If you’ve spent any time on home improvement and gardening blogs, the terms “pergola” and “pavilion” have likely crossed your path. These aren’t transient design trends or just tabletop vocabulary for The Sims—both structures offer real-world outdoor living solutions and aesthetic appeals that can transform a mere backyard into a grand haven.

Despite their prevalence in outdoor design, many homeowners are still left pondering which path to take—pergola or pavilion? Each option has its unique charm and practical applications, so the choice may not always be crystal clear. We’ll dissect the features, benefits, and considerations of each, helping you make the right decision for your outdoor space.

Understanding Pergolas and Pavilions

Before you can make an informed decision, it’s important to understand the distinct characteristics of pergolas and pavilions. Both are architectural frameworks intended to create a focal point in your outdoor space, encouraging a connection with nature and providing a framework for plants and decor, but their intent and execution differ significantly.

What is a Pergola?

Fallas Landscape PergolaPergolas are open-sided structures, usually consisting of vertical posts that support cross-beams and a durable open lattice, often upon which climbers and creeper plants are trained. They’re prized for their simple, yet subtly elegant, silhouettes that blend seamlessly with both classic and modern aesthetic styles. Pergolas can provide just enough coverage to filter sunlight, creating a dappled effect beneath, somewhat akin to standing under a tree.


What is a Pavilion?

In contrast, pavilions are fully covered structures, typically freestanding and with a solid roof. They are the more substantial of the two options, often used to create a sort of outdoor ‘room’. This added structure allows for more comfortable gatherings, resulting in a defined living space outside, and provides ample shelter from the elements, accommodating the likes of rain or scorching sun with equal grace.

Craftmanship and Materiality

Both pergolas and pavilions can be constructed from a variety of materials, with each choice impacting the overall aesthetic and maintenance requirements.

Pergolas in Detail

When it comes to pergolas, wood is a classic choice that ages beautifully and offers a natural, warm feel. However, the elegance of metal and the durability of vinyl are also viable options for modern homes seeking lower maintenance. The material of your pergola can dictate the longevity and amount of maintenance needed; wood will require staining or sealing every few years, while metal and vinyl options are typically more resilient to the elements.

Pavilions Under the Cover

Pavilions often feature more elaborate construction, with the solid roof typically requiring professional installation due to increased weight and structural considerations. This investment in construction often yields a more durable space that can be used year-round, and the fully-covered aspect provides more design flexibility, as lighting and fans can be easily integrated into the structure.

Aesthetic and Functional Considerations

Evaluating the role your outdoor structure will play in your daily life and the appearance you wish to achieve in your garden can also help to guide your choice.

The Ambiance of a Pergola

Pergolas are excellent at providing architecture around which to create a tranquil, green oasis. The interplay between the vertical and horizontal lines can be striking, and they’re wonderful for zoning different areas in your garden or patio. In terms of functions, pergolas are ideal for casual seating areas, hot tub enclosures, or as an entrance feature for your garden.

The Enclosed Elegance of Pavilions

On the other hand, pavilions offer the luxury of an outdoor living room. Hosting purposes, particularly if you entertain frequently, are very well suited to pavilions. Whether for an outdoor kitchen, a large dining area, or a substantial relaxation space, pavilions enclose a larger amount of area against the elements, providing a more consistent living environment.

Budget and Longevity

The question of budget is always pivotal in any home project. How much you’re prepared to spend, both initially and in terms of maintenance, should be a significant factor in your decision-making process.

Initial Costs and Customization

Pergolas, with their often simpler structures, can typically be less expensive to build or install. Their open design also means that they allow more flexibility in terms of the size and design. You can often purchase pre-fabricated kits to lower costs, or work with a contractor to customize to your exact needs.

Long-Term Costs and Investment

Pavilions, due to their larger size and more complex construction, generally require a larger initial outlay. However, if well-maintained, they can offer a greater return on investment over time, due to their ability to protect any furnishings and finishes under their cover, potentially extending their longevity.

The Greenery Factor

For many, the integration of plants and greenery in an outdoor space is crucial. Here’s where a pergola shines, as its design is perfectly suited for the addition of climbing plants.

Pergolas as Green Oasis

A pergola can become the framework for an impressive display of jasmine, wisteria, or even the colorful blooms of climbing roses. This natural covering can turn your pergola into a seasonal spectacle while contributing to the ecological balance of your garden.

Architectural Blend with a Pavilion

While a pavilion does not offer the same plant-friendly framework as a pergola, plants can still be integrated in the surrounding landscape to soften the architectural lines, or potted plants and hanging baskets can be used to bring a touch of green within the covered space.

Making the Decision

Choosing between a pergola and a pavilion is an exercise in balance—weighing the aesthetic taste against practical needs, the budget against investment prospects, the local climate against the intended use. In the end, both structures have their merits and can enhance your outdoor living in their unique ways.

A Pergola for Intimate Refuge

If you envision a casual, green outdoor retreat that filters sunlight and encourages the growth of plants, a pergola is likely your pick. It’s ideal for those seeking a more natural and open feel.

The Practical Enclosure of a Pavilion

For homeowners looking to extend their living space outdoors while maintaining comfort and use in various weather conditions, a pavilion is the natural choice. It’s perfect for those who love to entertain or value a more enclosed outdoor room.

Beyond the Basics

There’s always room for customizations and hybrids. For the undecided or those looking for the best of both worlds, consider a pergola with a retractable canopy to offer the option of complete shelter or an open roof, or perhaps a pavilion with open sides that still maintains a sense of openness and connection with the outdoors.

In the grand landscaping of life, our homes represent the canvas upon which we create our personal stories. The outdoor structures we choose are vital brushstrokes, imbuing our homes with character and functionality. Whether a pergola or a pavilion graces your garden space, it is certain to become a beloved element in the tableau of your life. The decision-making process should be a creative and thoughtful one, ultimately reflecting your unique vision for your home.

For information about pergola and pavilion installation contact Fallas Landscape.