Lawn & Garden Outdoor Living

13 Beautiful Ways to Use a Backyard Pergola

Take your backyard to new heights with more than a dozen versatile uses for a trendy garden feature. Ahead, these pergola ideas will inspire and even guide your next outdoor project.

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The Perks of a Pergola

Short on shade, privacy, or drama in the backyard? Consider outfitting it with a pergola. These charming rectangular garden structures are generally made of wood and consist of end posts supporting a latticed roof of horizontally oriented beams topped by vertically oriented rafters. They generally measure from 12-by-12 to 16-by-24 feet (but you can find smaller ones) and can be decorated and used in endless ways to suit your pastime passions and entertaining style. Here are 13 ideas to inspire an outdoor paradise using a pergola as the focal point.

Off the Hook

Hang potted plants around the perimeter of a pergola to bring colorful blooms literally to the next level. Secure small metal hooks (like these from Amazon) to the overhead rafters, attach steel wire hangers (also available on Amazon) to plant pots through holes drilled into the sides of the pots, and hook the hangers to the hooks. Because the pergola will limit sun exposure, choose shade-loving or shade-tolerant plants like begonias or dead nettle.

RELATED: 18 Plants Perfect for Hanging Baskets

In Full Swing

For a whimsical vibe, suspend a porch swing from your pergola. Purchase a porch swing with a built-in heavy-duty metal suspension chain, secure the chain to the beams of the pergola, then have a seat to read, nap, or simply take a ride. Flowering plants hanging from either side of the swing add to the cheer of the setting.

Turn the Corner

Don’t have the budget to build a large covered patio? Get the same effect installing a pergola in one corner of your deck for added shade and privacy. Here, the pergola at the far end of the deck serves as the perfect setting for wining and dining guests while lending the sprawling deck a more intimate look and feel. A privacy screen and wrap-around balcony deter unwanted glances from passersby.

RELATED: 18 Design Ideas to Make Your Deck a Destination

Far Off Fun

There’s no rule saying a pergola must be adjacent to the house! Feel free to station one in a secluded spot several paces from the home. Here, a pergola installed under a large tree offers guests shade and ample room to romp by day, while oversized lounge chairs and bright outdoor lighting ensure comfort and safe patio navigation after dark.

Twin Tones

Cohesion is key to an inviting backyard, so you’ll want your pergola to complement the exterior of your home, rather than stick out like a sore thumb. Few guests walking up the steps of this two-toned abode will notice that the pergola is a separate structure, thanks to the way it matches the exterior trim.

Double Feature

This deck effortlessly transitions from AM to PM parties thanks to a simple white sheet mounted to a tension rod secured to the pergola’s beams. By day, it blocks harsh summer sun and by night serves as a projection screen for your favorite flicks. Wicker patio furniture, bright cushions, and potted plants make for a comfy, jovial setting to settle in for fun.

String Symphony

Brighten your next summer soirée with lantern-style string lights boasting festive multicolored bulbs. To get the party started, run a metal tension wire along the beams of the pergola and secure it with screws. Then, use cable ties to attach the individual lanterns the wire. Plug the lights into a nearby outdoor outlet and voilà—fun illuminated!

RELATED: The Best Ways to Light the Backyard

Curtain Call via Randy Fath

Billowing curtains hung from tension rods mounted to the beams of this pergola make for a come-hither bohemian aura. Curtains can be tied back to let in air or sunshine or let down for romance in privacy. String lights, potted plants, and wooden patio chairs further beautify the space.

Training Day

Can’t take the heat? Train vines to climb over a pergola’s roof for natural shade. Choose from twiner or grabbing climbing vines like wisteria or sweet pea, which easily wrap their stems around structures, then tie the vine stems to pergola posts with twine to encourage upward growth. When the vines reach the roof, tie the upper stems to the beams to encourage them to grow across. You’ll soon be kicking back beneath a cool canopy!

RELATED: 10 Smart Ways to Bring Shade to Your Outdoor Space

Looking Radiant

Lend luxury to your outdoor space by mounting a chic chandelier. Suspended from the pergola’s rafters on hooks, this vintage fixture adorned with crystals adds old-world opulence to the patio and generously illuminates the space by night.

Splash Out

Turn a pergola into a pool house with water worthy furniture and an in-ground hot tub—sure to make the setting as popular on chilly days as it is in summer. Pairing wood with other natural materials such as stone and brick patio heightens the welcoming factor.

Slide and Sleek

The sleek lines of this engineered wood pergola (available on Amazon) suit a modern setting, and its retractable roof cover allows you to control how much sun or moonlight comes in. The cocoa-colored pergola top and complementary dark patio furniture make for a dramatic look.

Small yet Striking

Small yard? No problem! This petite pergola is only six-feet square yet features a built-in trellis for climbing vines and a bench for relaxing and stealthy storage (stow garden tools or other gear underneath). Tucked just beyond the walkable area of the yard is an ideal location, as it won’t get in the way of romping kids and pets.

RELATED: 14 Ways to Make Your Small Yard Seem Big

Pretty Pergola

With these smart and creative ideas for a pergola, you’ll definitely want to add one to your landscape.