Pimping out your pergola on a budget for summer: 6 hot design tips

If you’ve been gazing out at your backyard, wishing you could spruce up your outdoor hangout space then it’s probably about time your pergola needs some TLC. With the hot summer sun just around the corner – it’s the ideal time to get that entertaining space up to scratch for the festive season.

An outdoor living space that has a pergola constructed helps to define your ‘hangout zone’ from the rest of the backyard. What can you do when your pergola has seen better days and you only have a limited budget? You don’t need to spend a fortune to make a big difference in the way the space can look and feel. 

Here’s a few tips and tricks to make your pergola not only look awesome but come in on budget in time for summer entertaining:

1. Deck it out with comfortable seating.

The right furniture can make or break your pergola space. Consider upgrading a few pieces to something new and bright. People are naturally drawn to soft and cosy settings so use comfortable seating ideas to create a space that is welcoming and relaxing.

The tropical look of Rattan and Wicker furniture are a hot trend for 2016 or opt for a few sun lounges and high back sofas or chairs to really raise the level of comfort. Make sure whatever furniture style you choose, it can withstand outdoor weather conditions.

If budget is super strict, invest in just one new furniture piece that can have multiple uses. For example; an ottoman can be used as a smart storage solution, footrest, extra seat or a small coffee table.

Rearranging existing furniture will change the dynamics of the space too and make it feel fresh. Instead of a single sofa or chairs facing out, create a cosy conversational spot by moving them to face each other. You can also design a comfortable hangout space through the use of outdoor pillows, rugs and furniture throws – keep them colourful for that playful summer look.

2. Contrasts in colours.

Create visual interest throughout your outdoor entertaining space by using contrasting colours in your decor. Different shades or highly saturated tints are a great way to implement visual impact. Keep your colour scheme simple, but add vibrancy to the space through ‘pops of colour’. You can do this using a fresh coat of paint, accessories, plants and flowers to create a mood that’s fresh and welcoming.

3. Work with landscaping.

Pergolas are a natural fit in expansive landscapes integrating beautifully with other outdoor features. Adding plants to your pergola will give it a naturally striking look, whether you choose a bright colour theme or stick with lush shades of green. Plant vigorous growers like vines that’ll wrap around the structure of your pergola and turn the space into a relaxing oasis. This dense growth will also work wonders in keeping the area cool and shaded in summer too.

Use potted plants or flowers to decorate the hangout zone. Whilst you want your plant choice to complement the existing landscaping design and look pretty, practical plants can make your space more comfortable and inviting too. If your location is prone to mosquitos and bugs, opt for lemon grass, as this is a natural repellent. If you have cracked pavers that you can’t afford to replace just yet, conveniently place garden beds and shrubs over them. This also works a treat for unsightly views in your backyard.

4. Create adequate shade and privacy.

As pergolas typically have slats on top rather than a complete roof, they don’t block out all the sunlight. Often it’s these slats that give a nice balance of shade and sunlight but if you want the freedom to have more control there are a few tricks you can try.

Recycled curtains can work as outdoor 'blinds' and create a dramatic effect to your space. They work beautifully for privacy and shade and make for a very cost effective alternative. Increase seclusion and create more shade by adding a trellis or two. This gives you the option of having four open sides with the ability to close off a few ‘walls’ to the space if necessary. Large bushy pot plants or dense vines can be planted to grow up along the trellis to add shade and privacy too.

5. Smart lighting design.

Lighting has the ability to completely change the atmosphere of a space. Not only an important safety consideration for late night festivities, but it also helps to bring out certain focal points of your backyard and pergola space. Use accent lighting to draw attention to different features of your outdoor area, to light up pathways or simply to set the mood.

Well-chosen lighting can also be a feature itself. A few tiki torches can turn around the ambience for the space at a next-to-nothing cost and help to light pathways or the garden area too.

6. Freshen up finishes.

When all else fails and budget is really not forgiving, you can always spruce up your pergola with some paint. If it looks like it’s seen better days, revive the pergola with a fresh coat of paint. Depending on the materials your pergola is made out of, it should be fairly maintenance free and resistant to tough weather conditions – but you’ll still need to give it a little TLC.

Simple maintenance like hosing down the pergola and pressure cleaning the timber deck or pavers can work wonders to transform your space in an instant. A fresh wood stain or oil will also breathe new life into your pergola too. Protect the wood with a preservative on a regular basis to maintain its condition and check that bolts and screws aren’t poking out or rusted. 

We hope these ideas will help you 'pimp out' your pergola and stay on budget in time for summer.

Author bio:

This article is written by Jayde Ferguson, who writes for Great Aussie Patios – Perth’s leading pergola builders with a solution for every outdoor space. You can catch her on


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