Brilliant pergola ideas to improve your garden this spring

traditional patio in garden with pergola
(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

After the somewhat unbearable heatwaves of recent years, you might be looking at pergola ideas now ahead of the warmer months in order to provide shelter in your garden. 

These garden structures are ideal for creating a stylish but shady focal point and are suitable for patios, decked areas and on lawns so no matter what your garden design looks like, there will be a pergola idea that you can take inspiration from. 

Find out how to build a pergola – should you DIY or buy? – where to put it, how to paint it and how to make this canopy suit your garden. 

What is the point of having a pergola? 

There are many reasons why homeowners invest in a pergola structure. The first, and most obvious, being that they provide shade, and also a degree of privacy as a garden screening idea

A pergola usually consists of a slatted timber construction over a patio, walkway or garden door. The design means that while shade will be cast over the space below, light will still be able to infiltrate, making the outdoors more enjoyable for longer when the weather gets hot. 

Pergolas are also brilliant at creating a focal point or bringing visual structure to a garden. This is especially important in outdoor areas that otherwise lack interest. Be they painted a fun, contemporary colour or left to weather in their natural timber state, pergolas add a new dimension. 

Finally, for the gardeners out there, pergolas can be used to support climbing plants — think sweet pea, wisteria and roses. This style signals a mature and established garden that has been well cared for. 

1. Start by checking if it is cheaper to build a pergola or buy one

wooden pergola above lawn in garden

(Image credit: Forest)

The cost of timber is no joke is the current market, so garden structures have naturally increased in cost.

If your pergola designs are of an unusual size or especially large, building one yourself might be more cost effective, given you have the correct tools. You will need (at the very least) a hammer-action drill, wood chisel, mallet, hand saw, hammer. 

However, if you're wanting to install a simple pergola that can be bought off the shelf, the time and effort required for DIY might outweigh the pinch of the wallet to buy one. 

2. Extend a modern living space into the garden

modern garden with pergola over sunken seating area

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Extend your living space with a pergola attached the back of your house. This patio cover idea can also bring privacy to an overlooked home.

This self build mirrored the mid-century inspired interior of their home with a sunken outdoor seating area with pergola roof. The boundaries between inside and outside are beautifully blurred and the result is incredibly welcoming. 

To achieve a modern structure like this garden, think clean lines and a minimalistic approach. Try to achieve a symmetry in the design and balance planed (not rough, rustic) timber with dark painted highlights. 

3. Use a pergola to shade indoor spaces

large kitchen with open bifold doors and shaded pergola

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

While we all want picture-perfect views to the garden and plenty of natural light in our interior spaces, large amounts of glazing are prone to causing overheating in homes. To combat this, lining bifold or sliding doors with a pergola to shade indoor spaces when the sun is at its highest. 

This charming home features three banks of bifold doors in a L-shape along the kitchen, dining and living areas. As well as reducing glare from the sun, the pergola creates a bridge towards the outside patio area (left of shot) from the kitchen. 

4. Light a pergola for the perfect outdoor vibe

outdoor seating area with sofa and pergola lighting

(Image credit: Dan Duchars)

If a pergola can extend your garden enjoyment during the day, why not try to prolong your outdoor time at night with garden lighting ideas artfully hung on a pergola? 

The structure is ideal for string lights (be they solar, battery or wired in), or if your pergola is attached to your house, wall lights with an even wash along the wall and up to the pergola roof is a good option. 

This outdoor living room (complete with outdoor kitchen, out of shot), includes festoon-style outdoor lighting.

5. Go for a timber alternative pergola

grey aluminium pergola on patio attached to brick house

(Image credit: Cuckooland)

For some, a downside of pergolas and other wooden structures in the garden is the maintenance as exposed timber needs painting or treating to protect it from the elements. 

As a low maintenance garden idea, opt for a pergola in an alternative material such as a metal. They do tend to cost more money initially, but you might weigh this up against the time and budget needed for upkeep over the years. 

This aluminium and steel frame pergola from Cuckooland also has an adjustable roof, so the slats can provide as much or as little shade as required. 

6. Paint your pergola to match your garden style

modern patio and garden space with black pergola and pond

(Image credit: Jeremy Phillips)

Staining or painting a timber pergola is a must. Not only will this improve the structure's longevity, but it will also embed it into the style of your garden. 

For cottage style or formal gardens, opt for a warm, heritage colour like a sage green or blush pink using one of the best fence paints out there. For more modern schemes, use dark colours to make greener pop — black, dark grey and navy are perfect for this style. 

This Japanese-inspired garden was lovingly remodelled with a new pond, seating area and long pergola. The unifying charcoal grey colour scheme brings the bright greens around the garden to life. 

7. Hide away your hot tub with contemporary pergola ideas

Pergola ideas screening garden hot tub

This Renson Camargue Louvered Canopy is by Garden House Design. (Image credit: Garden House Design)

As hot tubs garner more and more popularity among homeowners looking to fully utilise their garden, deciding where and how to install these features is becoming a key consideration.

Pergolas are a good idea if you want to create a clearly defined hot tub area, as they add both height and structure to the space. The right pergola can also help partially screen off your hot tub, so you get the optimal amount of privacy. What's more, they also screen off this feature – which can be bulky and unsightly – from the rest of the garden!

Amy Reeves

Assistant Editor Amy began working for Homebuilding & Renovating in 2018. She has an interest in sustainable building methods and always has her eye on the latest design ideas. Amy has interviewed countless self builders, renovators and extenders about their experiences for Homebuilding & Renovating magazine. She is currently renovating a mid-century home, together with her partner, on a DIY basis, and has recently fitted her own kitchen.