15 Charming Pergola Ideas That Will Help You Create a Backyard Oasis (2024)

It may seem impossible from the frigid temps outside, but spring and summer are actually on the horizon—and now is the perfect time to start readying your yard for all the outdoor enjoyment to come. Whether you’ve already started planning your garden or are saving up to splurge on some new al fresco furniture, dreaming up your backyard escape can be a great way to make the final few weeks of winter a bit more bearable.

While everyone’s idea of a dreamy outdoor space looks a bit different, there are a few mainstays that will help you score vacation-worthy vibes. Pools, spas, and plenty of lounge furniture are obvious additions, but there’s one architectural element that may not be on your radar just yet: a pergola. Available in numerous different sizes and materials, the best pergola ideas will add structure, charm, and functionality to your landscape, making it feel more like a resort than a suburban backyard.

To help you cull inspiration (and honestly, forget about how cold your toes currently are), we’re rounding up 15 of the best pergola ideas for backyards of all shapes and sizes. From unique materials and standout shapes to playful additions (rattan swing, anyone?), these creative designer pergolas will make the perfect addition to your backyard—or, at the very least, your Pinterest board.

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Make It Mini

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While pergolas are often seen as large structures, they can be made to be any size that suits your specs best. Here, a mini version of the look hangs over an outdoor kitchen designed by Elizabeth Cash of Elow Landscape Design, providing some much-needed structure to the feature and (bonus!) allowing the designer to wire in overhead lighting.

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Play With Your Palette

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To create an eye-catching moment with your pergola, consider trading the traditional stained or raw wood finish for something a bit more graphic. Outdoor-grade wood—or composite materials, which also are often used in pergola structures—can be found in or painted in any color to contrast or complement the exterior of your home. In this Yardzen project, a black and white pergola makes for an impactful palette that ties into the rest of the home and makes the surrounding greenery pop even more.

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Add Some Shade

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While a traditional pergola will certainly add a touch of shade to your yard, it won’t effectively blanket an entire space in shadow. If your home gets a ton of hot afternoon light, you may want to consider an additional element to keep you cool. Here, creators Kelly and Jeff Mindell of Studio DIY wove sunshade material through the slats of their pergola’s roof to keep their California backyard feeling temperate.

Create Outdoor “Rooms”

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Our backyards have to work hard for us—they’re entertaining zones, relaxation zones, sports zones, and more. And with the absence of true “walls” outdoors, visually delineating each space can be difficult. That’s where a pergola comes in handy. You can use the structure to create “rooms” within your landscape, helping maximize flow and aesthetics in your backyard. Here, the Yardzen team stuck a structure atop the outdoor kitchen and dining area, helping it to feel totally separate from the nearby fire pit lounge.

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Surround It With Nature

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One of the perks of pergolas is their open-air nature, which allows a soft summer breeze to flow freely through. However, it doesn’t exactly make for the most intimate spot to lounge or dine. If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, consider surrounding your pergola with a slew of sprawling plants and trees to create a mini forest retreat. In this dreamy scene, the Joseph Hillenmeyer Garden Design team carved out an escape almost entirely engulfed in greenery for an intimate and magical haven.

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Boost Your Curb Appeal

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While pergolas are typically found in backyards, there’s no rule that states that’s their predetermined location. They can also make for an impressive addition to your home’s exterior, upping your curb appeal in a unique and architectural way. The Yardzen team used pergola structures to update the facade of this Northern California home, mimicking the look of a front porch and adding visual interest to the entrance of the garage.

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Pair With Graphic Tile

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Pergolas are beautiful in almost any iteration, but they really shine when paired with other thoughtful outdoor design elements. In this Hawaiian escape, designer Breeze Giannasio teamed an oversized structure with graphic black and white patterned tile for a patio retreat that’s anything but boring.

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Consider All-Weather Extras

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Because pergolas create natural overhead structures in your backyard, they’re not just an aesthetic solution—they’re a practical one, too. The “roof” of the pergola can be a great place to install any number of gadgets that will make your time spent outdoors more comfortable, from a ceiling fan to a bug zapper. In this Yardzen makeover, the structure acts as the perfect spot to hang outdoor heaters, allowing the home’s inhabitants to enjoy their luxe lounge furniture from Teak Warehouse for the majority of the year.

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Mimic Your Architecture

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If you don’t want your pergola to look too visually arresting, try dreaming up a design that flows with the rest of your exterior. At this modern Malibu escape, designer Breeze Giannasio complemented the home’s clean architectural lines with a slim, streamlined pergola that blends seamlessly into the scene.

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Design a Pool “House”

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Pergolas can look great right off the back of your home, but they can also be a nice way to add dimension and structure to the depths of your backyard. If a traditionalpoolhouse isn’t your vibe (or isn’t in the budget), why not consider popping up a pergola, instead? In this Massachusetts backyard, an ornate outpost overlooks a refreshingSoake Pool, acting as a spot to hang in the shade, judge a cannonball contest, or sip afternoon margs.

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Lay a Textural Topper

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If you’re styling your pergola with lounge furniture, chances are you want to protect your pieces from the elements at least a little bit whenever possible, which is something that an open-slat pergola won’t necessarily do. The team at Dan Gordon Landscape Architects came up with a clever solution, covering the top of this free-standing pergola with slatted bamboo for a finish that provides shelter, shade, and style without impeding airflow.

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Hang a Swing

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At its core, your backyard should be a fun and inviting escape that feels like a mini vacation every time you walk out. And what better way to do that than with a relaxing swing? In this project, the Yardzen team relied on an overhead pergola to lend support to a hanging rattan swing that allows for a quaint view of the nearby garden.

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Grow Some Greenery

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Calling all green thumbs! If you’ve been on the hunt for a beautiful structure to support your beloved clematis or wisteria, a pergola could be the perfect solution. Designer Breeze Giannasio added one to the entrance to this California home, giving the home's many green (and furry) members a place to chill.

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Drape A Backdrop

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In this Yardzen backyard, a pergola acts more like a walled backdrop than an overhead sunshade. A few swaths of fabric create a natural divider between the sitting area and the nearby garden, adding privacy and a touch of breezy whimsy.

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Choose Modern Materials

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A large percentage of pergolas you’ll find are made of wood, but if that doesn’t suit your home’s aesthetic, you do have other options. In this landscape project by Maike Design, the traditional material is swapped for powder-coated steel beams and metal wire “slats” for a pergola with a decidedly industrial edge.

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15 Charming Pergola Ideas That Will Help You Create a Backyard Oasis (2024)

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