One of the most popular - and easiest - structures that you can add to your exterior home design is a pergola. They are a great way to extend your entertaining and relaxing space beyond your homes four walls!
Pergolas are architectural garden adornments that were made popular during the Italian Renaissance. At it's heart, the pergola is simple: Made of sturdy boards and crossbeams, it's touched up with lattice and sometimes vines.
A pergola may be thought of as a series of arches linked together to form a simple framework. Since before the Middle Ages, archways in many styles have been constructed to form grand entrances. Initially, arches in garden settings were built from brick or wrought iron and would be in place to highlight an opening in a garden wall or form a simple link between two areas within the garden. At the time of the Renaissance, archways came to be positioned to frame a view or other focal point of interest. Then, as now, the impact of the distant, or partially hidden, view was far stronger. It was not until the last century that the arch itself was framed with shrubs and climbing plants.
In ancient Egypt, similar overhead structures were used as a support for grapes, which in turn provided much-needed areas of shade. These pergolas, often constructed with stone pillars for strength, were built throughout the hot regions of the Middle East. From here, their use spread to more temperate climates, where their function became more ornamental. They still had, in part, the role of providing shade, but, in these cooler regions where total shade was not required, care needed to be taken in the design of pergolas, since sturdy structures with close-set beams could appear oppressive and gloomy.
Depending on how it's designed, and what your objectives are, a pergola can be primarily ornamental, or quite functional. While pergola’s will not stop rain or wind, they definitely can provide shade. The closer you space the rafter’s and the purlins together, the more shade they will provide. You can also add hanging planters or drape colorful fabric through the rafters to add a touch of elegance.
In modern pergola's the horizontal beams are spaced farther apart to let in more light. Rounded poles are often used as crossbeams because they shed water more effectively than square-sawn lumber, which holds water on its flat surface. Plain or fancy, attached or free standing, there are lots of creative pergola designs to match just about any style of home!