*Currently we do not offer any pergolas or arbors for sale on our website. To be notified if we do, please contact us.*
Doing a Google image search for “pergola” and “arbor” may leave someone feeling confused. They are distinct from one another but people use the names for these outdoor structures interchangeably. Even Wikipedia links to the page for pergolas when referring to garden arbors. No wonder people can’t tell the difference! In this blog, we want to properly explain the different characteristics of arbors and pergolas.
Similarities Between Pergola and Arbor
The similarities between a pergola and an arbor are what throw people off. Both of them are found in outdoor spaces such as gardens, patios, and parks. They are most commonly made of wood and feature a cross-beam design for the roof. They can both have sides made of lattice or be completely open with no sides. Both can be decorated with plants and vines, or have little to no decoration at all. Once you understand what they are used for, it will be easier to distinguish them.
What is a Pergola?
Lets begin with Pergolas. The most telling features of pergolas are their size and function. They tend to be large wooden structures with at least four support beams and open sides. The roof is made up of wooden cross-beams spaced apart to allow air and sunlight through. Pergolas are typically meant for gatherings and entertaining groups of people. It provides a comfortable shaded area, without losing the feeling of being outdoors.
A classic wooden pergola designed for social occasions – Image via flickr
Keep in mind that all of these features can vary. Although wood is a popular material, they can also be made of others such as steel, aluminum, and vinyl. Some pergolas are open with no sides and others have lattice walls. Some are solely for entertaining and others are meant for providing shade along a walkway. Some are small enough for only 2 people, others can accommodate 20. Some of them are freestanding, while others are attached to the sides of buildings.
At a park, this pergola keep chess players comfortable under the shade – Image via flickr
A pergola attached to the side of a home and extending over a balcony – Image via flickr
This large pergola extends down a long walkway – Image via Wikimedia Commons
What is an Arbor?
On the other hand, an arbor is distinct because of its placement, purpose, and size. Arbors are placed on paths, walkways, and entrances. The most common place for an arbor is at the entrance to a garden or on a garden walkway. Since they are used in gardens, arbors can feature plants and vines growing on them. Compared to a pergola, they are small in size. They are not meant for people to linger, but walk through them.
Arbor standing over a walkway in a garden – Image via flickr
There are variations for arbors as well. Most are wooden but they can also be made of other materials such as iron, steel, and aluminum. Some are highly decorative lattice and growing vines while others are very minimal. Some are attached to fencing to form a doorway and others are placed in the middle of a pathway.
Iron arbor on a garden path – Image via flickr
This arbor is attached to a fence to create an entrance – Image via flickr
Another arbor entrance that leads to the patio – Image via flickr
Once you understand the differences, it is easy to tell between a pergola and an arbor. Each of them serve different purposes despite sharing common design features. While size is important for an arbor, appearance is not as important as purpose. For more information on outdoor structures, check out our previous blog post about the difference between a pergola, gazebo, and pavilion.
We carry a wide selection of outdoor dining sets, such as the 9 piece Urbana Dining Set, which would look great underneath a large pergola. Or perhaps the 4 piece Urbana Sofa Set for a more relaxing area to entertain guests.
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About the Author
Cheryl Khan is a regular contributor to the Patio Productions Blog. She is fascinated by the world of modern design and architecture. Follow Cheryl on Twitter for the latest news in the design industry.