12 Beautiful Shade Structures & Patio Cover Ideas

12 creative & attractive shade structures and patio cover ideas such as DIY friendly fabric canopy, shade sails, simple pergolas,  vines for sun shades , etc! 

Many of life’s most blissful moments are when we spend time outside. Maybe it’s listening to bird songs on the deck, reading a book on the patio, or having a backyard bbq party. 

creative & attractive shade structures & patio cover ideas such as DIY friendly fabric canopy, shade sails, simple pergolas, vines for sun shades, etc!

Shade structures and patio covers are favorite garden and landscape design features to enjoy beautiful days outdoors to the fullest. There are many creative ways to build a shade structure using low cost materials such as wood, fabric, branches and even twigs!

* Some resources in article are affiliate links. Full disclosure here .

An outdoor umbrella is the most simple patio shade cover. However, umbrellas are not the best solution for some outdoor spaces, and they might not be big enough to shade the areas you want.

shade structures & patio cover ideas

Let’s explore some attractive and DIY friendly backyard and patio shade ideas. Hope you find them inspiring for your next home improvement project!

1. Grow a living shade canopy

grape growing on pergola over patio

Vines such as grape and climbing roses growing on a simple structure can make a lush and beautiful living shade canopy. ( Via Elmueble )

Here are 20+ of our favorite easy to grow flowering vines for the garden!

20+ favorite easy-to-grow fragrant flowering vines for year-round beauty.
20+ favorite easy to grow flowering vines for the garden!

Deciduous vines can provide shade in late spring through early autumn, and when the weather get colder and leaves fall, more sunlight will come through on winter days. 

modern patio ideas with shade pergola and grape vines

You can support vines with trellises made from wood or metal, or simple pergola kits. ( Via Mr. Tripper )

You can even grow a living willow dome!  Click here for tutorials and more ideas on DIY living structures! 

12 DIY living structures you can create!

2. Easy DIY fabric patio shade canopy

Easy DIY fabric patio shade canopy idea

One of the easiest DIY patio shade ideas is a fabric canopy. Below is the video tutorial on how to use fabric with curtain rods to create a shade canopy.

colorful fabric patio shade ideas

You can also use an artistic mix of colors and patterns to create backyard shade structures and patio covers. ( Via Mi Casa Revista )

DIY backyard fabric shade structures and patio covers

Here’s a tutorial by Vtwonen on how to create patio shade structures using fabric and PVC pipes. A little idea on improvement: PVC pipes can deteriorate in sunlight, consider using bamboo poles, 2×2 wood, or metal rebar to build similar outdoor shade structures.

3. Shade sails patio cover ideas

Shade sails patio cover ideas

Shade sails are easy and versatile patio and backyard shade structures. There are many shade sail colors to choose from. You can also use different shapes such as triangles and rectangles, and overlap them in creative ways. Add string lights to them for magic evenings.  ( Via Flores Artscape | Tenshon )

DIY backyard shade sails

If you want to find out more about how to install shade sails, check out this DIY shade sail patio cover tutorial by House Tweaking.

4. Attractive shade structures with natural and free materials

Attractive shade structures with natural and free materials

Indigenous people all around the world have created shade structures from local native plant materials such as twigs, branches, bamboo, palm leaves, etc.

This woven twig or bamboo panel supported by cables looks so charming on an old farmhouse in Spain. ( Via Casa De Valentina )

latillas and Vigas

In traditional buildings of the American southwest like this example above, a layer of smaller branches or saplings known as latillas or Latias (laths) covers the top of the Vigas (wood beams). 

white modern patio with shade pergola

This timeless design looks beautiful in both modern and traditional gardens. Here is a modern patio with shade pergola. ( Via Est Living )

patio shade cover idea in a traditional Mediterranean farmhouse style

Another beautiful patio shade cover idea in a traditional Mediterranean farmhouse style via Lanacion.

5. Classic wood pergola shade structures 

Pergolas are usually built by professional contractors. If you want to DIY, be sure to follow local building codes and safety practices. Here is a simple pergola plan you can use as a guide. 

How to build a beautiful DIY pergola ( beginner friendly DIY grape arbor )!
simple pergola plan
backyard garden with free standing pergola painted white

This elegant free standing pergola painted white looks timeless in any landscape design.

rustic wood pergola patio ideas

This rustic wood pergola attached to a wall makes this outdoor patio look so inviting.

metal and wood pergola in backyard with beautiful landscaping

You can also choose metal and wood pergolas or paint some part of a pergola a different color for a modern patio shade structure here.

6. Pergolas with fabric shade canopy 

fabric shade canopy

A pergola with fabric shade canopy offers many attractive ideas and styles. ( Via Anything Pretty | Tenshon )

pergola with fabric shade cover

Below is a detailed DIY video by Sailrite on how to install retractable fabric shade canopy on a pergola. 

There are so variations in fabric colors and sizes.

white fabric  patio cover

White and lighter color fabrics also reflect more sun and keep this patio cool in summer.

7. Retractable fabric shade canopy on cables

cables with retractable canopy fabric patio shade structures

If you don’t have a pergola, you can still create similar retractable canopy fabric patio shade structures using cables attached to a wall like this or to free standing posts like this.

retractable canopy fabric patio shade structures

8. Shade cloth over wood pergolas

sections of fabric or shade cloth on a wood pergola patio cover

This patio cover is created by stretching sections of fabric or shade cloth like mini shade sails over a wood pergola.

shade cloth stretched over a pergola

You can also have just one piece of shade cloth stretched over a pergola frame. ( Via Karwei )

9. Corrugate metal aluminum patio cover shade ideas

Corrugated galvanized metal for building shade structures, like this free standing pergola patio cover

Corrugated galvanized metal is a popular and low cost roofing material which are great for building shade structures, like this free standing pergola patio cover. ( Via Mobile Bay)

porch shade structure attached to the house  in modern farmhouse style.

Here‘s a stylish porch shade structure attached to the house in modern farmhouse style.

10. Decorative metal shade structures

 metal pergola shade structures with decorative cutout patterns also create beautiful shadows on walls and floors

These metal panels with decorative cutout patterns also create beautiful shadows on walls and floors. The panels (from Parasoleil) we have used in landscape designs for our clients projects are very heavy, and require professional installation. But it is a great idea with lots of potential. 

11. Outdoor fabric curtain shade ideas

white fabric curtains on outdoor wood pergola

Summer afternoon sun can be super hot, but coming at a lower angle. This is why in addition to shade canopies, curtains are great ideas for shade structures as well. They also add a lovely resort and spa vibe to a backyard.  (Via BHG )

12. Add lights to shade structures

outdoor kitchen with string lights on the pergola

This outdoor kitchen is so inviting all day long. When evening comes, the string lights on the pergola make it an extra magical place. 

You may also love: 10 easy and attractive outdoor lighting ideas with solar and LED lights.

10 easy and attractive outdoor lighting ideas with solar and LED lights

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7 Comments

  1. My wife and I were thinking of setting up a flower garden and a place to sit in front of us, but I couldn’t figure out how to get started. However, after your article, I got Beautiful Shade Structures & Patio Cover Ideas. We will start work very soon now. I have never found such a beautiful idea in an article before. This is a helpful idea especially for beginners. Everyone should read this article to know a lot of new things.

  2. I like the idea of having some outdoor lights to make a patio look majestic during the late afternoon. Perhaps having shade sails on mine would make it a lot more bearable to hang out in even during a hot summer day. getting to read a book outdoors while having tea would surely be a nice weekend routine.

  3. I loved the Decorative metal shade structures I think they will be better than using wood especially in the states that get a strong wind.
    thank you was very valuable

  4. How about focusing on the support structures for the sail shades? Would like to know what is best to have those posts and beams put up or anchors in the walls if there are none to start with. How strong does it have to be? what about moveable supports? Thank you

    • hi tia, great questions 🙂 and there are lots of specs, FAQ, and installation documents provided by shade sail websites like the one listed in our article. that would be a good place to start!

  5. My wife and I have thought of making use of our yard space by making an outdoor patio area that we can relax and entertain guests in. I loved your example of using fabric shades as a comfortable way to provide a cool area to sit under because my wife has always been fond of more subtle elements to designs and so something as simple and effective as fabric shades might be her thing. I’ll be sure to run through all your examples with a patio contractor when we decide to start our plans. Thank you!

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