You know you want some shade. You know you want some shelter. And you know your backyard has a lot of potential.
But what do you really want and really need?
For centuries, builders have been creating unique designs to satisfy our desire to be outside but sheltered. They’ve erected gazebos, arbors, pergolas and ramadas, each with distinct characteristics that cater to homeowners’ needs and style.
Terms, such as arbor and pergola, are often used interchangeably, despite their differences.
So, let’s dig in and look at the details.
Types of Structures Defined
Arbor: These are typically small structures that include lattice over a supporting frame. They’re often used to support vines. Sometimes they have a small bench or resting area beneath them where people can relax outdoors and read a book or chat, although the overhead shelter is generally lattice, allowing rain and sun to come through. Here’s a nice example of an arbor.
Gazebo: Like a larger, more accommodating arbor, gazebos are like a little home without walls that is detached from your house. The primary distinctions of a gazebo are a roof, open sides, a pitched roof and enough room for seating. They are often round or octagon. Here’s an elegant example.
Ramada: One of the more loosely defined of backyard structures, the ramada is usually just a free-standing structure with open sides and a roof. Often, they are simple structures that provide a little shelter and shade. But, more recently, they’ve come to include much more substantial structures that sometimes house outdoor kitchen and entertainment areas. Here’s one that compliments a pool.
Pergola: This is another loosely-defined structure for most people. Pergolas, like arbors, have open sides and semi-open roofs. But pergolas are larger than arbors, and they often include more substantial building materials. They often create a partially-covered walkway in a garden or yard setting and support vines and other plants. Here’s a lovely example.
Patio Cover: Some people huddle under the eaves that hang a few feet beyond the edge of their patio door. Others have patio covers, which are generally a roof that is extended from the home to provide shelter from the elements on a patio and supported by simple beams. Here’s a cozy example of a patio cover.
Pavillion: Think of a pavillion as the granddaddy of garden structures. For many, pavilions are something you see at a public park — a place for people to share a birthday picnic or neighborhood barbeque. But some luxury homeowners also build pavilions to entertain larger groups, often including an outdoor kitchen and other amenities. Here’s an example of a simpler park pavillion, and here’s a residential pavillion.