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11 of the Best Pergola and Pavilion Design Ideas for Your Backyard

Posted On: January 10,2017 By: Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

There’s nothing quite like spending time outside. Now imagine spending even more time outdoors, in virtually any weather and during any hour! This can be achieved with the addition of a structure on your property. Pergolas and pavilions are two such structures that can help enhance your outdoor living experience.

Both pergolas and pavilions are free-standing architectural structures that can add detail and functionality to a landscape. They’re spaces where your family can dine and entertain guests, or you can sit to read a book, or watch the kids play nearby. But there are some key differences that might make one a better fit for your needs over the other.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home. A pergola has on open roof, allowing you to see the layered beams above whereas a pavilion is like a house with no walls. It has a roof and sometimes even has a finished ceiling. While both can provide shade, the covered aspect of a pavilion will also protect you from rain.

Oftentimes, a pergola design is appreciated for its charming architectural detail while a pavilion design is considered a bit more in terms of functional space. While pavilions tend to be larger and a bit more expensive than pergolas, that’s not always the case. There is so much customization involved that either structure can be what you want it to be.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on considering which is the best option for you.


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Best Pergola Design Ideas

A pergola can be a wonderful addition to your Lancaster, PA home. Pergolas often have a sense of romanticism about them that a pavilion doesn’t quite provide. The exposed beams add a lot of interest and appeal.You can make a pergola as low or as high maintenance as you’d like.

A pergola wrapped in aluminum or constructed out of PVC is virtually maintenance-free but many prefer the look of stained or painted wood. The material selected will play a role in both the overall look and the level of maintenance involved. At the end of the day, it really comes down to a personal preference in finding the material that suits your wants and needs.

Here’s the first five of the eleven ideas, all if you are considering adding a pergola.

1.  Add Even More Shade to Your Pergola

If you want to create extra shade from your pergola, consider a creeping vine or even a retractable canopy over top of it.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Flowering vines growing up and over a pergola add a lot of interest and appeal of their own. But in terms of creating shade, orientation is the key factor. A design that takes into account when the sun shines its brightest is critical.

2.  Build a Pergola Over a Walkway

A garden walkway or backyard path is made much more elegant with a pergola arching overtop of it. A small, decorative pergola might be all you need to add some unique architectural appeal to your space.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Or, you might even add a small seating area where you can enjoy a book or just take in the beauty of your landscape.

3.  Use Lighting on and Around Your Pergola

Whether it’s stringing decorative lights around the beams or adding some LED landscape lighting on or around your pergola, these efforts can add a lot of appeal while also allowing you to enjoy the structure in the evening hours.


It’s also possible to add small, built-in lights within the pergola itself. Or, to make the space more elegant, consider a hanging a chandelier.

4.  A Pergola with Privacy

While most people view pergolas as architectural eye candy and want to show off the entire structure, you can make your pergola feel a bit more like a room and add some privacy with draping curtains or even tall plantings around its perimeter.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

This gives you some privacy when dining with friends or taking an outdoor nap. Curtains also allow you to add a bit of privacy on an as-needed basis.

5.  Combine a Pergola & Pavilion

If you really want the functionality of a covered roof but don’t want to lose the romanticism and interest of a pergola, you might consider both.

Your landscape design could add a pergola attached to the end of a pavilion to get the best of both worlds. This gives you the architectural appeal of exposed beams along with the benefits of a more complete outdoor room, in which you are protected from the elements. A small pergola coming off of your pavilion roof can be the icing on the cake of a beautiful design.


Best Pavilion Design Ideas

A landscape that incorporates a pavilion design is really going to maximize your outdoor living space. Pavilions are an extension of the home, allowing you to take some of your favorite indoor activities to the outdoors. Since the roof structure protects you from the elements, you can comfortably read a book, dine, or even watch TV all while also enjoying the great outdoors.

Here’s ideas six through eleven, all relating to building a pavilion in your backyard:

6.  Build a Pavilion with a Finished Ceiling

A pavilion with a finished ceiling creates all kinds of possibilities such as mounting a ceiling fan or adding recessed lighting.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Of course, some appreciate the unique look and architectural appeal of an open beam pavilion. It all comes down to personal preference and is why the ability to customize is so important.

7.  Complement the Details of Your Home with Your Pavilion

A pavilion is often thought of as an extension of your home and therefore makes a more seamless addition when some of the architectural details align.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Does your home have stone? Certain accent colors? Round columns? All of this should be taken into consideration.  

8.  Add Outdoor Heating to Your Pavilion

An outdoor fireplace can truly complete the pavilion look not only with something aesthetically appealing to enjoy, but by adding heat.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

If not adding a fireplace, it’s also possible to incorporate overhead heaters. This helps you extend the use of your space into the cool evening hours or the colder months.

9.  Add Steps Up to Your Pavilion

To set your pavilion a bit apart from other outdoor areas, perhaps you want to elevate it a bit higher with steps leading to it.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Raised up, it might overlook a pool or an area of the yard where the kids play. This adds a sense of elegance and makes it more of a showpiece in your backyard. It may also make it more functional by allowing you to see more of your property.

10.  Install Outdoor Retractable Blinds

Even with the most thought-out placement, the rising or setting sun can be blinding for a couple hours a day. Likewise, sometimes a light wind or blowing drizzle can try to invade your pavilion.

Installing retractable blinds or sunscreens can help to remedy these issues and allow you to continue to use your pavilion in challenging conditions.

11.  Incorporate an Outdoor Kitchen in Your Pavilion

Outdoor kitchens are one of the hottest trends right now and make a great addition to your backyard pavilion. You can have the kitchen and the eating area all under one roof, allowing you to fully enjoy your outdoor living space.

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home.

Today’s outdoor kitchens are often more than just a grill. They may include granite countertops, built-in refrigerators, and maybe even running water. It’s truly the complete experience.

Pavilion Companies, Pergola Builders or a Landscaping Contractor: Which is Best?

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home. There are a lot of companies that claim to build pergolas and pavilions, but you must consider what you are really getting. Anyone can purchase a pavilion or pergola kit and plop it in the backyard. But will it withstand the test of time?

While there are pavilion and pergola companies in Lancaster, Pa who specialize in this work alone, their expertise ends with the structure itself. That’s not to say they don’t create beautiful projects. But they also don’t have a Registered Landscape Architect on staff that takes the entire outdoor living area into account.

After all, a pergola or pavilion is just one part of an overall landscape design, and you want everything to blend and work together. Conversely, many landscape contractors do not build structures and may outsource that kind of work (potentially to a pavilion or pergola builder) or use pre-fabricated kits which often utilize cheap materials and eliminate the customization.

A company with a Registered Landscape Architect will create a pergola or pavilion design that is based on all possible factors from prevailing winds to sun exposure. All of these details become very important when it comes time to use the space. The last thing you would want is to have a pergola that is put in for shade only to find it doesn’t provide any, or a pavilion without enough shade late in the day. A Registered Landscape Architect will analyze the site conditions and ensure the structure fits in as it should.

Whether it’s a pergola or a pavilion design, a Registered Landscape Architect will also ensure that it blends with its surroundings. A key part of the job is to make the structure look as though it was meant to be there—not that it was plopped there as an afterthought.

Let’s Get Started!

Check out these pergola landscape pavilion design ideas for your Lancaster, PA home. We would love to help you with your Lancaster, PA pergola or pavilion project.

Many of our projects include building structures such as pergolas and pavilions and we can design and build your project from start to finish.

This will ensure that it fulfills all of your specific wants and needs.

We pride ourselves on providing unique solutions that will help make your outdoor living dreams come true.

Want to see more pergolas and pavilions? Check out our idea gallery. Ready to chat? Contact us for a free consultation or give us a call at (717) 276-9447.

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Image Sources:  wisteria on pergola

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Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Written by Mary Dresser, RLA ALSA

Mary Hatch Dresser is a Registered Landscape Architect with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Georgia School of Environmental Design. Mary has designed landscapes for 32 years and joined ETW exclusively in 2009. Mary is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA); and also serves on the Shade Tree Committee in Strasburg Borough where she resides. Mary prides herself in carefully listening to her clients to professionally meld their ideas and personal criteria with sound, experienced design practice.

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