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Home Improvement Exterior Design - Pergolas

Updated on February 10, 2015

Pergola is a garden design that of course is very Italian in nature. Leave it to the Italian craftsman to create this outstanding garden structure. Yet to me the pergola has become the quintessential American garden item. It cries to me Nantucket and east coast charm. I envision a white pergola with blooming pink or red roses. Whatever comes to mind, whatever the origin, the pergola is a garden element that has be to closely considered for both the large formal garden and the small intimate garden. Yes, the pergola can be effectively placed in almost any garden room. What is great about the pergola is it not only makes a strong statement and often is the focal point but it actually crafts a new outdoor space where the air is little more still and we can stop and truly smell the roses.

Join me as we discover a plethora of different types of pergolas from the classic Nantucket white to the rustic red cedar to wire and stone pergolas that all set a unique and inviting welcome to the garden stroller.

For you see, that is the beauty of the pergola, no matter where you place it, it calls out to you and you are invited to either sit a spell or take more time with your garden stroll. Whether you place the pergola above your garage doors, your garden shed or craft an entirely new space, the pergola offers a myriad of design options and new functions for your garden space.

Etymology of Pergola

The word pergola originates from the mid 17th cent.: from Italian, from Latin pergula ‘projecting roof,’ from pergere ‘come or go forward.’

First Things First - The Italians Invented the Pergola

OK, I may think of Nantucket with the eastern sea and the white pergola and the rose vines but let's face facts, the pergola was designed by the master of design and elegance - the Italians. I am a pure mutt by all accounts with everything from Moroccan to English to Dutch to even Navajo Indian but sadly I have no blood relatives who descent from Italy and yet Italy brings us the finest in leather, the finest in jewelry designs and yes, their mark is clearly in the garden pergola

The pergola is one of the world's best inventions. It offers a multitude of uses and functions (yes, beyond its beauty it is also useful) along with a multitude of different materials.

The pergola can stand along or be adorned with vines or plants of any shape or size. From hanging baskets to roses and any and all combinations. The pergola is truly the king of garden structures offering to change a garden into a royal garden space. A place for refuge and reflection but more so on the reflection than refuge. A pergola never feels like an enclosed room because it always incorporates Mother Nature's greenery for its view and Mother Nature's blue skies for its ceiling.

Why does the pergola work so well? For me, it is because it is the ultimate partnership with Mother Nature. It is the gilded frame to all that the garden has to offer.

Favorite Use - Privacy Wall - Functional Pergola

While the pergola is often seen used for creation of the patio room or a walkway to leisurely stroll the garden space, one of the items often overlooked and underutilized is the use as a privacy wall.

All too often sadly I see these structures built to block out composts, garbage or sometimes simply the carport. All of us desire privacy away from these mundane items but do consider a pergola as a privacy wall.

For you see, the pergola delights the senses in its intricate structure and its vertical nature. It is uniquely designed as the perfect privacy wall between you and your neighbor. And yet, the pergola is rarely seen used for this purpose.

I firmly believe all great urban garden spaces and also open country spaces all need a pergola. But the urban space especially calls to me. The standard city lot just is cumbersome between neighbors. We erect expensive fences and spend hours on weeding and feeding our grass and yet we never think of adding a pergola to dress up the space between you and your neighbor.

The world is better with fences and it is true fences make great neighbors. As an avid dog lover, I believe a fence is mandatory but that is a story for another day, the fact remains a pergola is a design element that vastly underutilized in our urban gardens.

Take a standard city lot and add in a pergola between you and your neighbor and wow la you have a brand new perspective.

Take a standard roof top and add in a flooring (artificial grass or stone or brick) alongside a pergola and you have just crafted an outdoor room.

Victorian or Nantucket Inspired Pergola with a Swing

white and wood tones lend this pergola with a swing a little bit of both Victorian and Nantucket Inspired garden design inspiration
white and wood tones lend this pergola with a swing a little bit of both Victorian and Nantucket Inspired garden design inspiration | Source

Functional Fun Pergola - Swing

Take your garden functions to a new experience and add in a swing with your pergola. Look at the exquisite design below that carefully crafts that garden experience and changes it from a purely visual experience to memorable moments with friends and family.

Not all pergolas are elaborate in design and function. A rare few can transcend from Nantucket charm over to Victorian elegance and back again. This white and wood charmer to the right, I feel can be places in any back yard design because it does transcend both the nautical feel fo the East Coast and the quintessential Nantucket charm to the Victorian elegance of the long full swirling skirt times of an era forever lost but fondly remembered and yearned for.

Functional Pergola with a Swing

a functional cedar pergola with a swing
a functional cedar pergola with a swing | Source

Garden Quotes

Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead.
Oscar Wilde

We must cultivate our own garden. When man was put in the garden of Eden he was put there so that he should work, which proves that man was not born to rest.
Voltaire

Taste every fruit of every tree in the garden at least once. It is an insult to creation not to experience it fully. Temperance is wickedness.
Stephen Fry

God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.
Francis Bacon

The Flight to Beauty

If you ever watch a butterfly or a hummingbird in the garden you will note that they fly to all things bright and beautiful. Yes the sparrows and the robins and the cardinals fly to the food and water but butterflies and hummingbirds are attracted by beauty. We as humans are similar in nature. We will gravitate to the beauty around us.

The beautiful pergolas is more than a visual delight in the garden it is a soulful reminder of the heavens above. The pergola is a tiny microcosm of heaven. A place to be enjoyed, remembered and treasured. The pergola from both inside and from afar offers more than just a visual delight, it offers us a refuge from the harsh, man-made world around us.

If fences make great neighbors, a pergola brings out the beauty inside of all us. A pergola is the visual reminder man does not live by daffodils alone. Man lives on food but thrives on food and beauty.

Garden Pergolas

classic white Nantucket like pergola over white garage doors with windows
classic white Nantucket like pergola over white garage doors with windows
privacy pergola adorned with roses and a garden in the forerground
privacy pergola adorned with roses and a garden in the forerground
classic Nantucket garage with the pergola and roses above the curved garage doors
classic Nantucket garage with the pergola and roses above the curved garage doors
green pergola above garage doors
green pergola above garage doors
rustic wood unpainted cedar wood privacy fence with a pergola as the top design element
rustic wood unpainted cedar wood privacy fence with a pergola as the top design element

Wired Garden Pergola

long and inviting wire garden pergola with walkers underneath the garden greenery
long and inviting wire garden pergola with walkers underneath the garden greenery | Source

Rustic Pergola

rustic garden pergola with rough beams and basic posts
rustic garden pergola with rough beams and basic posts | Source

Wire and Rustic Pergolas

While the typical pergola that we envision is the formal beam pergola, there are many other fantastic options. Don't limit yourself on the choice of material beforehand. Keep an open mind and design the space considering all options.

The wire pergola is a great option to highlight the greenery. The photo to the right showcases the vines not the architectural structure of the pergola.

The rust pergola on the other hand offers a long expanse with solid pavement underneath to convenient take the garden visitor from room to room. This is a fantastic option if you have the space and if this design will work with your other gardens designs.

Choose Your Pergola Design Carefully

A pergola makes a big statement. The design you choose will set a tone for either continuity and flow through your outdoor space or it may upstage the rest of your garden. Do design your garden so it appears congruent. The elements must intertwine and offer a similar element to bring the design together to flow throughout each section of the garden.

Beam and Rafter Ideas for Pergolas

pergola beam and rafter end ideas with wood sketches of various designs
pergola beam and rafter end ideas with wood sketches of various designs
black and white diagram of the wooden pergola and the beams and the shapes that make up that garden architectural structure
black and white diagram of the wooden pergola and the beams and the shapes that make up that garden architectural structure
wood pergola with the beams and architectural details up close for review
wood pergola with the beams and architectural details up close for review

Pergola Beam and Rafter Ideas

Pergolas can be designed in any number of fashions. In many cases, now a days, you can even purchase pergola kits or best yet if the budget allows a vinyl pergola that offers no maintenance, no painting ever.

Check out the various pergola beam ideas and how exactly the effect you wish to achieve.

Remember, pergolas are not just for the garden room anymore, the design element of the pergola over the garage door with or without live vines is always enchanting.

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What type of pergola would you choose?

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Human Tragedy and Roses

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.
Dale Carnegie

The Fairway of Life - Manage it Well

As you walk down the fairway of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round.
Ben Hogan

Garden Pergola

Have you ever considered a pergola for your garden? Did you know what this structure was called before you read this article? Did you grow up with a pergola at your home or in the garden of a friend or neighbor?

What your fondest memories of gardens? Do they include pergolas? Will they now?

© 2014 Ken Kline

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    • CelebrateUSA profile image
      Author

      Ken Kline 2 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      Talk about a garden design show stopper - I love pergolas. Yes, they not only add beauty but also value. Alas I am not certain about the ROI on pergolas. Sadly, it has been my experience the investment in the garden, even in the hard scape goes unnoticed by appraisers and then also by buyers.

      A pergola is an heirloom piece that crowns a garden. Any lover of nature, garden aficionado appreciates and values this piece that adds volume and grace to the garden room.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 2 years ago from the short journey

      Pergolas add beauty and value to garden areas. I hope we will be building a rustic styled one after our current project is finished, but that will be sometime next year.

    • CelebrateUSA profile image
      Author

      Ken Kline 3 years ago from Chicago, Illinois

      The pergola to my mind is simply a frame for the ultimate in garden finery - the hanging basket. For you see, my hanging baskets on our patio and we hit heads but worst yet, my neighbors delight in our flowers, the view is simply too close at hand on the patio. I am anxious to get this project rolling. Adding function to the pergola, beyond the beauty of the hanging baskets is functional but most importantly, the pergola offers that structure that only large hard scape of that magnitude can provide.

    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 3 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub and great approach to the pergola! I have wanted to add one to our backyard for some time now but I never considered it for privacy which makes me want one even more. Well done!