Adding a gazebo, pergola or any other kind of structure is one of the easiest ways to improve your garden. Not only does it create an attractive focal point for your garden design ideas, but having a shelter – especially in the UK – makes sure you always have somewhere dry and comfortable to hang out.
However, when it comes to choosing and installing a gazebo, the process can be a bit daunting. This is especially true when you’re building a permanent shelter and planning to invest a fair amount of effort and money in getting it right.
To help you avoid making costly or frustrating mistakes, today we’re going to run through some important tips for planning your pergola and share some awesome garden gazebo ideas to help you get started.
What are the best options for garden shelter?
As you may have already realised, there are several different types of garden structure you can build to create some shelter outdoors. There is, naturally, some overlap between different styles and features, but here’s a rough explanation of the most popular garden covers in the UK:
Gazebos are the classic garden cover, offering flexibility in your garden coverage. A gazebo is simply a roof supported by poles or posts at each corner, often with shutters or curtains as walls so you can open or close them as you need. Trellises across some or all of the ideas are also common. Gazebos are usually square, but you can find them in other shapes too – octagonal or circular ones might be called bandstands or pavilions.
We’ll be looking at permanent gazebos in this post, but collapsible ones are practical for one-off events or seasonal use.
Pergolas have a flat, open roof – usually made from slats of wood (but metal is common too). A pergola typically offers less coverage than a gazebo, and is more useful for breaking up wind or providing semi-shade than keeping out rain. Still, you can add more shelter by attaching trellises to the sides or roof, and encouraging climbing plants to grow across the beams.
An arbour is a bench that’s covered by an arched or pitched roof. Although they don’t generally offer much protection from the elements, they make a very pretty focal point in any garden.
A summerhouse is usually a small wooden garden cabin with lots of windows and/or glass doors. To be honest, I didn’t know what a summerhouse was until I was 25 – in my family, it was just called a shed. Summerhouses are usually beautifully decorated and intended to be enjoyed in warm weather. There’s a lot of overlap with garden woman caves.
A veranda essentially a deck with a roof, which is attached to the house. The term “veranda” is more popular in America or Australia though. In Britain we might be more likely to call this kind of structure a “porch”, and I’ve also heard this kind of open-air covered area called a “lean-to”.
An awning is a retractable canopy, usually made from fabric or vinyl, fixed to an exterior wall. They’re more commonly found on commercial buildings than private homes in the UK, but it depends where you live. Awnings are a popular choice for sunny balconies, as they don’t take up any floor space and can be designed to provide privacy as well as shade.
What to consider before building a garden structure
So, you’re thinking of making the leap from a temporary gazebo to a permanent garden shelter? You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to figure out the most practical type of structure, whether it needs any amenities beneath it and where you should position it. You may find that you’ll need a permanent footing or foundation, so once your garden structure is in, it’s in for good.
- What’s the main purpose for your shelter? Garden gazebos and pergolas are incredibly versatile, but the right size and shape will depend on what you’ll be using it for most often. Do you want a quiet spot of shade, or a place to socialise? Would it be good to have a barbecue area underneath it, or do you need cover for your hot tub?
- Do you already have a location in mind? Having an idea of what you want to use your gazebo for and where you want it in your garden will help you gauge the ideal size for the structure. You’ll also have to factor in how uneven the ground is and whether you’ll need to spend time levelling it before installation.
- Is there a water risk? Obviously a gazebo will be built to withstand normal amounts of rain and windy weather. However, most aren’t designed to withstand prolonged water exposure, so check that it’s not sitting under dodgy guttering or in the firing line of sprinklers. This is another reason why it’s important to have levelled the flooring so water can’t pool on the roof or floor.
- Have you got a preferred shape and size? The shape and size of your gazebo or pergola is mostly down to personal preference (although the shape and size of your garden might be a limiting factor!) Of course, if you already have a furniture set – or something similar – to go inside, check that it’ll comfortably fit.
- What’s your home and garden aesthetic? As an extension of your home, your gazebo should complement your existing exterior style. Look for existing design elements – materials, colours or shapes – and choose (or build) a garden structure that echoes them.
- Are you budgeting for DIY, pre-built, or custom-made? It’s perfectly possible to build a DIY pergola or porch. Depending on your skill level, it also allows you to fully customise the design. However, it’s going to take significant time and effort. Pre-built gazebos are comparatively hassle-free, but limits the sizes, shapes, and styles available. Professionally custom-built gazebos can be incredibly striking and totally unique, but will also have the biggest impact on your wallet!
- Will you need planning permission? In England, porches and outbuildings typically fall under permitted development as long as their area is less than three metres squared. Do your due diligence though, and check your local council guidance and whether your house falls under any exceptions.
Simple Garden Shelter Ideas
Are you working on a budget, or aiming for a DIY job? Take a look at these beautiful garden shelters to see how you can make even a simple structure look stunning.
Simple Canvas Cover
Sometimes, it’s just not worth overthinking it. This white canvas sheet is enough to keep the sun and rain off, and is easy to roll up when you’re finished with it. It looks like it’s attached to a metal frame at the top, and then fastened at points on the fence to keep it taught. Should be pretty straightforward to DIY!
Keeping It Natural
A prefabricated pergola can’t compete with the magic and personality of this shelter made from unstripped branches. The effect is completely enchanting, especially covered by climbing flowers. The contemporary lounge seating and patio heating look great, but I think rustic wicker furniture and a more natural finish would be even better.
There’s nothing quite like cooking outdoors… but the British weather can sure make it challenging sometimes. Building a gazebo or garden shelter over your grill (or wood-fired brick oven, like we see here), can protect you from the elements and provide a comfortable place to prep, cook and eat your meals al fresco.
Elegant Gazebo with Curtains
If you just want a bit of shade while you socialise in the garden, you don’t really need anything more complex than this traditional gazebo. Adding some garden lighting makes it practical for relaxing day or night, and the curtains can help you keep the warmth in, and the bugs out. Thanks to the open sides, there’s ample room for people to move around and socialise – perfect for housing chunky seating or even a hot tub.
Paint It, Black
If you want to personalise a low-cost pergola, giving it a lick of paint and adding cosy seating, string lights and wall decor can make a big difference. This trendy black DIY pergola takes the indoor-outdoor living trend seriously – and looks seriously cool doing it.
Wooden Pergola and Garden Gazebo Ideas
The rustic charm of wood makes it a popular choice for garden gazebos. Prime wood options include cedar, black walnut, and European oak because of their high resistance to decay. Almost any thick, rot-treated wood will last you a very long time, but regular staining and annual weather-proofing is important to keep a wooden gazebo looking great.
Green Roof Gazebo
Green roofing is not only stunning, it’s good for sustainability and creating a habitat for wildlife, too. Growing a green roof can take a little bit of effort – you’ll need a waterproofing layer, root barrier, and drainage system. However, properly laid, a green roof is low-maintenance thanks to self-sustaining plants. Learn how to grow a green roof, green curtain or vertical garden.
Traditional Trellis Garden Shelter
Having a trellis surround does more than just support the structure. Not only is the latticework a nice ornamental touch, it also provides space for climbing plants and vines and gives you better protection from wind and rain. Many evergreen plants are self-climbers, meaning you won’t need to attach the vines yourself, they’ll just wrap themselves around your structure.
Put Your Feet Up (Literally)
If you want your garden to have a laid-back vibe, a hanging daybed could be just the ticket! This cosy covered couch-bed looks like the perfect spot for kicking back with a book and a cup of coffee while enjoying the peace and quiet of the great outdoors.
Reckon you could give Nick Offerman a run for his money? This ambitious wooden gazebo design looks incredible with the organic forms of the wood taking the spotlight. It’s certainly not a beginner’s project though, and you’ll probably want to talk to a professional carpenter to help you create your own bespoke design.
Contemporary Pergola and Patio Seating
Wooden garden structures don’t have to be old-fashioned, as this cool, contemporary pergola demonstrates perfectly. The minimal, streamlined structure creates a visual focal point in the garden, and the sleek benches keep the design grounded. With the striking lighting and chic fire pit, this is a pretty cool patio for hanging out with friends late into the evening.
Stylised Garden Gazebo Ideas
Gazebos have been around for thousands of years, with many parts of the world coming up with their own distinct styles. Many of these traditional styles still retain their charm to this day, so it’s worth checking out these tried and tested designs, especially if you’re trying to create a particular ambience in your garden.
Spanish Style Pergola
Spanish gardens are designed to be comfortable, private places to relax with friends and family. They’re often centred around courtyards, with gazebos or pergolas to provide shade. If you’re using Spanish themed garden ideas in the UK, you’re probably not battling with the same levels of heat – but a pergola can still provide a striking visual for your garden.
Visiting Japan, I was consistently overwhelmed by the beauty of temple gardens, and how carefully the scenery is planned. Whenever there is a particularly beautiful view, you can often find a pavilion or covered walkway where you can pause, and take in the surroundings. If you’re proud of a Japanese-inspired garden, you could build a hexagonal pavilion with a curved roof, overlooking your landscape.
Building a covered deck outside your back door is a great way to extend your living room and create space for enjoying the outdoors. It’s a bonus if you have French doors or bi-fold doors, but even opening up a big bright window can help to connect the spaces. Match your colour scheme and decor on both sides of the wall, and add fences to keep pets and little ones safely contained.
Traditional English Style Pergola
Enchanted gardens, cottage gardens and vintage gardens are all about the romance. This simple, beautiful pergola with a deck and trellises is the perfect place to daydream into the afternoon. The hanging baskets and climbing plants make it look like it’s gradually being reclaimed by the garden – so pretty!
Luxury Gazebo and Pergola Ideas
By now you may notice that a gazebo allows you to incorporate many indoor elements to your garden. You’ll be able to bring out couches, fireplaces, and even appliances outside without worrying about exposing them to harsh elements. Here are some of the best ways to experience luxury in your outdoor space.
Outdoor Kitchen Cover
Putting an outdoor kitchen in a gazebo is a great way to spend more time in your garden. You can prep, cook, and dine while getting some fresh air and a little bit of vitamin D! It won’t matter whether it’s raining or shining – the roof will protect you and your food either way. The contrast of the black and neutral grey stone makes this outdoor kitchen look exceptionally luxe.
Extend a super contemporary home with an equally modern garden shelter. Although it admittedly won’t offer much in the way of wind or rain protection, this sleek pergola creates a dramatic vantage point for viewing your land. The unfussy garden furniture and smooth deck really bring the look together.
Sculptural Concrete Gazebo
The contemporary style of this concrete gazebo is the epitome of functional garden art, and blending natural and man-made beauty is the way to create an iconic garden design. To feature something this dramatic in your own garden, you’ll probably want to find a landscaping professional who can work with your existing garden and help you kick it up a notch (or ten). If you like the look of concrete but aren’t quite ready a project of this scale, take a look at our other concrete garden ideas.
The secret to growing your own urban jungle? There’s no such thing as too many pots! This huge pergola looks like it’s being devoured by plants and vines, with vintage planters and the stunning wooden hot tub adding to the elegant, aged-luxury vibe. Although there would be plenty of space to pull this off in a big garden, you could use this style across the entirely of a small garden for an even more dramatic effect – go big or go… back indoors?
Garden Gazebo Ideas for Every Style
I hope you enjoyed this list of gorgeous garden gazebo ideas! By now, you should be ready to plan your very own garden masterpiece. As long as you keep the purpose in mind, and choose the right materials, you’ll be all set to create your brand-new outdoor haven.