My Backyard Hangout

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Considered a shade structure, pergolas can actually be used for so much more. For example, they’re great for adding privacy or warding off bugs. Many people use them for outdoor dining or as an area to relax in the evenings. Keep reading to learn how to decorate a pergola in a way that will make your yard more comfortable and usable. 

Add A Cover 

Adding a cover to the top of your pergola makes it functional in more ways than one. The most obvious benefits include more protection from rain or sun. But it also widens what you’re able to place beneath the pergola and how often you’ll be able to use it. Here are a few different options you might consider.

1. Louvered Roof

Although they can be an expensive addition, louvered roofs offer a lot of value. With adjustable, horizontal strips, they can easily be opened and closed. This is a great convenience that allows you to make changes that suit the time of day and the weather.  

2. Retractable Shade Cover

Another adjustable option is a retractable shade cover. Unlike louvered roofs, these are often made of weather-resistant cloth. They cost less than louvered roofs, while still offering a similar convenience. But they’re limited to either being covered or retracted. The slats of a louvered roof, however, can be tilted to different degrees. This allows you to control the amount of sunlight, etc. with more precision.   

3. Shade Cloths & Fabrics

For the most cost-effective option, you can purchase a shade sail or cloth. Many of these are meant to stay in place. Which means they won’t be as convenient to adjust when you want.

4. Tin or Polycarbonate Sheets

For a completely weatherproof option, you can install metal or polycarbonate sheets. These may cost less than a louvered roof, but still more than a retractable shade cover. They will also not be adjustable.

Hang Some Swings

Instead of using all traditional seating, consider adding a swing around one of the edges. There are several styles to choose from.

5. Traditional 

If you like a classic look, you can buy or build some tire swings. Another classic option is a wooden bench swing. 

6. Bohemian

You can add hammock or macrame swings for a bohemian look.

7. Modern

For a more modern feel, consider a personalized daybed swing, which is a growing trend.

Install A Privacy Wall

Having a secluded backyard isn’t a reality for most of us. If you don’t have a fence or some other border, pergolas can be a great way to add more privacy to your outdoor space. Aside from curtains and shade cloths, there are at least two other ways to do this.

8. Laser-cut metal screen

Metal screens are a stylish way to add more privacy without making your pergola feel too enclosed. There are several different patterns you can buy, such as floral or geometric. 

9. Wood Panel Wall

Another option is to add a wood panel wall. This would make for an easy DIY project. You can control how much privacy you want based on the size and space between each of the wood slats. This route also allows for more ways to customize your pergola. For example, you can attach some planters along the wall. Or you can use it to hang a personalized sign or extra light fixtures.  

How to Decorate a Pergola Using Plants

If you’re wondering how to decorate a pergola, one of the best ways is to add greenery.

10. Planter Boxes

If you build a wood privacy wall, you can also use it to build some planter boxes. Install them around the base or vertically along the wall. For boxes along the base, one idea is to plant some vines that create additional coverage and shade. Some common plants you can find at a local nursery include English ivy or Mandevilla for a flowering option. For vertical planters, you can add some colorful, mounding annuals that you can switch out every year. Or you can even add some that serve a certain purpose, such as lavender, which is both fragrant and good to repel mosquitos.

11. Large Planters

If you don’t have a privacy wall or don’t plan to install one, you can buy some large pots and add them to each of the corners. Some people also use them as a way to anchor their pergola. You can use the same plants mentioned above or make mixed pots that contain a variety of different plants, such as fragrant flowers or herbs

12. Hanging Baskets

A third way to add plants to your pergola is to install hooks for hanging baskets around the perimeter. Trailing or full plants, such as calibrachoa or ferns, are popular options for hanging baskets.

How to Decorate a Pergola with Lights 

Lighting is also a crucial component of a comfortable outdoor space. Many people like to use their pergola as a spot to relax in the evenings. So it’s important to choose an option that isn’t too bright or too dim.

13. Sconce Lights

Sconce lights are good for adding light around the perimeter of your pergola. Many people install them on the exterior of one or more of the beams. 

14. String Lights

You can also add string lights. There are several perks to string lights. You can install them around the perimeter of the pergola. Or you can install them to the cross beams underneath. They also come in several different temperatures, with the most common being 2700K.

15. Pendant Lights & Chandeliers

If you use your pergola as an outdoor dining or sitting area, you might consider adding a pendant light or chandelier. These are great for creating a focal point beneath your pergola.  

Add A Central Point

If you have a large pergola, you might want to add a central focal point to make it feel more cohesive.

16. Firepit

If you like to have frequent bonfires, adding a fire pit beneath your pergola could serve as a good focal point. 

17. Table

As mentioned several times throughout this article, pergolas are great for outdoor dining or just as a general lounge area. In this case, you could treat it similar to an indoor space, by adding a table to the center. 

How to Decorate a Pergola for Alternative Uses 

Pergolas are versatile structures that can be modified to serve other purposes.

18. Outdoor Bar

If you’ve always wanted an outdoor bar, you create one by adding a bartop around one of the sides one your pergola. With this route, you can also use a wood privacy wall to add shelving for liquor bottles, a bar sign, etc. 

19. Outdoor Kitchen 

A second option is to add some counters and use the pergola as an outdoor kitchen.


There are several options available when it comes to how to decorate a pergola. Some of my favorite options include adding swings, string lights, and a wood privacy wall for greenery.

Which pergola designs were your favorite? Have some ideas of your own to add? Leave them in the comments below!


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