Menu Close

Using Modern Pergola Ideas in Your Garden Design

There are so many modern pergola ideas that a complete list is almost impossible to make. While you can get some ideas from others, be sure to engage your own imagination and tastes. One benefit of having a pergola is that you can easily make it uniquely your own. This includes the actual size and shape of your pergola. Try sketching out some ideas before you decide.

The rafters on a pergola are the perfect place to hang things. Many people put up strings of lights to enable nighttime use. The rafters make it easy to hang lights or even a pendant light or two. Oriental lanterns are a really decorative touch.

Lights can even be suspended under climbing vines that crawl over your pergola’s top. It’s also simple to place hanging baskets of plants from the rafters. You can even use the rafters to suspend a hanging chair for a cuddly reading place.

Some pergolas that are attached to the house don’t really look like a pergola. They look more like a roof extension and can run along an entire side of the house or be limited to a smaller space. A cover, whether removable or permanent, will provide some shade and keep the hot sun out of your windows in the summer.

Some choose to make a pergola into a sort of decorative walkway, planting flowers on either side. Creeping vines growing over the roof make it both shady and cool. There are many kinds of flowering vines that will really give your pergola an eye-popping look, not to mention the fragrance that some provide.

Another variation is to use the pergola as a sort of divider between gardens. They can also be used to highlight a special portion of your flower garden.

One unique idea is to incorporate a fence into a pergola design. You can install high posts in your wooden fence, then run short rafters from a top beam to form a shady place. It’s also easy to add a trellis with climbing roses or other such plants.

Another unusual idea is to make an office space out of your pergola. If you have space for a large patio or a room that extends out from the house, you can have an enclosed office space with a pergola attached for a coffee break and some fresh air, and maybe a bit of bird watching to rest mind and body before you get back to the salt mines. You can also attach the pergola to your home, check out my article Pros and Cons of a Pergola Attached to House for more information.

How Can I Make My Pergola Look Modern?

Keep your pergola simple and bold. Many modern pergola ideas involve a plain black structure or a dark gray or brown, depending on what color will go with the rest of the house. A dark natural stain on the wood will work just as well. That way, any colors added in the form of outdoor furniture or decorative pillows really stand out. Any decorative or flowering plants placed around the pergola will also stand out against the dark colors.

Of course, modern furniture, decorations and lighting can all add to the modern look. Even some fire pits have a really modern design that can add to the effect. Many people use strings of bare light bulbs hung along the rafters.

Using something besides wood for your pergola also adds to the modern look. Some are made of steel. These metal-framed ones are particularly suited to such amenities as retractable screened sides and roofs.

Where Should I Put a Pergola in My Garden?

Take some time to really look over your yard before deciding where to place your pergola. An existing garden is a common choice, but many people place their pergola and then plan their flower garden around it. Sitting in the pergola and listening to the bee’s hum and watching the hummingbirds can’t help but be restful.

If you have a good view, you may want to situate the pergola so as to get the best of that view, especially if you plan to use it for entertaining. If you have a good view of the sunsets, taking advantage of those is certainly a consideration. It also should not be too far from your home.

You also don’t have to be limited in terms of size or shape. Pergolas don’t always have to be square or rectangular. How about a hexagonal pergola that resembles a large gazebo? If you know a landscape designer, you may want to have him come out and look over your property. Odds are that he’ll be able to give you some creative ideas for a site that you might not have thought of and that are suited to your property.

The direction your rafters face can be an important consideration. Besides choosing whether or not to have a roof or the type of roof you want, you need to decide on how much shade you want to have. Orienting the rafters on a north-south axis will naturally give you more shade even with an open roof. If you live in a hot area, you may want to place your pergola so that it naturally blocks some of the hot afternoon sun from coming into your home’s windows.

Will Using Modern Pergola Ideas Increase the Value of My Home?

Pergolas can be designed in so many ways that they invariably add aesthetic value to a home. Also, if you have a cover for it, a covered patio is a plus in any prospective buyer’s book. If your pergola is free-standing, perhaps designed around a garden, it can be used as an outdoor seating area to provide a little peace and quiet. Adding climbing plants that eventually grow over the top rafters really adds eye appeal, especially if you choose blooming vines for this.

Using wood such as cedar is sure to add to your home’s value. Cedar is also sturdier and takes less maintenance than some other woods. They make a striking addition that will sure catch the notice of prospective home buyers.

Basically, a pergola will increase the value of your home as long as it is well built, attractive, well kept, and in a sensible place. A pergola placed in a far-off corner of your yard or under large trees that regularly drop leaves and other debris onto the roof or into an open pergola will attract the wrong kind of attention. It will just look like more maintenance work to the home buyer.

Does a Pergola Need Planning Permission and a Permit?

In many places, you will need a permit for a pergola, even if you build one attached to your house. Bring some detailed plans to your local building code office, showing measurements. Be sure also to note on the plans the location of other structures and the lot line. Indicate how far your pergola will be from these. Also note the location of any utilities, whether overhead or underground. The building code office may send an inspector to check out your proposed location and may also inspect the finished work to make sure it is up to code.

They just want to make sure that your pergola is sturdy enough to meet their requirements, such as being strong enough to withstand certain wind speeds. They want to make sure your construction won’t end up in the neighbor’s yard on a windy day. They also will want to inspect how you attach the pergola to the house, if that is what you plan to do.

How Do You Cover a Pergola When It’s Raining?

There are all kinds of roofs and covers designed for pergolas. Some are really sophisticated, featuring motorized retractable panels that move via remote control. Some feature louvers that you can open or close. Others are as simple as a waterproof canvas cover that you can remove or draw back with ropes. Of course, there are more permanent roofing choices, ranging from corrugated plastic panels that let in some light to solid panels.

Can You Put a Fire Pit Under a Pergola?

You certainly can put a fire pit under a pergola. As long as you plan for adequate ventilation and don’t crowd the space, a fire pit is a fine addition to a pergola. You need to have a pergola large enough to house the pit with plenty of room to move around both the pit and any furniture you place inside the space.

If you plan to burn wood in the fire pit, you should have a fire screen to prevent burning embers from flying up and onto your furniture. You should always make sure the fire is completely out before leaving the area.

You should contact the local planning commission before purchasing one, however. Some areas have restrictions as to the style of some fire pits. They will probably want you to keep a fire extinguisher nearby. In any case, that’s a good idea anyway.

Pergolas are becoming more and more popular. If you are handy with tools, you may just decide to build one yourself, especially if you have a unique design in mind. There are also many kits on the market.

They range greatly in price, from small kits designed to be patio covers running as low as $600 to large kits featuring pre-cut cedar going for as much as $5,000 or more. Do a little research on various materials and the costs for those in your area. If you want it built by professionals, of course, you’ll want to get a few estimates.


Once you start looking into the various options, you’ll probably be surprised at the various materials and designs available. You may see a great idea that’s even better than your original one. Let your creativity run with this and come up with a pergola that you and your friends and family will enjoy for years to come.