By Meghan Banke, WIR Contributor

When I think of my ideal outdoor living space, it most definitely includes a pergola. Before I start sharing my favorite pergola-inspired ideas, I should probably tell you what a pergola is. Nearly every time I use this word “pergola” when sharing my dream of having a gorgeous wooden (Southern Yellow Pine, of course) ivy-covered pergola with fairy lights in my backyard, I get that look. One that is begging for a definition to follow.

Image via The Family Handyman

So, here’s the exact definition (according to Google): per -go -la : an archway in a garden or park consisting of a framework covered with trained climbing or trailing plants.

Forget the park, we’re doing this right in your backyard. A pergola can be a wonderful way to organize your hanging plants or allow plants to grow upward onto it, provide shelter from rain and sun, all while giving your backyard space a stylish twist. It’s an investment piece and a perfect do-it-yourself project that will provide you with a multifunctional arrangement as well as being really, really pretty.

Now, I do plan to show some photos of perfectly designed and decorated pergolas, but first I want to give you a brief overview on how to build your own. It will not only be more cost effective but also not as difficult as you may believe. According to my research, it’s fairly simple. As large and in-charge as pergolas appear to be, all it takes is a few tools and some wood.

Image via The Family Handyman

What You Need:

  • pressure treated posts
  • pressure treated boards
  • galvanized deck screws
  • lag bolts
  • post hole digger
  • ladder
  • hammer
  • drill
  • saw
  • gravel

Image via The Garden Glove


  1. Decide Your Dimensions. How large, small, or wide will your pergola be? That will decide how many boards you need to buy and what length they need to be cut to.
  2. Where do you want to place your pergola? You’ll need to dig holes and fill them with gravel (to help with drainage). You’ll want to have this mapped out before you get too far along in the project.
  3. Measure Twice, Cut Once: Now the posts and boards will need to be cut and to the dimensions you’ve chosen. Note: if you want to grow plants/vines on your pergola, place your top boards closer together so the vines can grow on each other.
  4. Hold it All Together: With galvanized screws and a drill.
  5. Make it Your Own: Add shading on top, hanging plants, vines, fairy lights, furniture… The possibilities are endless and your pergola will instantly bring your outdoor space together. (We’ll talk about that more in a bit).


It really is just some planning, sawing, and then drilling. As long as you have some help and a good hardware store nearby, it’s totally doable. The best part comes now, which is decorating it.

Here are my top choices for making your pergola pretty:

  1. Vines: This is probably redundant now, but I really am obsessed with walking under a pergola draped in beautiful ivy. There’s nothing better.
  2. Outdoor Lighting: Lanterns, fairy lights, tiki torches on each corner… Either way you go, lighting will give off an ambiance that will be perfect for warm evenings spent on the porch with friends or by yourself curled up with a book.
  3. Furniture: This is kinda a no-brainer. My first choice will always be to keep it classic and comfortable with a plush yet outdoor friendly option. Different patterned pillows in a similar color scheme will tie everything together.

Well there you have it. My steps and tips that are hopefully inspiring you to build your own pergola. So go on out and get your Southern Yellow Pine and your tools–and get started. But before you do, check out the images to draw some visual inspiration.