There’s something romantic about a gazebo. A gazebo is almost like a little house with open walls. In addition to offering protection from the rain and sun, a gazebo offers privacy and comfort.
A gazebo is a place that feels cozy, a place where marriage proposals might happen, a place where magic seems possible.
Whether you want to add some magic or shade to your own yard, a gazebo might be the first thing you think about.
But how do you choose a style that fits you?
Choosing a gazebo style means choosing between nearly fifty different style combinations of roofs, walls, sides, pillars, doors, and windows. It can be circular, square, or some shape of polygon with six, eight, or ten sides. It can be made of wood, vinyl, stone, or metal. A gazebo could rest on a hill or over a bridge, be tucked away in a forest of foliage or stand open in a garden park offering an inviting shelter from the rain. No matter its shape, what sets a gazebo apart from a pergola is that it always has a solid roof that keeps out rain.
Materials for building your gazebo
If you’re like me, maybe the first material you thought of for a gazebo was wood. Traditionally, the oldest gazebos were fashioned from wood, as was most everything else before materials like vinyl, powder-coated steel, and aluminum became available.
But maybe you didn’t think of a tiny, wooden, Victorian-style gazebo at all. Maybe you immediately thought of the modern, square, hard-top gazebo that covers lavish patio furniture, complete with a chandelier hanging from the center beam.
With our broad definition of what a gazebo is (and no, we’re not talking about the open-source 3-D robotics simulator, Gazebo), anything is possible!
We define a gazebo as basically any outdoor recreational structure with a roof to keep out rain and offer protection from the sun.
Modern gazebos are mostly made of powder-coated steel and aluminum. Some kits, like one from Home Depot, give you a combination of wooden pillars with a metal roof. Some kits come with a metal roof frame that can be covered with canvas. The canvas roofs are less expensive but not as good at protecting you from the rain.
Traditional, all-wood gazebos have a different feel and a different purpose. They are mainly decorative, rather than functional, so comfort isn’t as important as quaintness. An all-wood gazebo will likely have roof shingles of some kind, rather than a metal roof. It will look like a mini house in some ways, so keep that in mind.
What you choose for your material will reflect your overall personal style. It should fit in well with the style of your home. If you have a modern look to your home, then a modern gazebo will fit right in. If you live in an old pioneer or Victorian home, opt for a wooden gazebo with an old-world feel.
If you want to go even more old-fashioned, you could hearken back to the middle ages. Use stone and mortar to build the base of your gazebo and cap it with a shingled or thatched roof for a truly ancient feel.
The size and shape your gazebo needs
Popular sizes for square gazebos are 10×10 feet and 12×16 feet. The modern style of square, hard-top gazebo is much larger than a traditional old-style gazebo, which could be 8 feet in diameter, small enough to crown a bridge over a stream of water.
Most of today’s gazebo customers want maximum comfort, which means enough overhead protection for a luxurious sofa sectional and maybe even a dining table. The modern gazebo basically replaces the traditional back patio.
The perks of modern, square, wood-and-metal gazebos include lots of shade, protection from rain, plenty of space for furniture, a central beam for hanging a chandelier or lamp, and perimeter beams for hanging lanterns or Christmas lights.
If you just want an interesting and sweet little old-style gazebo to decorate your lawn or accent a nearby water feature like a pond or stream, you’re probably going to go for a circle or polygonal shape.
A circular gazebo is quite rare as most gazebos that look circular are actually polygonal instead, having multiple walls that fit together at a wide angle that suggests a circle. This type of gazebo is popular in parks or large front lawns, or as a center-piece for a flower garden, and it often includes benches or a picnic table inside. It can be as small as 8 feet or as large as 30 feet in diameter.
If you want the charm of a circular gazebo without the stress of creating a perfect circle, a many-sided (polygonal) gazebo will be your best bet.
Building a polygonal gazebo is quite simple, too. Home Depot has a lot of inspiration for you on their website.
You start with a deck of the shape you want. If your gazebo will be 8-sided, then your deck will have the shape of an octagon.
Next add your pillars, and connect those pillars with walls or windows the height of your choosing. The walls can be short like a quaint little fence or come all the way to the ceiling with windows cut out of them.
Finally, cap it with a roof that comes to a point in the center.
If you’re feeling really fancy, you can top it off with a cupola, a miniature dome that rises up from the point of the roof.
Classic gazebo styles
That brings us to the question of style. Gazebos come in so many styles.
Designingidea.com lists the following gazebo styles with pictures of each style:
They include “Pergola Gazebo” as one of their styles, but as we have discussed in our post on the 20 uses of a pergola, a pergola is not a gazebo.
Strictly speaking, a folly gazebo also doesn’t classify as a gazebo under our definition, since it doesn’t protect you from the elements and is primarily decorative. It is generally made of metal with fine decorative flourishes of wire in a dome shape over pillars.
A rotunda gazebo is the round pillared gazebo with a domed roof. It may include polygonal gazebos like the octagonal one we discussed building earlier. It can have open pillars like a pavilion or a gated perimeter like a Victorian gazebo, so long as it has a round shape with a domed roof.
A Victorian gazebo is a special type of rotunda gazebo that is traditionally painted white. It has a double roof that comes to a point or is topped by a cupola, with a low white slatted fence around the perimeter and an open or gated entrance. Often the entrance is raised from the ground by at least one step.
The inside of a Victorian gazebo is usually a small 8-10 feet in diameter, only big enough for some benches around the interior edges. However, you can find Victorian gazebos from creativegazebos.com as large as 30 feet in diameter. In my opinion, the Victorian style is the epitome of all gazebos, the most romantic, and the only kind I would consider building for my home.
When we finish our pebbled stream and waterfall feature in the front yard, we will build a Victorian-style gazebo beside it, the better to appreciate the peaceful sound of trickling water and the fresh country air.
Of course, we’ll plant rose bushes and trellises of climbing roses all around it. What else do you do with a Victorian gazebo?
The Asian gazebo is also iconic. The natural bamboo-style pillars and folded lines of the peaked origami-inspired roof are enough to instantly give one a sense of place. If you have a Zen garden planned, an Asian gazebo would be the perfect complement.
Some Asian gazebo styles have a double roof, similar to the Victorian style but with an outward flair at the edges characteristic of Asian architecture.
The Japanese-style gazebo, azuma-ya, is a larger, simpler gazebo style suitable for a picnic area or a garden viewing structure. Shizenstyle has an entire post about Japanese garden structures, if you want to go with that cultural theme.
The pavilion gazebo can be virtually any shape but is characterized by open spaces between the pillars, making it feel less like a gazebo and more like a covered patio. Since it is a stand-alone covered patio, we can still call it a gazebo.
Pavilion gazebos are common in parks and the modern, square wood-and-metal hard-top gazebo we see everywhere at the home improvement stores could be classified as pavilion gazebos, too.
Now that you’ve thought about the materials you’d like to use, the size and shape you prefer, and your favorite style of gazebo, you are ready to begin your project!
Good luck and let me know how it goes! I’ll share pictures of our Victorian-style rose garden gazebo when we finish it.