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Installing a Pergola: Designs and ideas for a backyard makeover

Installing a Pergola: Designs and ideas for a backyard makeover

Installing a Pergola: Designs and ideas for a backyard makeover

A pergola is the perfect way to bring a little extra sophistication into your outdoor leisure areas.

What is a pergola?

A pergola is an outdoor structure which provides shade. Pergola designs can take a few different forms including walkways, sitting areas, or garden covers. The main purpose of a pergola is to provide shade from the sun. This is what differentiates it from gazebos, which provide full coverage and shelter.

A pergola allows some sunlight to shine through its roof and will not block rain or wind. They exist to make the outdoor seating experience a little more pleasant, so you can enjoy time outdoors in the sun without burning. Pergolas are elegant and minimalistic. They are most often used to cover outdoor seating areas, pool areas, gardens, and pathways. Often a pergola will be placed over the top of a patio. They can be freestanding or attached to houses.

A good pergola will lean into the minimalistic design. Keeping ample space between slats for sunlight to crawl through is an imperative part of making sure the pergola is used to the fullest. The pergola provides shade, yes, but it is a warm shade with hints of sunlight filtered through. If your pergola covers too much, it may as well be a gazebo.

How to build a pergola

Pergolas can be made of a range of different materials, but the most common is timber. This is primarily because timber is affordable and easy to work with. Constructing a pergola at home is a fun DIY project with remarkably beneficial results.

As far as DIY goes, it is one of the simpler projects – you will not need any specialized tools and it is fairly low risk. However, things can get challenging if you choose a complicated design to replicate. Make sure to do your research beforehand. If you are a beginner, we recommend going with a comprehensive, straightforward plan like this one by Josh Rhodes. If you’re operating on a tight budget, here is another plan that should not be too hard to replicate.

Alternatively, you could always buy a pergola flat pack from somewhere like KBMS and assemble it yourself. This will help cut costs and you still get the satisfaction of a DIY well done. Pergolas are not usually too expensive, with the cost ranging from around $100-$500 per square metre. To help inspire your search, here is an overview of some of the best pergola design ideas and plans.

Top 10 pergola ideas and designs Australia

10. Outdoor pergola

outdoor pergola with fairy lights and curtains sleepover

Pergolas are definitely outdoor features. Their helpfulness in providing light shade is perfect for those summer months when you want to lounge outside but the sunlight is just too forceful. They are also great for winter because the slats still let the sun in, keeping you as warm as possible. 

09. Pergola over deck

pergola over deck design ideas

Placing a pergola over your deck will ensure that you are being sun-safe while outside. It will provide shade for your guests and enhances the outdoor aesthetic. It is perfect for outdoor parties and barbeques, because the slats will let smoke and heat rise without interference.

08. Pitched roof pergola

pitched roof pergola gable design weather safe pointed roof rooves with slats

A very common structure for a pergola is the pitched roof or gable. A pergola with roof pitching has a roof which comes to a point in the middle, its highest point. There are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly, it is more durable. Pitched rooves can survive extreme weather for longer, as the water follows the natural slope of the design rather than pooling on top. They are also better for controlling the sunlight which will hit your pergola – you can place it so that you are shaded from both morning and afternoon sun, or whatever your personal preference is. Pitched rooves also have a simple aesthetic that many people enjoy for a natural, outdoorsy look.

07. Louvered pergola

patio outdoor pergola with retractable slats automatic slats louvered

Louvered pergolas are similar to regular pergolas, except the horizontal slats can be opened and closed remotely. This means that you can close off the pergola completely if it starts to rain or if the sun is blazing. Automatic louvered pergolas are one of the best options for modern pergola designs because they allow you to make the best of a gazebo and pergola combined.

06. Retractable pergola

retractable pergola roof design extendable slats shade covering

A retractable pergola is another of the best modern pergola innovations. Retractable pergolas have a series of connected slats that can be retracted at will. This means that you can hide the pergola slats out of view when not needed, and extend them whenever necessary.

05. Wooden

wooden pergola classic gazebo design outdoors DIY timber ideas

Wooden pergolas are simple, classic and easy to install. You can DIY a wooden pergola for yourself at home. They are environmentally friendly, affordable to construct, and will last decades depending on the type of timber. Furthermore, wooden pergolas have a rustic quality that blends in perfectly with the outdoor landscape.

04. Modern pergola

modern pergola with built-in-lights

Installing lights in your pergola is a great way to add a modern twist on a traditional pergola design. Lighting the pergola will mean that you can use it with ease even after the sun goes down, giving you the perfect dinner and party space without having to worry about lamps or torches.

03. Free standing pergola

wooden pergola shade design ideas outdoor freestanding charming

While many pergolas are attached to their houses, there is a simple charm in a freestanding pergola that cannot go ignored. Keeping your pergola separate from the house is a good way to conceptually differentiate the two spaces; your pergola should be an oasis away from the bustle and demands of daily household life.

02. Garden pergola

metal pergola over garden shade plants vine climb support garden ideas

Pergolas are extremely popular with those who enjoy gardening because they can protect outdoor plants from getting too much direct sunlight and also provide a structure for climbing plants to grow against.

01. Pergola with covers

pergola covering with shade cloth outdoors sun protection ideas

It may seem counterintuitive to use covers like these on a pergola, but rest assured that they actually give you the best of both worlds. Pergola sun shade covers will still allow sunlight through, but at a softer level. Thus you will keep warm and the area will feel bright, but you will not be at risk of any harsh sun burning your skin.


Juliet Taylor is one of the leading content writers for Indesign Media Asia Pacific where she publishes weekly research articles across multiple platforms. She graduated from the Australian National University in 2021, with a strong portfolio of academic writing as well as writing for entertainment. Her specialty is in media and philosophy, though she shares a passion for interior design with the Indesign Media conglomerate. Her work with Indesign Media covers a broad range of subjects including interior design trends, architectural advancements, materials and the evolution of modern construction, products and processes for a healthier home, and the proper care of flora. Juliet writes for both residential and commercial audiences and over the past year working with Indesign Media has produced research articles in the hundreds for architects and interior design enthusiasts alike.