Pergola ideas for all gardens: shade the stylish way - Grand Designs Magazine

Pergola ideas for all gardens: shade the stylish way

From providing shade from the heat to housing an outdoor kitchen, a pergola is a great upgrade for any garden

By Mary Richards |

A pergola is an outdoor shelter or covered walkway. Whereas gazebos are temporary, tent-like structures, pergolas are semi-permanent. Gazebos and garden shelters generally have solid roofs, while a pergola has a slatted or cross-beamed roof that offers some degree of protection from the sun and, in some cases, depending on the design, from the rain.

The term comes from the Latin word “pergula”, which means “projecting eaves”. Today, contemporary pergolas generally offer stylish, minimalist shelter for outdoor dining and seating and add visual interest to your outdoor space. There’s a wide range of choices available, and they’re not just about creating shade. As well as offering shelter from the elements, a pergola can help zone your garden for a specific purpose, such as entertaining, or housing an outdoor kitchen. Pergolas also make great hot-tub shelters.

Stuart Dantzic, of Caribbean Blinds, puts it like this, “Pergolas are a fantastic addition to any garden that can effortlessly transform any outside space to make it perfect for relaxing, entertaining or outdoor dining. Available in a range of sizes, colours and with various add-on features including windproof side screens, LED lighting and infrared heating, modern aluminium pergolas can help you achieve the ultimate outdoor-living experience. If you’re looking to invest in your garden this year, why not consider installing a pergola to enjoy the perfect balance between sun, shade and shelter?”


When you hear the word pergola, a vision of what of a simple wooden structure pops probably pops into your head. While there are plenty of traditional models available, there’s also a wide range of styles and options to choose from, with many modern pergolas made of wood. Metal pergolas require minimal maintenance, wooden pergolas require annual treating to protect them an prolong their life.


Traditional garden pergolas tend to have a slightly different role. They are frames to grow climbing plants over, creating shade in a natural way, enclosing a seat or walkway. These types of pergola can look stunning once they are covered with a climbing rose, for example, or wisteria.

Pergola with swinging day-bed from Sitting Spiritually, from £8,005 plus VAT, made in the West Country from FSC-certified timber

These are still widely available and can enhance any garden, large or small, once covered with trailing greenery and scented flowers.


More modern pergolas are grander structures: usually larger, rectangular shelters, most often made from aluminium or steel with louvred or slatted roofs. Sometimes the louvred roof can be closed or opened to provide a greater or lesser degree of cover, using either a long-handled crank and winding mechanism or via a fully mechanised electric motor, sometimes operated by an app.

This Caribbean Blinds pergola is a key element of this outdoor kitchen

Often the roof drains to downpipes hidden inside the pergola’s legs. Many models offer the option to add louvred side panels or privacy blinds to provide additional protection from the elements, making them an alternative to a regular garden room.

Harbour Lifestyle’s PergoSTET Pergola has three textile drop sides

Freestanding or wall-mounted?

You can opt for a stand-alone freestanding pergola or add a wall-mounted one to the side of your house. The latter can act as a covered veranda, extending your living space outdoors. Placed in the right area, this type of pergola can shade your windows, helping keep your house cool in Summer.

How much does a pergola cost?

For a basic wooden pergola you can expect to pay a few hundred pounds, at the other end of the scale a large, luxury fully-specced pergola will cost £25,000 plus. Size, complexity of build and additional features, all have a part to play, and the final price depends largely on what you want the pergola for.

Do you need planning permission for a pergola?

You won’t need planning permission to install most pergolas, as they are seen as temporary structures. As with other garden structures, there are rules to follow: the pergola can’t take up more than 50% of the land surrounding the house (in combination with other garden buildings), and the eaves height must not exceed 2.5m, with a maximum total height for pitched roofs of 4m (3m if the pergola is within 2m of a boundary). You will need to seek planning permission if you want to put your pergola in front of your house, facing a road, in a conservation area or in the grounds of a listed building. It’s worth contacting your local authority to check.

DIY or kit?

If you have solid DIY skills, it’s relatively easy and cheap to build your own basic pergola. But there are many super-stylish models on the market to choose from too, and lots of kits, which you can either build yourself or pay the company for installation.

Most pergolas are sold in kit form, with some companies also offering an assembly service for an additional cost. Others send instructions and you can DIY with the help of friends, or get a local handyman to help.

It’s important you fix your pergola to the ground properly on a solid, flat surface. If you haven’t installed an outdoor paved area yet, choose your pergola first so you can lay the hard surface to match the size of the pergola.

Additional features

Optional extra features that can take your pergola to the next level are LED lights and electric heaters. Some manufacturers have models with fully retractable roofs, others offer glass side panels.

Caron Grant, from Bridgman says, “Creating a welcoming and functional outdoor area extends your home’s usable space from indoors to out, whilst adding value to your property. For those with a pergola, design an attractive focal point by draping fabric over the beams to create an intimate dining area. By framing the space, you can accentuate the beauty of your carefully chosen furniture, meticulous matching accessories, such as glassware, ceramics, cushions, and even throws for chilly nights.”

Pergola ideas

With so many pergolas available, here’s some examples, both modern and contemporary, that you can use for inspiration.

An opening or retractable roof

A pergola with an opening or retractable roof, is a great way to provide shade and weather protection when needed, but to open up to the clear skies when the weather allows. This kind of pergola adds some flexibility, rather than having a more rigid, fixed structure.

Caribbean Blinds offers luxury pergolas with opening or retracting roofs

A wooden kit

If you have the DIY skills, a simple wooden pergola kit is relatively cheap, and you can place it where you want, whether that’s in the middle of the garden, or placed near a wall to create a relaxing space (as pictured below). This kind of pergola works well with climbing plants, which will create shade during the warmer months.

Jackson Fencing offers traditional wooden pergola kits

A dining area

A pergola can help frame an outdoor dining area, as pictured below, creating a more relaxing environment to dine in. This example is dressed with fabric to create additional shade than the more open structure naturally provides.

Go round

Rectangular pergolas are standard, but they take up quite a lot of room. For corners and / or smaller gardens, a round pergola, such as the one pictured can be a good choice. This example is bought in quarter-circle sections that you can combine together to create the look that you want.

Forest Garden’s 90-degree Radial pergola, £749.99. You can put two together to make a semi-circular structure or four for a full circle


A pergola with a canopy gives you shade all year round. Canopies can be bought in a wide range of colours, so you can add some flair and interest to your garden, as well as providing a practical way to add shade.

Add trellis

A wooden pergola, such as the one pictured below, can be enhanced with trellis. This can be used to enclose the pergola to create a more definitive zone, and for helping climbing plants.

Jackson Fencing’s traditional wooden pergolas can be enhance with trellis panels


To make a pergola feel more private and more like a room, look for one that has walls. The one pictured can be bought with a wide range of side panels, so you can block in the sides you want, to add privacy and to provide shade in the directions the sun shines into your garden.