Pergolas are a great centre piece for a garden as they create an ideal spot to entertain family and friends. However, a plain wooden pergola can look quite bland on its own. But all is not lost. Pergolas can be easily upgraded in a variety of ways.
Building a pergola roof or adding screening to your pergola will make the space waterproof and usable in any weather condition. You might want to incorporate plants, lights, or décor in your pergola design to make the space cosy and inviting.
No matter the size of your budget, even just a small touch up can make a big difference. Besides, who wants a bog-standard pergola?
Without further ado, here are the best pergola ideas and ways to upgrade your pergola…
- Install a Waterproof Pergola Roof or Cover
- Introduce the Warmth of Pergola Lights
- Fix Up Pergola Screening
- Add Quirky Décor like a Garden Mirror
- Blend into the Garden by adding Plants
1. Install a Waterproof Pergola Roof or Cover
Pergolas are great for when it’s perfect weather however, the sun doesn’t always shine so when the clouds roll over they can be rendered useless. The solution is simple. Add a lightweight pergola roof cover to make your pergola waterproof all year round and get your money’s worth out the space.
Although adding a pergola roof may seem a daunting task, it’s a lot simpler than you would imagine. All you need is a few roofing sheets to cover the area, some glazing bars to fix the sheets down and then you’re all set to go.
There are three main options you could consider when adding a roof to your pergola. Firstly, solid polycarbonate sheets. These are the highest quality option, with their virtually unbreakable qualities and clear 'glass look' they are just right for giving a clean finish without the shattering risks of glass.
Secondly, you could use Multiwall or Twinwall polycarbonate sheets. These are equally as long lasting as the solid polycarbonate but cost less. With a structured design the appearance isn't as clear but the internal structure allows for a robust, lightweight option that isn't as costly.
Finally, you could use corrugated sheets to add some texture to your pergola. Clear Corrugated Roofing sheets give depth to the roof and breaks up the straight edges of the rest of the structure. It’s simple but effective.
Clear roofing sheets tend to be the most popular pergola roofing option. However, with a wider range now seen on the market, you can also purchase tinted sheets to give you a nice, shaded area for the hot summer days when you can’t escape the sun and staying inside doesn’t seem worth it! From bronze to black, the amount of shade you give your pergola is totally up to you.
Whatever roofing material you go with, a pergola with a roof is always more useful than one without and is quite a low cost upgrade to do.
2. Introduce the warmth of pergola lights
Let’s be real, there’s nothing like a little warmth added with lights on your pergola. The soft glow give off provides the ultimate cosy feel. Topped with a couple of rugs and cushions, you’re all set for a snug time.
Adding pergola lights is a complete no-brainer, not only practically - especially during the darker winter months - but for creating a nice mood and warmth to your outside area.
NB: It is best to choose soft lighting and use warm-coloured bulbs – 2000K to 3000K
Here are some of the best lights to use in a pergola:
- Festoon lights – quirky and simple way to provide light
- Hanging lanterns – Cast a warm glow over the area and set off the right mood
- Outdoor downlights – These could be used on both the interior and exterior of the structure
- A central group of pendants – provide central lighting to the entire structure
- Upcycle an antique chandelier – adds a touch of drama to your pergola
- String lights – these are more decorative than functional but, in any case, should still be considered
All these lights above require electricity however if you can’t get power out to your pergola then not to worry! Large exterior candles, either with a flickering flame or battery-powered, can add a great atmosphere instead. If the candles are real make sure they aren’t near anything flammable. Fire safety comes first, especially when entertaining friends or family!
Finally, if your pergola is a short walk away from your house then you can set the mood with bollard lights towards the entrance.
3. Fix Up Pergola Screening
Putting up screening has big privacy benefits as it creates a more secluded feel and makes the structure feel more enclosed.
Bamboo on the sides of pergolas is a lightweight, easy option to cover the sides of your pergola. It is important to note that the thicker the bamboo, the better. Bamboo sides effectively enclose the area plus, due to the material, it still allows air circulation throughout the interior of your structure.
Trellis is another option to consider. Although the material itself provides less shelter, it has its own benefits. For example, a trellis is perfect for the climbing plants and ivy mentioned above. The plants easily use the frame as their climbing wall. The design of a trellis also adds life to what would be a plain wooden pergola frame.
You could also consider using pergola curtains. These are sheer curtains, that give you the flexibility of having the sides of your pergola open or closed – great for being able to use your pergola in the sun and rain. To look at, curtains are cosy and inviting. It makes the structure naturally seem warmer.
Finally, if you want shelter from the bad weather but you don’t want your view to be blocked then clear polycarbonate sheets are your best option. Not only is it stronger than any other material, but it is also durable and virtually unbreakable. It doesn’t change the way your pergola looks at all meaning you won’t have to think about a redesign to include sides. Similar, to pergola roofing, you could also use tinted sheets such as opal, bronze and black. These will create the same waterproof barrier but with a bit more privacy!
Adding sides to your pergola also acts a windbreak. On top of this, you are protected from other weather elements, such as rain. Waterproofing your structure will ensure the longevity of the interiors as any furniture or décor won’t get ruined by rusting or damp.
4. Add quirky décor like a garden mirror
Finally, pergolas are a great way to incorporate a piece of unique décor. It gives life and personality to your garden and pergola. The décor you add speaks volumes about your character and personality, it’s an easy way to express taste.
One of the best ideas for your pergola is a garden mirror. Not only is this unique to an outdoor situation, it in effect will make the pergola and garden seem bigger. Having a mirror will add a sense of depth and dimension to the structure. Also, it will reflect light which makes darker areas brighter, combatting any shading issues. If cleverly placed, mirrors can make it seem like there is a window or door into a new section almost giving off a mystical feel.
When installing a mirror outside, glass or plastic mirror, it important to install with a frame to correctly protect the mirror backing and seal it from any moisture or damp. if unsure please check for more information before installing.
5. Blend into the garden by adding plants
If you are uncomfortable with your pergola sticking out like a sore thumb in your garden then plants are the easiest, most cost-effective way of blending the structure in with the natural surroundings. Some of the best plants for pergolas are:
- Roses – such as the American Pillar or New Dawn Roses. The bright rose colours always make an area seem cheerier - and who doesn’t love roses?
- Climbing Plants – such as Honey Suckle. These plants gradually work their way around the structure and over time you are left with an exquisite masterpiece created by nature herself. Plus, when spring comes around the flowers will give little splashes of colour that brighten up the pergola.
- Ivy – Yes, this is another climbing plant however, we did want to mention this separately because of its unique characteristics. Ivy provides a natural, well-blended look to your pergola and is one of the stronger plants meaning they can cope in both the sun and shade.
- Potted Trees – if you’re going for the more clean-cut look then potted plants are a great choice. They can be easily moved around to suit your needs and are replaceable and easy to care for. For example, a lemon tree is a medium-sized potted tree that is low maintenance and evergreen so provides greenery all year round. Plus, if you’re lucky you might get some free lemons every year!
- Dwarf Conifers – Another evergreen option that are great for pergolas. Like potted trees, they are easily to look after and can be repositioned quickly. If you have a square pergola then dwarf conifers can look quite stylish in each corner.
Plants are known to reduce stress and anxiety so this small investment won’t only make your pergola more natural, but it can also improve your mental well-being. Plus, the time taken to purchase the plants, put them in the right places and care for them will release positive endorphins. Plants are also an easy way to bring natural colour, style, and life to your outside area.
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