Sometimes there’s nothing better than enjoying the outdoors in your suburban Chicago backyard.

The birds are chirping. The scent of a floral shrub wafts by. You relax and enjoy chatting with friends. Stress melts away.

But on days when the sun is beaming, rain is showering, or darkness is falling, it’s a bummer to be trapped inside. Time outside is still necessary and fun; you just need a solution.

That’s where the perfect landscape structure can be just what you need for your elegant backyard. Pavilions and pergolas are two of the most popular elements that can set your yard apart.

But which one is the right one for you and your unique landscape?

Here, we answer some of your burning questions so you can better understand these structures and get a feeling for which one is perfect for you.

Pergola vs. Pavilion

When it comes to adding an impressive structure to your outdoor space, there is a constant debate: pergola vs. pavilion?

open air pergola with seating and surrounding landscaping

Both pergolas and pavilions come with so many options that it can be hard to distinguish which permanent addition to your yard will give you the years of enjoyment you’re looking for.

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If you’ve already thought about adding a structure, but can’t figure out which would be best, we can help you understand their differences.

Main Difference Between a Pergola and a Pavilion

Pavilions and pergolas have some specific differences in their basic makeup.
To start, both structures rise up and create height in your landscape. But a pergola has an open roof with layered beams, while a pavilion is a small room with a roof and no walls.

pergola above outdoor dining area

While both structures provide shade, a pavilion has the added benefit of protecting you from rain.

covered pavilion with seating area and landscaping

Light Considerations

When you’re debating between a pergola or pavilion, light is an essential component to consider.

A pergola is a way to add some cover from the sun or a unique visual structure without totally blocking out light and wind. The open, airy, charming structure lets those elements through.

unique pergola and outdoor kitchen area provide privacy

A pavilion, on the other hand, is a fully roofed, multi-purpose structure. If you prefer shade at all times, this is your best choice.

ceiling fan and lighting inside pavilion

How Do You Want to Use Your Outdoor Space?

Some discussion about how you want to use your space can also arise when you’re looking at pavilions and pergolas.

Pergolas are structures that can stand alone to define an outdoor space, but in a way that merges with the surrounding area. They help break up areas of your yard, providing you and your guests with a variety of spots to mingle.

pergola vs pavilion with outdoor kitchen bar and fire pit

As a stand-alone covered structure, a pavilion gives shade and shelter in an area away from your home. Many times, a pavilion becomes an epicenter of your outdoor living area where you also have an outdoor living room, party space, or outdoor kitchen complete with countertops, a sink, a refrigerator, and a gourmet grill.

pavilion with outdoor fireplace and seating area

Other ideas: You can add an outdoor fireplace to your pavilion room for a cozy atmosphere or even an outdoor television to become the place to enjoy game times or movie nights.

What Kind of Design Elements Do You Prefer?

Pavilions and pergolas offer a bevy of design elements that can intrigue you in different ways.

Both a pergola and a pavilion, for example, start with open walls, but you can increase privacy in a more natural way by adding evergreens for year-round seclusion. If you’re into the texture of fabrics instead, curtains can also add privacy but you can open them up when you want to bring in more airflow.

Then things differ when you get to the ceilings.

With a finished ceiling, a pavilion creates an additional feeling as you enjoy time beneath it. This can be magical with lighting during evening hours or on hot nights where a fan keeps you cooler.

pavilion with seating custom stone and tv

If you enjoy coordination, you can match your pergola or pavilion design to your home architecture -- whether that includes stone accents, certain colors, or columns.

Cost of Pergola vs. Pavilion

There are certainly differences when looking at pergola vs. pavilion costs.

Pergola pricing can fluctuate based on the materials used and the size of the structure. For instance, a 12x12 pergola can start at about $7,500. With other details, such as masonry or modular block pillars and the addition of power or lighting, your pergola can rise in price to $25,000 to $35,000.

Like pergolas, pavilion costs will vary. Costs can start at $25,000 and rise to $65,000 or more. Additions like roofing materials, size, lighting, and fans can increase the price.

Ready to Choose Your Ideal Landscape Structure?

Whether you’re looking for a pergola to sit under and enjoy the scent of spring flowers or a pavilion to relax in while grilling up dinner, either one can alter your backyard and provide you with years of enjoyment.

Since both pavilions and pergolas have their similarities and differences, it can be confusing to choose the one you like best based on your lifestyle and budget.

The design experts at KD Landscape can help you with your decision. We can talk about your priorities and give you some ideas you may not have considered, helping you get that backyard of your dreams.

Ready to see how KD Landscape can transform your suburban Chicago backyard into a space you can use more often and in any weather? We’d love to share our design and installation expertise with you. Get started today with a free consultation. Together, we can prepare a plan that you’ll love.

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