Outdoor Structures Explained – Gazebos, Pergolas & More

By November 1, 2021 November 15th, 2021 No Comments

Have you ever found yourself wondering ‘What’s the difference between a gazebo and a pergola?’ or ‘Is an arbour the same as a gazebo?’ If so, you’re in the majority of people who aren’t aware of the differences. But, fear not, leading retractable roof designers and installers, Designer Shade Solutions, are here to clear up any confusion – you can thank us later. Let’s start by running through some of the common structures.

Are you looking to add shelter to your garden? Do you want to enjoy outdoor dining all year round? A retractable louvred roof could be perfect for you. To find out more, speak with the team at Designer Shade Solutions today, by calling 0203 978 2450 or emailing

What is a gazebo?

Gazebos are standalone units, characterised by their solid roofs and open sides. These provide shade and shelter while allowing for a full 360-degree view of nature. Gazebos are commonly made of wood, giving a natural exterior that blends nicely with the rest of your garden, though they can be made from other materials too. Gazebos are often octagonal, but can also be circular, rectangular or square.

What are pergolas?

Pergolas are structures built using beams and posts, which provide shade to an area. While some pergolas are freestanding, some extend out from an existing room to the patio or deck, creating an extension of the home. While gazebos tend to have a solid roof, pergolas often have slatted roofs which allows for some sun to shine through. Pergolas are seen as more elegant and less cluttered than gazebos but don’t offer the same level of protection from the rain.

While traditional pergolas are low-tech, made from wooden beams, retractable tilting louvred roofs are the latest in pergola technology. The beams can move from being slatted, letting in some sun, to a fully secure, waterproof roof at just the touch of a button. They can also be automated to detect and react to rain.

What are arbours?

Arbours are generally freestanding structures with simple, sometimes slatted, arched roofs and are often used as an entrance to part of your garden. Many confuse them with pergolas, which have more open structures. Arbours are often much smaller than pergolas, and only usually provide enough shelter for a single bench. Unlike pergolas, arbours sometimes have solid sides, providing more protection. Arbours are commonly seen with plants climbing or vining up the beams and are hardly ever attached to homes, unlike pergolas.

What are retractable roofs?

Retractable roofs are structures, often attached to a building, that allow for natural light and ventilation to come through. Not only do they look great, they provide protection from the elements all year round, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space even when it’s raining.

There are many different types of retractable roofs, including frameless retractable louvred roofs, retractable glass roofs, retractable fabric roof awnings, pitched retractable roof systems and more. These retractable roofs in London are radio-controlled and can be automated to react to sun, rain and wind, so you don’t need to worry about getting caught in a storm.

As well as domestic properties, they can also be great for commercial settings, like beer gardens, cafes, restaurants and more. At Lost in Brixton café, we installed fully retractable roof systems, which have attracted new customers and offered a unique dining experience.

At Designer Shade Solutions, our retractable pergola roofs are bespoke, robust and can be easily accessorised with LED lights or heating to enhance your leisure experience. Start planning your dream retractable pergola roof today, by calling us on 0203 978 2450 or emailing

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