end of the pergola.

4. Pergola Design Basics: Materials & Basic Designing Precautions:

Though many retailed pergola kits are made of synthetic and metallic materials, hardwoods are the best option. Woods like redwood and cedar combine durability with a visual appeal. Hardwoods like cedar usually don’t warp, needing minimal care.

Pergola’s height shouldn’t exceed the windows as this can block the natural daylight entering the home’s interiors. However, if establishing a taller pergola is inevitable, use widely-spaced planks of wood to create the roof. This ensures sufficient daylight, along with creating the semblance of a pergola roof. This is often referred to as a lattice-like structure for the pergola roof.

Choose climbing plants like vines with care since they have different growing needs. While morning glories are light plants and need minimal support to grow, you should use heavy vines like wisteria only among sturdy pergolas made of heavy wood due to their additional weight.