Thinking about getting a gazebo? Not sure what your options are?

Gazebos are a great way to update your outdoor space and expand your living space – as well as your design aesthetic – into your backyard.

There are dozens of gazebo design options for you to choose from, so we’ll break down everything to consider in order to help you determine the best gazebo design to suit your style and taste.

First: What is a Gazebo and What are Gazebos For?

A gazebo is an outdoor roofed structure, and traditional gazebos are shaped like an octagon with open views on each side of the surrounding area.

backyard gazebos

Gazebos are typically freestanding and open on all sides. They provide shelter, shade, and ornamentation to outdoor landscapes. Usually hexagonal or octagonal in shape, the style can range from traditional to modern to suit your style. Latticework can add an element of privacy as well as add design features to suit your outdoor environment.

Small towns and cities from the late 19th century often had large gazebos in their town centers which served as bandstands. Gazebos have nostalgic appeal and will add a quaint charm to your garden or backyard.

Traditional gazebos are almost like a window into the past – to a time when courting required chaperones and a separate outdoor space allowed for courtship to proceed with relative privacy.

Today, there are many options that give this nod to the past a beautiful contemporary update. When elegantly incorporated into the landscape, a gazebo can be a focal point as well as offer views of the gardens or landscape surrounding it.

Gazebos vs Pergolas: What is the Difference?

Before we dive in to our favorite gazebo designs, we’ll briefly discuss pergolas, the little cousin of gazebos.

Traditionally, a pergola is an upright outdoor garden structure supported by columns and covered with a grid-like overlay of beams and rafters. The roof of a pergola may be covered or open, depending on its purpose. Pergolas, like gazebos, may be freestanding structures, though they are often attached to houses or buildings.

Pergolas often stand above a patio or a pathway and provide some shade or shelter to an outdoor space. Because of their versatility, they can also be used for ornamental purposes. Pergolas also offer more options for outdoor living – and work particularly well for smaller spaces.

When gazebos are not practical, pergolas can stand in as a brilliant option.

Pavilions – A Cross between Gazebos and Pergolas 

Like the idea of a covered roof but the totally open walls of a pergola? What you want is a pavilion. Pavilions are a popular feature of public parks and are often larger than both gazebos and pergolas.

Gazebo’s Pavilion

gazebos pavilion

Pergola’s Pavilion

pergolas pavilion

Pavilions are very versatile spaces and can be enjoyed in many ways.

Gazebo Shapes and Gazebo Design Elements

Gazebos come in many shapes and sizes, and can be custom-designed to suit your style. The vast majority of gazebos are hexagons or octagons, but other common shapes for gazebos include circles, squares, rectangles, dodecagons (twelves sides), or even ovals.

Gazebos are most commonly made out of wood, vinyl, or aluminum. That said, custom gazebos come in all materials, including steel, wrought iron, concrete, and even stone. If your budget allows for it, you can get your gazebo built out of nearly anything.

Gazebos also vary dramatically in size. You can find tiny garden gazebos, or grand gazebos made for entertaining that are 30 feet in diameter. The standard size for a backyard gazebo is around 12 feet by 12 feet. Any smaller may be too cramped.

Common Gazebo Design Elements

There are many features you can add to customize your gazebo, adding charm, style, and comfort.

Screens are a common option to enclose the gazebo while allowing the fresh air to flow through. Alternatively, gazebos can be completely open or completely enclosed.

Many gazebos come with options of hard-top versus soft-top. Roof styles also vary, including single-level or double-tiered, pagoda-style roof options.

traditional colonial columns, grand Roman-style, clean lines of contemporary style

Our Favorite Gazebo Designs by Shape

With so many options, choosing a quality design can be challenging. Here are some of our favorite gazebo designs to help you narrow down your options.

Square Gazebos

We love square gazebos for all they have to offer. While less traditional, square gazebos are easy to build and are extremely versatile when it comes to adding personal taste. They are also suitable for smaller spaces, so if you are looking to build an ornamental accent to your outdoor landscape, square gazebos are a great option to consider.

Square gazebos can be large enough to cover a picnic table or outdoor dining set – or provide shade to an outdoor seating area. Square gazebos can also seamlessly integrate into a modern poolside setting, providing shade as well as a touch of luxury.

While square gazebos are a great option for small spaces, they are also a great option for large outdoor settings and can be a practical alternative to classic octagons. They provide a wonderful setting for outdoor entertaining and dining.

Rectangle Gazebos

Rectangle gazebos are similar to square gazebos, but they offer the option of more space to accommodate larger gatherings. They also provide the versatility to set up separate seating areas much like you would in a larger indoor living room.

Round and Oval Gazebos

When it comes to round and oval gazebos, we love the versatility they offer when it comes to both size and design. Round and oval gazebos often have a more classic look, and like square gazebos, they can be a great option for small spaces. Round gazebos often lend a romantic air to the scenery, particularly small round gazebos that may only have room for two chairs.

Oval gazebos are sometimes called elongated hexagon gazebos as they are not perfect ovals. They seamlessly blend the classic style of a hexagon or octagon with the additional space of a rectangle gazebo. If you’re torn between wanting extra space and having that classic gazebo, an oval gazebo may be your best bet.

When it comes to choosing your gazebo design, consider what you want to use your gazebo for. A round gazebo built for two may be the perfect option for intimate evenings right in your own backyard.

Hexagon Gazebos

Hexagonal gazebos are closer to the traditional gazebo shape. They are a popular shape in American backyards because they offer both the class gazebo style and options for both larger and more compact spaces. They also often feel more open than gazebos with more sides.

Hexagons rank among our favorite gazebo designs for these reasons. They can make a great focal point for a backyard garden.

Octagon Gazebos

Octagonal gazebos channel that ultimate classic gazebo style. They are the most classic gazebo style, so if you are looking for that classic style, the octagon is your perfect option. Older homes generally have a similar classic style, so octagons can integrate well with the architecture of antique homes.

While octagon gazebos are classic, there can be a simple elegance to those designed with clean lines, so if you like the classic shape, you can give it a modern update by building it with modern materials and a clean, simple design.

Decagon Gazebos

If you’re looking for a classic gazebo style with plenty of space, decagon gazebos make a great option. While less common than other gazebo designs in part due to price and space factors, they can make a beautiful addition to your outdoor landscape.

Dodecagon Gazebos

Dodecagon gazebos tend to look classic and traditional in style. They are ideal for entertaining large crowds, though they are not as popular so will likely need to be custom-built.

Portable, screened-in gazebos do come in the dodecagon design, and can be a great option for camping with a large group.

Adding Unique Gazebo Design Elements

One of our favorite aspects of gazebo design is how much you can customize gazebos to your taste. For example, we loved the idea of a pergola-style gazebo enclosed with sheer curtains. Unique elements like a greenhouse-style roof and intricate latticework can set your gazebo apart and add an artistic design element to your outdoor living space.

Classic gazebos like those you might find in a quaint small town add an air of romance and nostalgia.

Fans of old movies like The Sound of Music might like to go for the classic white gazebo. Or if your taste trends more toward bold styles, you can add Roman-style columns or design it to look like a Chinese pagoda. Modern shapes and materials can instantly update the look of your gazebo.

When it comes to unique gazebos, these are some of our favorite designs:

  • Outdoor Great Room: Take the comfort of the indoors out into the open air and create a new space for your home when you build your gazebo.
  • Rustic Lodge Style: Channel the rustic outdoors and design your gazebo to look like a rustic lodge right in your own backyard.
  • Secret Garden Style: Create a romantic garden-style gazebo that blends in seamlessly with the verdure surrounding it.
  • Elegant Moorish Style: Integrate sweeping ogee arches and bench seating into an open-air belvedere reminiscent of Moorish-style architecture to add an elegant garden centerpiece.
  • Stately Roman Style: Stargazing amidst stately Corinthian or ionic columns is the stuff dreams are made of. Even if you only have space for a small gazebo or pergola, integrating Roman columns can instantly upgrade your outdoor space.
  • Contemporary: Paired with the right materials and design, square and rectangular shapes lend themselves well to contemporary gazebo designs.
  • Poolside Luxury: Add an air of luxury to your poolside. Bonus – a poolside gazebo makes a practical addition by offering shade and protection from the sun.
  • Winter-friendly Custom Chimney: With a blazing fire, an overhead electric heater, stereo speakers and built-in benches, this pergola is ready to entertain no matter how cold it gets.

Finding the Right Outdoor Furniture to Compliment Your Gazebo Design 

A key thing to consider when choosing a gazebo design is the furniture you will use in it.

Many gazebos offer the option of built-in seating. But if you already have furniture or intend to purchase outdoor furniture in a particular style, keep the size and style of that furniture in mind to make sure it fits the size and style of the gazebo.

You wouldn’t want to build your gazebo only to find that your furniture is cramped or doesn’t even fit. Nor would you want to style or color of your gazebo to clash with your furniture. If you begin with the gazebo design, shop around to find furniture that will fit!

How Much Do Gazebos Cost?

These days you can find pop-up gazebos for as cheap as just over $100. But depending on size, shape, material, and design elements, gazebos can easily run $12,000.

The average cost of custom gazebos ranges from approximately $3,000- $10,000. High-end, grand, luxurious gazebos may cost $25,000 or more.

Don’t forget you will also have to factor in labor costs and any extras, like if you need to level your yard or pour concrete.

Enclosed pergolas also usually cost more than gazebos.

So before you start building, do your due diligence when negotiating with contractors.

Choosing the Best Gazebo Design for You 

Considering the of myriad options, choosing the right gazebo design can be a big task. But once you consider the shape, size, and your personal style, you can begin to narrow it down.

Take time choosing the style that’s right for you, and you’ll end up with the outdoor oasis you’ve always dreamed of – right in your own backyard. Books like this one will help you understand the work and requirements of building a gazebo to help in your decision process.

When it comes to designing a unique gazebo for your backyard, the options are endless and the results infinitely rewarding!