We’re beginning to feel it in the air and see it on the trees. Summer is coming. We spend our Saturday mornings weeding the garden and mowing the lawn before the sun gets too hot and then host parties on the patio once the stones cool off. It is time to start thinking of ways to decorate your pergola and of being outdoors.
At least those of us lucky enough to own a patio are hosting parties. We’re putting up a pergola on our patio this summer and I’ve discovered some gorgeous ways to make your pergola feel like home. Check out these 25 ways to decorate your pergola and suddenly, you’ll want to spend all your hours outside this summer.
What Is a Pergola?
Pergolas are beautiful garden structures usually constructed of wood and used to create an airy breezeway with shade that can be used as either a walkway or a sitting area. Many pergolas are designed to be used together with vining plants that are grown over the pergola to form a living canopy.
Pergolas can be designed to be either completely covered or open, and their design determines how much light they block out from overhead. Pergolas in very hot regions might be covered to help provide more protection from the sun, while pergolas in other parts of the world may be more open to allow partial sunlight underneath.
What Is the Point of a Pergola?
A pergola is designed for three major functions:
- Architectural appeal: Pergolas are a popular feature to showcase pergola accessories such as lighting, seating, and container plants. Pergolas can also be used as an outdoor passageway rather than a gathering spot. These structures are good for thematically linking one area of the yard to another.
- Shade: Pergolas are designed to provide shade, especially in yards that have no natural shade from trees or other structures.
- Shelter: While pergolas aren’t designed to provide complete shelter overhead like a gazebo roof, these structures are designed to provide some shelter and even privacy, especially enclosed pergolas.
No matter what your outdoor exterior aesthetic is, there is likely a pergola design out there to match the look of your space.
What You Need to Know About How to Decorate Your Pergola
When it comes to pergola ideas, decorating your pergola is one of the quickest ways you can make the structure look like a natural part of your landscaping. Here are some of the best ways to decorate your pergola to add instant curb appeal to your pergola design:
- Lighting: From Chinese lanterns to string lights, there are tons of different lighting choices that can help decorate your pergola while also increasing its functionality. With the right lighting, you can keep entertaining under your pergola long after the sun sets.
- Plants: Plants are a popular addition to pergola design ideas since they’re an ideal structure for climbing vines like wisteria that might be damaging or invasive if they aren’t grown on a standalone structure. Pergolas also act as a good spot to install hooks for hanging plants.
- Seating: Many pergolas incorporate patio furniture such as seating, fire pits, and side tables. The style of your pergola accessories can help carry the aesthetic of your outdoor design. Rustic furniture looks great for a farmhouse or western look, while minimalist furniture is better for a modern vibe.
These are only a few general ideas for how you can decorate your pergola. Keep reading our list below to find more specific examples of how to accentuate your pergola design.
How to Build a Pergola
Even though pergolas can be relatively expensive structures to build, they aren’t a complicated carpentry project. Building a pergola can be broken down into several major steps, none of which are particularly difficult.
However, it’s best to get a helping hand or two if you’re planning on installing a pergola on your own, as some of the lumber pieces will be long and unwieldy. It’s also a good idea to stick to a small pergola if you’ve never undertaken a major woodworking project before.
Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow to build a pergola:
- Install the pergola posts. The pergola posts or support pillars are responsible for holding the bulk of the pergola’s weight, so it’s a good idea to cement these posts into the ground for maximum stability.
- Build the pergola frame. The pergola frame is the part of the pergola structure that form’s the pergola’s perimeter and eave. Since this part of the structure will usually include extra weight such as hanging plants, it needs to be built with sturdy materials.
- Install the pergola roof. The pergola roof is typically formed by an arrangement of slatted lumber, but you might also choose to lay lattice over the top.
- Stain or paint the pergola. If you install a pergola made of vinyl, it’ll typically come in its finished color. However, if you install a wooden pergola, you’ll need to paint, stain, or at least weatherproof the wood of the pergola against the elements if you want it to last more than a year or two without taking damage from outdoor exposure.
The particulars of building a pergola will vary from blueprint to blueprint, so it’s a good idea to choose one that you like and follow the instructions carefully. Most pergola plans will include a supply list so you can buy exactly what you need for the final build.
Using the basic steps outlined above, anyone can build their own pergola to a custom design as long as they have the right tools and materials.
25 Ways to Decorate Your Pergola This Summer
1. Add Curtains to Your Outdoor Space
Curtains! It’s amazing what a little indoor decor can do for your outdoor patio. Make sure you use weather friendly cloth and you’ll have a wonderful entertaining area that feels fancy without blowing your budget. (via Home Depot)
2. Decorate Your Pergola with String Lights
Everybody has string lights on their pergolas… but that doesn’t make it a bad idea. String lights give your outdoor entertaining space some lovely soft lighting that will make it all the more inviting for you and your guests. (via Savvy Southern Style)
3. A Cozy Swing
Are you thinking about seating for your pergola? I would suggest a swing. It will add to the other patio furniture you have and give you a cozy place to sit with your wine at the end of a long day. (via Ana White)
4. Enhance Your Pergola with Potted Plants
Feel free to make your pergola into a terrarium of sorts. You probably have potted plants on your patio already so add to the illusion by planting vines or even strawberries above your pergola. They’ll give you a nice shady spot to hang out away from the sun. (via Los Moderninh)
5. Install Removable Awnings
Speaking of shady spots, install a removable awning onto your patio to keep you and your little ones protected on those sweltering summer days. Suddenly you can have a picnic for lunch instead of waiting until the sun is going down. (via Pergola Gazebos)
6. Create an Outdoor Dining Room
Many people use the space under their pergolas as an outdoor dining room. If that sounds like your pergola, consider hanging a chandelier over your table. It will really help you achieve the alfresco dining experience. (via Decoholic)
7. Decorate Your Pergola by Including a Hammock
For those who prefer a patio space that’s all about relaxing with a glass of lemonade and a good book, you’ll want to include a hammock. Use two sides of your pergola to install your hooks and then you can spend the rest of your summer weekends hanging around. (via Casa Tres Chic)
8. Build Planters Around Your Space
If your pergola is pretty much enclosed in a tiny area of your backyard, go ahead and build some planters around the space. You can use them to grow herbs or succulents or whatever greenery you’d prefer. (via A Beautiful Mess)
9. Upgrade your Kid’s Swing Set
Have you ever thought of upgrading your kid’s swing set with a pergola? Use a miniature one to hang their swings. You’ll find that it’s visually more appealing, plus you can fit more swings so no one has to share. (via Best Pergola Ideas)
10. Decorate Your Pergola for an Outdoor Wedding
When it comes to outdoor weddings, you have to include a pergola. Drape it in florals and it can serve as your altar for the ceremony or a photo booth for guests or even just a pretty spot to take your wedding portraits. (via Found)
11. A Deck Pergola with Plant Hangers
Your pergola will feel like a whole other room in your home when you follow this DIY project from Lowes. The great thing about this project is that it’s really easy to customize. You’ll have plenty of places to hang plants, adding some much-needed greenery to your garden.
If you add hanging planters packed with flowers, you’ll give this area a bright and summery feel. It will add a stylish retreat into your home, which will make you feel like you’ve escaped your day-to-day life for a little while.
12. White Lattice Woodwork Pergola
While pergolas are often brown or feature natural wood, you can always opt for a white or painted pergola to fit the outside of your home. This pergola from Home Stratosphere uses a checkered wood frame with lattice woodwork squares.
It replaces the usual parallel boards used on pergolas and adds a modern and unique twist to standard designs. You’ll enjoy plenty of sun in this pergola, so it will be the perfect spot to spend time in the summer months.
13. A Box Type Pergola
Pergolas come in all shapes and sizes and Build Eazy shows us how to make this box pergola design idea. It’s built using rows of solid blocking in between the rafters, which creates boxes.
These are a super popular type of pergola nowadays and are ideal for smaller spaces. They are the perfect pergola for any garden as they look neat and tidy and are not too challenging to construct if you are opting to complete the project yourself.
14. Add an Outdoor Kitchen
BBQ Coach shares a fun idea for incorporating an outdoor kitchen into your pergola. Regardless of the size of your intended outdoor kitchen, a pergola can act as good protection for your devices from the elements. This is a fantastic centerpiece for any garden, and you’ll love entertaining family and friends outdoors this summer.
You can opt for a small outdoor grill or extend this to include a full kitchen setup. A dining table could also be added to the space if you have a large area in your garden for the new pergola.
15. Add a Fire Pit Decorate Your Pergola
If you have a large space in your garden and love entertaining, you’ll be blown away by this pergola idea from Remodelaholic. The pergola is based around a fireplace and then has enough swinging seats for everyone in your family. You’ll love inviting friends and family members over for drinks and night-time conversations surrounding the firepit.
The top of the pergola is completely open, so you can gaze up at the skies above you while enjoying your time together. The round shape of this pergola means that everyone can see each other and chat without craning their necks.
16. A Plant-Filled Oasis
Family Handyman offers us this pergola design plan that’s perfect for anyone who is looking to add more greenery and character to their garden. This style of a pergola is ideal for anyone looking to grow vines over their pergola. Vines are a fantastic and natural way to decorate a pergola and create a romantic look like something taken straight from a movie.
You’ll enjoy a cool and relaxing space to sit and entertain your family, so it’s perfect for anyone looking to escape the hot sun in the summer. Building your own pergola takes a few days, but it’s a fun project to do this spring.
17. Decorate Your Pergola with Larger Bulb Strand Lights
We love this stunning pergola from SF Girl, which takes things one step further than just adding dainty fairy lights, as we showed you earlier. This pergola uses larger hanging bulbs, which will light your space effectively in the evening.
They also create a romantic and modern environment, so you’ll enjoy inviting friends and family over for dinner in your newly decorated pergola. We also like how they’ve added hanging plant pots, which work well in conjunction with the hanging overhead lights.
18. A Steel Pergola
If you don’t like the look of a wooden pergola in your garden, decorate the space with a steel pergola instead. A steel pergola generally requires less space and won’t be such a huge distraction in a smaller garden. Instructables shares this steel pergola, which you can then decorate with plants and lights to suit your tastes.
This project is painted black at the end, but choose any color you like for your garden. It’s easy to install on your grass, and the size can be adjusted to fit your needs.
19. Decorate Your Pergola with Paper Lanterns and Wisteria
Room for Tuesday shows us how to create this charming idea for decorating your pergola this summer. You could add paper lanterns for a special occasion or make them a permanent addition to the space. Your friends and family will feel like they’ve stepped into another world, providing the escapism we all need this summer.
You’ll enjoy eating dinner in a beautifully decorated pergola, and it will soon become your friend’s favorite spot to gather. The wisteria in this photo complements the paper lanterns so well. They work together to transform what was just a regular pergola into something completely out of the ordinary.
20. Slat Wood Pergola
For anyone who struggles with spending too much time in the sun, you’ll love sitting under this slat wood pergola this summer. It’s ideal for someone who would otherwise be burnt to a crisp in a regular pergola. We love the white color that A Beautiful Mess has used to decorate this pergola.
It just goes to show that brown isn’t your only option, and you can enjoy a light and airy space for your whole family to dine or sit in. The decking and dining table create an outdoor dining area that you’ll want to eat in every night this year.
21. Decorate Your Pergola in a Boho Style
The boho look is popular in homes of all shapes and sizes today. However, it’s not just reserved for the inside of your home. Take your favorite style outdoors this summer by adding tables, chairs, and decorations that create a laid-back and boho vibe.
We love the funky table and stool that’s added underneath this pergola from Almost Makes Perfect. It’s the ideal spot to unwind after a busy day at work with a glass of wine and a good book this summer.
22. Add More Privacy with Curtains To Decorate Your Pergola
Recreate the look and feel of a fancy resort with these pergola curtains. If you have a garden that is overlooked by neighboring properties, you’ll be able to enjoy escaping from the world around you by adding heavy curtains to your pergola.
If you are lucky enough to have a swimming pool in your home, this pergola from Centsational Style will look incredible poolside. Add some comfy chairs, and you’ll enjoy chilling out here all summer long this year.
23. Decorate Your Pergola for a Floral Wedding
Fun 365 shares this pergola DIY project which transforms a plain pergola into the perfect wedding setting. However, this idea could also be used in your garden and will add a splash of color to any outdoor space. We love the variety of small elements that come together in this project to completely transform the look of the space.
The hanging glass terrariums are our favorite part of this transformation. You could hang roses or candles from these little glass balls, which hang from stretchy string. Place them at staggered heights for an elegant overall look and feel to your pergola.
24. Add a Colored Lantern to Decorate Your Pergola
Add a pop of color to your wooden pergola with a colored lantern. Hunted Interior adds this bold red lantern to her pergola, which hangs over the dining table where you’ll gather with friends and family members. We love the combination of a dining and relaxation area in this space. You’ll be able to accommodate a large group of people and offer everyone a seat beneath this fun pergola with a colored lantern.
25. Decorate Your Pergola with Shades
Pergola Gazebos offers us a wide selection of ideas for anyone looking to protect themselves from the sun this summer. For anyone who struggles when they spend too much time outdoors, you’ll love adding some shade and protection.
It’s a great option for anyone with kids, as you’ll give them an extra space to hang out during the summer break without spending a fortune. Most of these shades can be put up and down as needed, so you can also enjoy some sun from time to time.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Pergola?
The cost of building a pergola depends on a few different factors, such as the following:
- Size: The larger you build your pergola, the more money you’ll have to put into both materials and labor building it. You can save some money by installing the pergola yourself, but if you don’t have the required DIY experience you may end up costing yourself additional materials or time. A small pergola will be much more affordable.
- Accessories: The more elaborate your pergola is with regards to plants, lighting, seating, and other pergola accessories, the more expensive your final pergola cost will be. There are also varying prices among pergola accessories. For example, glass bulb string lighting is likely to be more costly than plastic bulbs or a cheaper grade of lights.
- Materials: Cedar is one of the most expensive materials commonly used in pergolas, but using cheaper materials such as pressure-treated wood may require you to perform more expensive maintenance on the pergola over time than materials that may be pricier as an upfront investment.
The cost of a finished pergola runs between $2,200 and $5,900, with an average cost of around four thousand dollars. This makes them one of the more expensive installations you can make in your outdoor architecture. However, improving your landscaping can raise the value of your property by up to twenty percent, so it’s well worth the investment.
Is It Cheaper to Buy or Build a Pergola?
Generally speaking, it’s cheaper to build a pergola from scratch than it is to buy a pre-fabricated one. There are a few reasons for this:
- Transport: Raw materials such as pressure-treated lumber are cheaper and easier to transport than fully assembled pergolas. The cost of transporting a large finished pergola panel is higher, so that price is passed on to consumers.
- Labor: Since you’re buying someone else’s labor when you’re buying a pre-finished pergola, that labor cost is built into the final cost of the structure. You can reduce this cost by building a pergola from scratch yourself.
- Convenience: Since many people don’t have the carpentry skills to build a pergola from scratch, there is a high demand for prefabricated pergolas. This high demand results in a high cost compared to the raw materials needed for a DIY pergola.
Building your own pergola is definitely the cheaper option, but it requires that you have some basic knowledge of woodworking and construction skills. Without that knowledge, putting together a pergola can be a difficult project.
Why Is a Pergola So Expensive?
Pergolas might seem like an expensive investment if you’ve got a little sticker shock from seeing how much the materials and labor cost, but why is the price so high? There are a few reasons why you can expect to pay more for a pergola than some other outdoor structures such as a garden shed:
- Durability: With a pergola, you’ll want to build a structure that functions as a permanent fixture in your yard that doesn’t require constant maintenance to keep it from falling down around your ears. This level of durability requires more expensive construction materials.
- Size: Many pergolas are quite large and can easily run the length of a room if they were placed indoors. This requires a big materials bill that can stack up quickly, especially if you end up damaging any of your materials through lack of experience.
- Accessories: Often the mounting costs of a pergola come with the things added on to it rather than the pergola structure itself. Including lighting, patio furniture, plants, and other pergola accessories can end up adding hundreds of dollars onto your project cost.
Does a Pergola Add Value to Your Home?
Like other permanent outdoor structures, pergolas are a smart property investment because they can result in raising your property value.
Pergolas not only provide instant curb appeal, but they are also an indication to viewers that the home is well-maintained. For every thousand dollars you invest in outdoor landscaping and architecture, you can expect a return of investment of around three thousand dollars.
However, it’s crucial that you choose long-lasting, high-quality materials to keep your pergola looking good. A pergola that is covered with peeling paint or broken lattice isn’t just an eyesore, it can potentially damage your property’s appraisal values.
Why Are Pergolas Not Covered?
Even though a pergola with a mature leafy cover may look like a regular roofed gazebo, this outdoor structure actually serves a different purpose.
The reason that pergolas aren’t covered is because they’re designed to allow air and light to circulate freely through the passage that the pergola creates. Pergolas are often combined with a more protected structure, such as a gazebo or covered porch. Pergolas may also feature temporary covers such as curtains to create a sense of privacy.
How Long Do Pergolas Last?
The lifespan of a pergola depends on what material it’s made out of and how much maintenance you’re willing to put into it. With little to no maintenance, a well-constructed pergola should last roughly five years. But if you maintain your pergola yearly and repaint it as necessary, you can extend its life by five or six years.
Can You Leave a Pergola Up All Year?
Since pergolas are designed as permanent structures, it’s fine for them to stay outdoors year-round. Many people add a temporary full roof covering to their pergola during winter months to keep using the structure even after colder, wetter weather moves in.
All of these pergola decorating ideas will help to bring life to your garden and pergola this summer. A pergola is a perfect solution for an outdoor dining and relaxation space. It provides extra room away from the inside of your house to socialize and chill out with friends and family this year.