Perfect pergolas: Mixing design and architecture

19 January, 2015

Enclosed spaces can make you feel cozy and secure, so they are a nice addition to your backyard. Though lawns are typically open and sprawling, you can create a more private nook by installing a pergola. These architectural structures are defined by posts that hold an open lattice ceiling. As such, the top of a pergola does allow light in, but the beams give the illusion of a closed space. If your yard is in need of an intimate dining spot or living space, consider adding a beautiful and rather simple pergola. 

Pergolas throughout history
Pergolas are not a new structure – far from it, actually. In fact, ancient Egyptian estates featured pergolas at the entryway of gardens and sometimes on the second story of homes. However, the enclosure became even more popular during the Renaissance, and the word is actually derived from the Latin "pergula" or "projecting eave." Some structures were made solely of wood while others incorporated stone. Renaissance pergolas were used to cover spaces, such as walkways, in gardens.

Design features
You can choose from numerous pergola styles. Traditionally, the structures have flat beams, but you can also find roofs that are gabled, arched or pitched. Where you place the pergola in your yard may determine the look you choose.

Against the house: A flat or pitched top fits in best with your home. The pitched roof's highest point will be against your home while the lower part juts out. 

Over a walkway: Arched, gabled or traditional tops look great covering a path in your garden or yard. For a more earthy feel, consider covering your pergola in vines or hanging potted plants on the beams. That way, you'll not only walk through your garden, you'll also stroll under it. Some climbing plants include scarlet morning glory, passion flower, wisteria and black-eyed Susan vine. 

Adding decor
Draping your pergola in plants is one way to add character to your space, but you can choose other decorative elements as well. Some people hang fabric between the beams to provide more shade. You may also place your outdoor furniture sets beneath your structure. Create a covered dining room by placing a pergola on your patio and adding outdoor dining sets. Or make a living space by building a shaded pergola and decorating with outdoor sectionals. Really, pergolas work with any kind of space you can imagine for your yard – now that's a versatile structure. 

Materials
In modern times, we have the option of choosing wood or vinyl pergolas, and both are nice choices. Wood and vinyl don't rot and are resistant to weather (that's good, considering the structure is outside). Vinyl is typically white or ivory while wood can be stained or painted, giving you options – variety is the spice of life! As far as wear, both materials are long-lasting and durable, but wood degrades over time and requires restaining. 

Whatever material and color you choose, make sure it complements your outdoor furniture and highlights any added elements, like hanging plants or draped string lighting.