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Dreamy Pergola Ideas to Transform Your Backyard

By Sarah Finazzo June 17, 2024

pergola ideas

A pergola is a great addition to any backyard. Not only does it provide shade and a place to relax, but it also adds a touch of style and sophistication to your outdoor space. If you're thinking about adding a pergola to your backyard, you may be wondering where to start.

In this article, we'll take a look at what you should consider before adding a pergola, talk about different types of pergolas, show some inspiration and provide ideas to bring yours to the next level!

Let's dive in and explore inspiring pergola ideas for your backyard!

What to think about when considering a pergola?

When adding a pergola to your backyard, there are several important things to consider. Here are some of the key factors to keep in mind:


What do you want to use your pergola for? Will it be a place to relax, provide shade over a sitting area where you will entertain guests, or cover for a dining area? The purpose of your pergola will help determine the size, location, and design of your structure.


Where will you place your pergola? Consider factors such as the sun's path, wind direction, and proximity to other outdoor features such as a pool, patio, stone wall, or garden. You'll want to choose a location that maximizes shade and comfort while still fitting in with the overall design and layout of your backyard.

Size and Style

Pergolas come in a wide range of sizes and styles, from small, minimalist designs to large, elaborate structures. Consider the size of your backyard and the style of your home when selecting a pergola design that fits seamlessly into your space.


Think about who is doing the installation? Will you be putting your DIY skills to work? Or hiring a team to install.


Finally, consider your budget when planning your pergola project. A pergola can be a great investment in your home's value and your quality of life. There is a large range of different types and costs associated with placing a pergola in your garden or backyard. There will also be installation costs if you aren't DIY'ing this project.

Pergola ideas with lush greenery over a seating area with climbing plants

Different Pergola Designs & Style

A classic pergola has evenly spaced rafters supported by posts, creating an open, airy space. What is right for your space will depend on your climate, budget and needs!

  1. Attached Pergolas: An attached pergola is built onto an existing structure, such as a house, garage, shed or other building. These pergolas can be a great way to extend your outdoor living space, providing shade and a cozy spot to relax.
  2. Freestanding Pergolas: Freestanding pergolas are not attached to the house or any other structure. They can be placed anywhere in your backyard and are often used as a focal point for outdoor entertaining.
  3. Arched Pergolas: Arched pergolas have a curved roof instead of a flat one, creating a more decorative and ornate look. These pergolas can add a touch of elegance to any backyard.
  4. Gazebo: Gazebo are similar to traditional pergolas, but they have a fully enclosed roof and often have walls or screens to create a more intimate and private outdoor space.

pergola ideas next to the house for shade with a wood pergola roof

Different Materials for Pergolas

Pergolas can be made from a variety of materials, each with its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Here are some of the most popular materials used in pergola construction:

  1. Wood: Wood is a classic and popular choice for pergolas, as it is versatile, durable, and adds a natural, rustic look to any backyard. Cedar and redwood are common choices due to their resistance to rot and insects. However, wood pergolas require regular maintenance, such as staining or sealing, to prevent rotting or warping over time.
  2. Metal: Metal pergolas, such as those made from aluminum or steel, are durable and long-lasting, requiring very little maintenance. They can also be customized with different finishes or colors to match your backyard's aesthetic. However, metal pergolas can be more expensive than other materials.
  3. Vinyl: Vinyl pergolas are a low-maintenance and affordable option, as they do not require painting, staining, or sealing. They are also resistant to rot, insects, and moisture. However, vinyl pergolas can be less durable than other materials and may not have the same natural look and feel as wood or metal pergolas.
  4. Fiberglass: Fiberglass is lightweight, durable, and resistant to weather and pests. They are also low-maintenance, requiring only occasional cleaning. However, fiberglass pergolas can be more expensive than other materials, and may not have the same natural look and feel as wood or metal pergolas.

Ultimately, the material you choose will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and the specific requirements of your backyard. Consider factors such as durability, maintenance, and aesthetics when selecting a material that fits your needs.

pergola ideas a cottage pergola design next to raised garden beds

Pergola Inspiration

Check out some pergola ideas from recent Tilly projects across the country!

Multiple Pergolas

Having multiple pergolas in your backyard is a fantastic way to create a diverse and visually striking outdoor living space. By incorporating different features under each pergola, you can create designated areas for entertaining, dining, relaxing in the hot tub, and more.

dark wood pergola designs over a patio area

Pergola Attached for Convenience

A pergola attached to the side of a structure is a stunning way to add character and charm to any home. Whether it's attached to the side of your house, garage, or shed (like this outdoor bar pictured), a pergola creates a beautiful transition between your indoor and outdoor living spaces. With so many different pergola options, it can truly match the architecture of any outdoor structure.

steel pergola creating a shady spot

Over an Outdoor Kitchen

With a pergola overhead, you can enjoy cooking and dining outside, even on hot sunny days. The open design of the pergola allows for natural ventilation, keeping the space cool and comfortable. It also provides a perfect spot for hanging lighting fixtures or other decorative elements, enhancing the ambiance of your outdoor kitchen. Just be careful if you add climbing plants or vines over your structure as many of those will shed or attract birds - which you'll want to be mindful of as you dine or cook.

Wooden pergola with support vines attached to the home's exterior

Al Fresco Dining Area

Enjoy an al fresco dining experience with a beautiful pergola overhead to keep the space cool and comfortable. Again, a pergola is a great way to hang a pendant light so you can see as you enjoy a late night meal. This feature truly makes your outdoors feel like an extension of your home.

potted plants at the base of a cedar pergola

Wooden Pergola with More Shade

A pergola with side slats can provide extra shade and privacy, like they do in this backyard. Privacy can be achieved through wooden slats like in this example or from hanging screens or curtains from the side. The curtains and shades can be opened or closed depending on the sun's rays and comfort level needed in the space.

wooden pergola roof

Covered Seating Area for any Garden Feature

Whether you're looking to create a relaxing retreat or a sophisticated outdoor entertainment area, a pergola can fit any garden or backyard style. It will just depend on your personal preferences!

outdoor living space with seating areas
modern look covered patio pergola idea
Covered pergola over a fire pit or outdoor fireplace
poolside pergola ideas on a patio space
pergola with flowering vines_CAE1
Pergola next to a backyard pool

Outdoor Pergola Styling Tips

There are countless ways to style your pergola. Here are some of our favorites:

  1. Add Planters: You can add planters around the posts of your pergola to bring a pop of color and natural beauty. Choose plants that complement the existing landscape design of your backyard.
  2. Grow Vines: Planting vines that grow up the side of your pergola can create a beautiful, natural canopy that provides shade and privacy. By definition climbing plants are invasive so be careful with what you select. Some with rapid growth habits (Ivy, wisteria, akebia) can get out of hand and take over a garden area. Others are more “well behaved” such as clematis and lonicera.
  3. Hang Curtains: Adding curtains to your pergola can create an intimate space for outdoor dining or relaxing. We love this idea for near a pool when looking to create more shade. Choose lightweight, weather-resistant fabrics that can be easily tied back when not in use.
  4. Install Lighting: Adding string lights or a pendant light to your pergola can create a warm atmosphere for evening gatherings. Consider using solar-powered lights for an eco-friendly option.
  5. Make it an Outdoor Room: A pergola creates a natural ceiling to design a room underneath and create a designated entertaining area within your backyard. Add an outdoor rug and make it a true room you want to spend time in.
  6. Incorporate Furniture: Adding furniture to your pergola can make it a comfortable and inviting outdoor living space. Choose weather-resistant furniture that complements the style of your pergola and provides ample seating and lounging options.

By incorporating some of these ideas, you can create a beautiful and functional outdoor space that you'll love spending time in.

outdoor structure consisting of a pergola over a dining space

About Tilly

Tilly’s easy online landscape design process has been embraced by homeowners across the country. Tilly breaks packages into the Front Yard, Backyard or Full Yard. We match you with a professional landscape designer who is familiar with your region to create the perfect custom plan for your outdoor space.

To start our process you’ll fill out a questionnaire about your property that helps our design team understand your goals, needs and existing landscape. You can add 3d renders, lighting plans or side yards to your design package. You’ll then meet with your designer on a video call, show them your space and discuss your priorities.

Whether you are just looking to add some curb appeal or transform your entire backyard - we have a team for you!

Read more about: Landscape Design Tips