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Enhance Your Outdoor Living -- Add a Pergola

By: Sandra Nelson

Sprinkled in between this year’s bouts of torrential rain,  we’ve had some absolutely glorious spring days — the kind where you can easily be outside all day long and well into the evening. Sadly though, with the arrival of June, I know that the temperatures will soon soar, the breeze will stop blowing and I will be chased indoors for a good part of the day. Just thinking about it depresses me. Rather than give in to the brutal Midwest summer, my husband suggested that we add a pergola to our outdoor living space, and I am thrilled at the idea.



Pergolas, on the surface, are just simple structures designed to provide a degree of relief from the harsh rays of the sun. Looking deeper however, we can see that pergolas add a sense of charm and romance to the garden as they intertwine the outside and the inside together in one place. They invite us to linger in  dappled shade, taking in the feel and fragrances of nature around us. They serve as a visual frame of the scene surrounding us. They appeal to our senses, not just our utilitarian needs.



Because pergolas are open- walled, using only columns or posts as supports, and have cross rafters instead of a roof, they feel both airy and intimate at the same time. Often built as a free-standing focal point, they can also be attached to a building or strategically placed to create a dramatic entry to a deck or pool area.



As with other outdoor structures, adding a pergola to the landscape gives multiple benefits to the homeowner. Pergolas:


  • Add defined space for outdoor living. Whether used for dining, entertaining or just lounging, the extra space is welcome useful square footage.



  • Add a degree of privacy. Even with their open-walled design, pergolas can become private hideaways. Planting vining plants or installing graceful, draping curtains shelters you from prying eyes.



  • Add a preferred level of protection from the sun. The design of the pergola’s rafters and its orientation on the property determine how much shade it provides. Allowing vines to completely cover the rafters creates an all-natural roof.



  • Add value. An expertly designed and installed pergola adds to the appeal of a home and makes it much more marketable. 87% of buyers rank outdoor living space, including pergolas, as one of the top ten features they are looking for in a home.



Traditionally, pergolas have been constructed of wood, although the remains of large, highly decorative pergolas with marble pillars have been discovered in archeological sites throughout the Roman Empire and France. Unearthed frescos and written sources also record scenes of feasting under grape laden, woven reed trellises lining stone pergolas



Today, pergolas are available in a wide variety of materials and styles. Although wood is still the most popular choice, other options such as vinyl, fiberglass and metal are available. Kits that feature pre-cut lumber and all the necessary hardware are available for the Do-It-Yourselfer. They are convenient and easy to assemble, but can limit the design and size.




Having a pergola custom designed by an experienced landscape design firm is another option. A design professional can tailor the pergola to meet your specific needs and to complement the architecture of your home. By adjusting the angle of the roof rafters, a custom design lets you determine how much sun or shade you want. 




With construction costs ranging from a few hundred dollars for a simple DIY one to a few thousand for an elaborate, professionally designed and installed one, adding a pergola to the landscape is an excellent option for improving and expanding your outdoor living space all summer long. Don’t let that blazing summer sun keep you trapped inside this year  — add a pergola and relax in comfort.