Arbors – Elegant Design Elements for a Patio or Garden

There are so many things to like about arbors, that it is hard to pick the first thing that comes to mind.  If you are looking for arbor designs browsing the web, then you will come across so many different styles.  A garden arbor is a very simple structure, that gives beauty and elegance to any space that is lucky enough to have one.

Even if it is as simple as having an arbor-gate that brings you into your courtyard or patio area, the look and feel is both welcoming and warming.  If you have ever experienced this, then you know the feeling.  There is just something about walking beneath a vine or flower-covered arbor that brings you into the space you are entering.  It makes that space seem like a special place to go.

A great shot of an arbor over a garden bench.

A great shot of an arbor over a garden bench.

photo credit

There are different types of arbors, as mentioned.  Some are just simple two post and beam structures that have a few stringer beams up top for the support of your greenery.  Others are more extravagant creations with many more posts and beams to support a much larger array of flowers and vines.  In this respect, an arbor is very similar to a pergola – occasionally the terms are used interchangeably.  A pergola is another type of patio cover.   Pergolas are usually four post and beam structures with a lattice roof.  Often, a pergola is made of wood – though metal and vinyl arbor options are available.

Similar in some respects to the pergola is the gazebo.  While the pergola has a more ‘airy’ openness about it, the gazebo is more closed.  This is because gazebos have a more formal roof-type structure to them.  Like other covers, they can use metal roofing materials or some other traditional type of wooden roof or shingle.

At Patio Covers Place, our preferred choice of wood for outdoor projects is cedar.  It is not only a gorgeous looking wood, but has many additional properties that suit it best for outdoor applications.  Its ability to age gracefully and be sustainably harvested are two features that immediately come to mind. Wood arbors, either cedar, redwood or Douglas fir can all make very handsome garden or patio structures.

Arbor Design Ideas

The way in which you can design your arbor are nearly endless. The size and scale are also variable, but the size of your patio or backyard garden space will help give you the proper proportions. As mentioned, outdoor arbors can be made of wood – and they are, most of the time. However, you can also find metal arbors made of materials like steel, copper and aluminum.

arbor gate

This modern design for an arbor gate is a great choice in a variety of outdoor settings.

Another design style is the arbor gate. This is a fairly classic look, as well. The arched arbor has a timeless charm to it, but a pergola arbor can also make for a modern look.

photo credit

Arbor Plans

If you’re planning on building your own arbor, working off a set of plans or a photo will save you countless hours. Plus, you might be inspired by some ideas looking through a book that has a bunch of plans included.

There are both downloadable options, as well as more formal books on this topic. If you are an avid woodworker, you can just ‘wing it’ using a photo for guidance. After all, giving it your own personal feel is an important feature to many people.

Here are just a few samples we found helpful:

If you’ve got the room, we’ve got the plans. This beautiful arbor stands 91″ tall and 144″ from end to end. It works great for hanging an arbor or swing. Slatted ends work great for climbing plants and sturdy top cross members can be used for hanging potted plants as well. Swing sold separately.

About WOOD Magazine downloadable plans

  • For error-free construction, each downloadable plan includes a bill of materials, a cutting diagram, a detailed supplies listing, and, when necessary, a mail-order buying guide for hard-to-find hardware.
  • For a clear idea of how our projects go together, each downloadable plan includes an exploded-view drawing with helpful details. All drawings are done professionally by the WOOD Magazine staff of woodworkers and illustrators.
  • Large color photos and step-by-step instructions show exactly how we built the project in the WOOD magazine shop. We build each project ourselves to work out any bugs before you ever get the plan.
  • Detail drawings and step-by-step illustrations provide necessary dimensions and machining processes you’ll need to make the building process as straightforward as possible.

Note: This is a downloadable woodworking plan. All other materials must be purchased separately.

There are so many reasons readers will get attached to this new edition of Sunset`s best-selling Trellises & Arbors. For starters, it`s all new, and expanded with 32 pages and over 250 brand-new photographs, many of which show how other homeowners have used obelisks, arbor benches, eye-catching latticework, and vegetable supports to provide privacy, form outdoor rooms, frame garden paths, and give climbing vines and roses a place to thrive. Then there are the projects themselves–more than 40 in all, ranging from a simple fan trellis to a dramatic tunnel arbor, giving builders of all skill levels a range of ways to create stunning garden focal points. Best of all, these projects use standard-dimension lumber and don`t require special woodworking skills. Features: Expanded edition with 32 additional pages Over 250 new how-to photographs Over 40 projects for beginning to advanced woodworkers Classic trellis and arbor designs that enhance any setting New techniques chapter with information on safety, cutting methods, setting posts, and pouring concrete

If you like the idea of making your own, but don’t want to fuss with the materials, measurements and cutting, getting the hardware, etc. you can also find arbor kits to speed up the process. Much like pergola kits, and in the same family of outdoor building structures, these kits often come pre-cut and ready to assemble. In some cases, hardware, brackets and screws are included. Otherwise, you can easily purchase those at your local home improvement warehouse.

Now, there is yet another garden and patio element that confuses this issue – the trellis.  A trellis is more of a two dimensional structure, so to speak.  Typically, they are made of smaller lumber pieces with lattice work between the ‘posts’.  Then, they are often used along fences or as small fences, to allow delicate flowers, vines or other garden herbs and plants to grow on.

The most important thing you can do is find the type of patio or garden structure that will work best in your space.  Don’t worry about what it is called.  You’ll probably hear many of these names used as synonyms anyway.  Browsing online like you’re doing or flipping through fine home magazines can give you a bit of inspiration.  You can also peer over your fence if you like your neighbors’ ideas.  The beauty of this project is that the avid DIY-er can build an arbor relatively easily.  If you’ve got one of these folks in your home or one in the making, this is a great project to work on.  It can be finished in a weekend or two and will provide you with years of use in your garden space.

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