Arbour vs. Pergola: Designs, Differences and Ideas

Arbour vs. Pergola: Designs, Differences and Ideas

Are you considering starting that garden makeover, but can't quite decide whether to get an arbour vs. a pergola? You're not alone. Both of these garden features are becoming increasingly popular. But what’s the difference between an arbour and a pergola? And how do you choose which one will best suit your outdoor space?

Whether you dream of a romantic arbour adorned with climbing roses and other fragrant blooms or a stylish pergola to relax in or host your next big garden bash, we'll help you make an informed choice between a pergola or arbour that will unlock the potential of your garden. Dive in as we explore each structures unique features and share ideas on how to put them to good use, guiding you towards the perfect choice for your idyllic outdoor sanctuary. 


Arbour vs. pergola definitions

Are arbours and pergolas the same? Before deciding what works best in your garden, you first need to understand what pergolas and arbours are. While both improve the aesthetic and functionality of an outdoor space, they cater to different needs.

What is an Arbour?

Source - Pinterest 

An arbour is a beautiful garden structure often compared to an outside doorway. It adds visual interest to a landscape by providing shelter and shade, and by supporting the growth of climbing plants. 

Very much an accent piece in a garden, arbours are mainly used as an entryway from one area into another. They can seamlessly blend in or define and separate different outdoor areas, directing traffic flow or simply serving as a focal point. Arbours have been a staple in garden design for centuries. Unlike pergolas, they are smaller and more decorative, often featuring two or four posts supporting an open framework roof that gracefully arches and supports climbing vines. They can be made from wood or iron and vary in size. Most tend to be between 4 to 10 feet wide and 8 to 10 feet high, giving you enough room to walk under, and can also feature a small, built-in bench.


What is a Pergola?

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With its origins dating back to ancient Egypt, a pergola is an open outdoor structure that provides shade and shelter from the elements and creates a defined outdoor space. It typically consists of at least four beams and is much larger than an arbour. A pergola can stand alone as a prominent garden feature or be attached to the side of your property, extending your living space outdoors. It’s commonly used as a sitting or dining area that can be a central location for relaxing, al fresco meals, entertaining or socialising and catching up with loved ones. 

Pergolas are designed to cover expansive outdoor areas such as patios and decks. They are characterised by their open lattice or louvre roofs, which offer shaded retreats while allowing sunlight to filter through. This creates a welcoming outdoor environment throughout the year. Pergolas come in various styles and sizes and can be made from wood, steel, aluminium or even vinyl to match a wide range of property styles and personal tastes. 


What are the similarities between a pergola and an arbour?

While arbour and pergola designs have their fair share of unique features, they also have several similarities. Here are some ways arbours and pergolas are the same.


  • An open framework: Both arbours and pergola designs are known for their open framework, allowing light to filter through and support climbing plants, adding more greenery and nature to your garden.
  • Various materials: Both can be constructed from various materials, including wood, iron, aluminium or vinyl, matching different property styles and aesthetic tastes.
  • Garden integration: Arbours and pergolas seamlessly integrate into most outdoor landscapes. They can be adorned with climbing plants, flowers and vines and blend with the natural environment to enhance the beauty of your garden. 



  • Structure: The basic structure of arbour and pergola designs are very similar, consisting of vertical posts that support an overhead lattice framework or roof. 
  • Customisable: Both arbours and pergolas are available in a range of sizes, colours and shapes. You can also choose additional features such as trellis sides or LED lights and even opt for drop sides. This allows you to personalise your structure according to your unique preferences and the specific requirements of your garden.
  • Aesthetic appeal: Elegant and timeless, arbour and pergola designs beautify your outdoor space, serving as a focal point or complementary feature in any garden setting. 


  • Support for climbing plants: Both pergolas and arbours support climbing plants, adding more greenery and a decorative aspect to your outdoor space that will grow and change with the seasons. 
  • Creating defined spaces: They’re effective in defining spaces within a garden, whether that’s making an inviting entryway, separating two areas or establishing an outdoor hub for relaxing and entertainment. 
  • Enhancing privacy and shade: While a pergola provides a higher level of coverage than an arbour, both provide varying shade levels, making them great for creating a secluded and comfortable spot in your garden. 

What is the difference between an arbour and a pergola?

Now let’s move on to the most important part — the differences between an arbour and a pergola! This is what will really help you decide what’s best suited for your outdoor space.




  • Typically has 2 or 4 posts
  • Smaller in size, ideal for limited spaces
  • Often features an arched roof
  • Mainly designed to support climbing plants and vines
  • Can be used as a garden entrance, accent or gateway


  • Consists of 4 or more posts
  • Much larger, suitable for covering larger areas like patios or decks
  • Has a flat, slatted or louvre roof that’s much broader than an arbour
  • Designed for shade and creating an outdoor living space
  • Commonly used to create an outdoor room or extend your living space




    • More likely to feature an intricate design, including lattice work and curved lines
    • Considered more of a decorative garden element
    • Versatile design that can blend into the garden or stand out as a focal point


    • More architectural in design, with a focus on straight lines and symmetrical patterns
    • Used as an extension of the home to sit under and relax, entertain or dine
    • Can be attached to the home or free-standing in your garden
    • More customisable, not only in terms of size and materials but also decoration



    • Acts as a support structure for climbing plants, creating a natural archway
    • Provides modest shade and privacy
    • Typically used to enhance the aesthetic appeal of gardens


    • Creates a large shaded area for outdoor activities and relaxation
    • It can be equipped with additional features like drop screens, LED lights and drainage systems for added comfort and privacy
    • Used as an outdoor living space that’s ideal for dining, lounging or entertaining




      • Generally less expensive due to its smaller size and simpler design
      • Costs vary based on materials and design


      • More expensive because of its larger size, materials and complexity of construction
      • Prices will vary based on materials, size and custom features like built-in LED lights, drop sides, tilting louvres, etc. 


        Should you choose a pergola or arbour?

        So, pergola or arbour? Deciding between the two involves considering various factors like style, budget, available space and your desired use. Here’s a quick guide to help you with your decision-making. 





        Smaller 2-4 posts

        Larger 4+ posts


        Arched roof, decorative 

        Flat lattice/louvred roof, typically square or rectangular in shape


        Create an archway, modest shade

        Extensive shade, outdoor living space 


        More affordable option due to the size 

        Typically more expensive due to larger size and more features 


        The luxury option

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        PergoSTET 3m x 3m Steel Square Pergola in Grey - £1,429


        Winner: Pergola

        A pergola is ideal if creating a luxurious outdoor living space is your priority. Not only does it provide a significant shaded area, but it’s also an impressive and head-turning feature, enhancing the overall aesthetics of your property. A pergola’s substantial size will allow you to create a versatile outdoor living area with premium outdoor furniture, perfect for entertaining guests, dining al fresco, or simply relaxing in the shade. Plus, with features like retractable drop sides and stylish lighting, you can easily transform a pergola into a luxurious extension of your home.

        The cost-effective choice

        Source - Pinterest 

        Winner: Arbour

        Great for those on a budget, an arbour offers an affordable way to add beauty and character to your garden, with its smaller size and simpler design making it the more cost-effective option. 

        An ideal solution for creating a focal point or adding interest to smaller outdoor spaces without having to make a significant investment, an arbour will add a touch of elegance whether you choose a simple, rustic style or a more ornate design. 

        Going for a modern look

        PergoSTET 3m x 3m Square Pergola with 3 Drop Sides and LED Lighting in White - £3,499.00

        Winner: Pergola

        With its straight lines and customisable design, a pergola perfectly matches modern aesthetics and can be tailored to complement contemporary landscapes and properties. Its open structure and size also let you get creative with lighting, while sleek steel and aluminium options are a striking feature in any contemporary garden. 

        Going for a traditional look

        Source - Pinterest

        Winner: Arbour 

        Often featuring intricate designs and natural wood materials, arbours are perfect for more traditional garden settings and homes. Its classic arched design adds timeless charm, while the traditional structure, typically adorned with climbing roses or ivy, creates a picturesque scene reminiscent of romantic English cottage gardens. 

        Choosing the right material

        PergoSTET 3m x 3m Steel Square Pergola in Grey - £1,429

        Winner: Draw 

        When choosing the material for your pergola or arbour, you should consider longevity, maintenance and whether it complements your gardens style. The good news is you can purchase both structures in a range of different materials.

        Woods are commonly used for arbours and are popular for creating a natural, rustic aesthetic. However, wood requires regular maintenance to avoid decay and weathering. Sleek options like steel, iron or aluminium add a modern and contemporary feel and are the more durable and low-maintenance options. 


        Pergolas vs. arbours for different weather conditions

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        Winner: Pergola 

        Pergolas are ideal for larger areas needing ample shade. Many modern pergolas are equipped with features such as retractable and waterproof drop screens, louvred roofs and built-in drainage systems. These features ensure versatility in various weather conditions, making pergolas a practical choice throughout the year.

        Meanwhile, arbours are ideal for gardens where the main goal is improving aesthetics and creating a beautiful focal point supporting climbing plants and separating two areas rather than providing weather protection. An arbour might even require additional reinforcement or careful placement during heavy rain and strong winds to avoid damage. 

        DIY pergolas and arbours

        Source - Pinterest 

        Winner: Arbour

        Are you handy when it comes to your DIY? Both pergolas and arbours can be great projects. However, pergolas are more complex due to their size and structural requirements than arbours, which are generally more manageable for beginners. Either way, it’s essential to be confident in your DIY skills to ensure safety and stability. 


        Arbour and pergola design ideas

        When used and styled correctly, arbours and pergolas can level up your outdoor space. Whether you’re hosting a bottomless brunch or want to create a cosy nook or  stylish aesthetic that makes your neighbours green with envy, these structures offer endless possibilities. 

        Cover a hot tub

        Source - Pinterest 

        Pergola: Add a hot tub under your pergola to create a luxurious spa experience. Not only will it give you added privacy and protection from the unpredictable British weather, but it’ll frame and define your chill zone. Enhance with some soft and romantic curtains, or add extra greenery with some climbing plants.

        Arbour: While an arbour can't cover a hot tub, it can create an inviting entrance and eye-catching gateway to your outdoor hot tub area.


        Create a cosy corner nook

        PergoSTET 3m x 4m Rectangular Pergola with 3 Drop Sides and LED Lighting in Grey - £3,999.00

        Pergola: Transform a corner of your garden into a snug retreat with a spacious pergola. Add a plush sofa set, soft outdoor lighting and curtains for a secluded spot to unwind. Or, go all out with a swing or lounger for ultimate comfort.

        Arbour: Position an arbour over a garden bench to create a beautiful and traditional shaded reading area in the greenery. Add fairy lights or hanging plants and a small side table for the perfect reading spot of every book-lovers dreams.

        Protect yourself from the rain

        PergoSTET 4m x 4m Square Pergola with 3 Drop Sides and LED Lighting in Grey - £4,999.00

        Pergola: Many new pergolas come with fully covered or louvred roofs, offering complete shelter from the rain, meaning you can enjoy your garden, whatever the weather. Check out Harbour Lifestyles premium range of luxury pergolas with drop sides for ultimate protection come rain, wind or shine. 

        Arbour: While arbours provide less coverage, those with densely planted vines and climbing plants can also offer some protection from light rain, which is great for those passing April showers.

        Style your garden with a rustic or modern aesthetic

        Source - Pinterest

        Pergola: Choose materials and designs that match your home’s style to create a cohesive outdoor living space. Modern steel or aluminium pergolas with clean lines and minimalistic designs are a great option for contemporary gardens, while traditional wooden structures complement traditional and rustic aesthetics. 

        Arbour: Arbours can be styled to complement traditional garden aesthetics, using materials like wrought iron for a modern feel or natural wood for a garden that screams cottagecore.


        Host garden parties

        3m x 6m Rectangular Pergola with 4 Drop Sides in Grey - £8,639.00

        Pergola: Large, medium or small, any pergola can become a centrepiece for garden parties, providing enough room for dining, dancing or lounging with guests. Add comfortable sofas and Hofats fire lanterns for a cosy vibe, a sleek bar set for the ultimate entertainment space for evening cocktails or a rattan dining set for evening meals under the stars. 

        Arbour: Use an arbour as an enchanting entrance to your garden party area. Decorate with beautiful blooms, lush greens and twinkling fairy lights to create an inviting and eye-catching first impression for your guests. 


        Create a sunny reading space

        PergoSTET 3m x 4m Rectangular Pergola with 3 Drop Sides and LED Lighting in White - £3,999.00

        Pergola: Furnish your pergola with comfortable bistro chairs and side tables accessorised with decorative cushions to create the perfect outdoor reading area to enjoy your favourite books. 

        Arbour: Position your arbour to catch the morning sun, creating a warm and inviting reading spot with partial shade to start your day  surrounded by nature.

        Design a covered outdoor kitchen

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        Pergola: Take your culinary experiences to the next level by designing an outdoor kitchen under the shelter of your pergola. This setup provides a comfortable, shaded area to cook and dine, perfect for sunny days or balmy evenings. Just add a grill, countertops and pizza oven, and you’re all set to go!

        Arbour: Use your arbour to accentuate your outdoor kitchen area. Or, cover a bar or small dining set for a charming spot to enjoy meals and drinks in the beauty of your garden. 

        Keep warm in winter with a firepit

        PergoSTET 3m x 4m Rectangular Pergola with 3 Drop Sides and LED Lighting in Grey - £3,999

        Pergola: Turn your pergola into a cosy retreat with a fire pit during the colder months. Create the ultimate rustic winter chalet-inspired space with comfy sofas, armchairs, faux-fur cushions and fluffy blankets. Don’t forget the mugs of hot chocolate and whipped cream for your friends and family to gather around the fire pit with. 

        Arbour: Enhance the ambience of your fire pit area by framing it with an arbour, creating an enchanting entrance to your cosy outdoor retreat.

        Create shade

        Source - Pinterest 

        Pergola: Thanks to its larger structure, a pergola can easily cover patios, decks or garden seating areas, providing relief from the suns rays while still allowing light to filter through. Add a sun lounger or two, a retractable cover, drop sides or thick climbing plants for more intense sun protection and a cooler, more shaded outdoor area.

        Arbour: Arbours are perfect for creating small shaded spots in the garden thanks to their arched roofs and leafy climbers for quick and convenient respite from the sun. 

        The final word on arbours vs. pergolas

        If you’re looking to create a larger outdoor living space to entertain or relax in style? A pergola is your go-to. Whereas if you're after a cost-effective decorative solution for a smaller area of your garden that adds elegance and romance, an arbour would better suit your needs. 

        Whether it's the smaller whimsical charm of an arbour or the grand shaded statement of a pergola, both structures are transformative garden features that can redefine your outdoor space. From hosting lively garden parties to taking a quiet moment under a canopy of climbing blooms, a pergola or arbour can cater to various needs and preferences. 

        Elevate your outdoor space and explore Harbour Lifestyle's premium range of high-quality luxury pergolas and outdoor furniture. With award-winning designs, our collection brings your garden dreams to life, helping you create a stylish extension of your living space to enjoy for years to come.




        What is the purpose of an arbour?

        An arbour is a decorative garden feature with an open framework and arched roof designed to support climbing plants and vines. This creates a natural archway that adds a touch of elegance to any outdoor space. 

        Often used to mark entrances or pathways, arbours are great at defining different areas of a garden or as a decorative focal point.