Garden arbor ideas: 12 stylish designs to shelter your seating and paths

Frame parts of your plot with these garden arbor ideas – they're a must-have structure for your outdoor space

garden arbor ideas: grey arch over path with hanging light
(Image credit: Jon Lovette/ Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images)

Ever thought about bringing garden arbor ideas into your plot? If you hadn't before, you'll certainly be tempted once you've seen these gorgeous designs.

Smaller than pergola ideas, arbors are garden structures that are used to arch over features in your plot, generally with some sort of roof. For example, they are a lovely way to mark the start of a path, or elevate a gate. Designs vary hugely, and they look especially eye-catching when surrounded in climbing plants.

They are also very popular for sheltering seating – there are lots of varieties which offer a built-in bench. As Jenny Davis of Forest Garden says, 'Arbors can be a beautiful addition to a garden and with just a little creativity can become a quiet retreat or a very social area.' Whatever the size and shape of your outdoor space you can add character as well as extra seating to your garden with an arbor, she says.

Want to find out more? Of course you do! Take a look at these gorgeous garden arbor ideas and you'll want one of your own in no time.

1. Mark the start of a zone

garden arbor ideas: white structure with picket fence and windchimes

This white arbor complements the fence either side beautifully

(Image credit: Perry Mastrovito/ Image Source/Getty Images)

Garden arbor ideas are a great way to distinguish the different spaces in your plot whilst keeping an open and airy vibe. Try marking the entranceway to a vegetable patch or define the edge of your lawn with a pretty design such as this. 

If you can integrate it into your garden fence ideas it'll make the divide even more defined, just make sure they complement one another for a cohesive look. White picket styles are a classic choice for cottage garden ideas. Can you spot the wind chime here too? We think it adds a lovely touch.

2. Paint it a pretty hue

garden arbor ideas: mini trellis seat

We love this arbor bench painted in Parlyte Green wood paint from Thorndown Paints

(Image credit: Thorndown Paints)

Wooden garden arbor ideas can be given a new look with a fresh lick of paint, so embrace the chance to get creative and make your new garden structure suit your plot perfectly.

If you're looking at arbor benches like the one above, 'Dark greys like "Cavepool Grey" can create a dramatic and stylish centerpiece for outside entertaining,' recommends Caroline Thornborough, Director of Thorndown Paint. 'For summer parties, pick a bright pastel color to lift everyone's mood and bring instant cheer.' This pretty mint hue has got us swooning.

To finish the scene, 'Dress with solar lights, comfy cushions and warm snuggly blankets so you can stay out in your garden until the late evening hours,' she adds. You can find some of our top picks in our best solar lights buying guide.

3. Try a corner-bench style

garden arbor ideas: wooden Sorrento corner arbor from Forest Garden

The Sorrento arbor from Forest Garden has enough room for four people to sit and relax

(Image credit: Forest Garden)

Garden arbor ideas can make a great addition to our best garden benches when they come with seating attached. This corner style is perfect for hosting a small gathering of friends, and would work equally well on a patio as it would tucked at the bottom of your lawn.

Add plenty of colorful cushions to up the comfy-factor, and consider stringing fairy lights overhead for a magical scene when night falls. Trellised sides could also be used to support climbers – try clematis, for example.

4. Shelter a walkway

garden arbor ideas: pale grey arch over path

Use a modern grey design to arch over a path

(Image credit: Jon Lovette/ Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images)

Give your pathways an extra dose of pizzazz with modern garden arbor ideas. This one frames the scene ahead beautifully, and a pale grey tone is always an on-trend choice.

The curved arch above adds a pleasing look, and the addition of a hanging lantern is a great way to illuminate the way when the sun goes down. If you're on the lookout for more garden lighting ideas, take a look at our feature.

5. Opt for simple steel structures

garden arbor ideas: steel arch over bench with climbing roses from Garden Trading

The Charlbury Rose Arch in steel from Garden Trading demonstrates how simple garden arbor ideas can be just as effective as more elaborate designs

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Arbors don't have to be huge great things – sometimes a simple approach is just as effective. Take this minimal metal archway, for example. It frames the folding bench below beautifully, making it a real feature point of the garden.

Of course, it also provides a sturdy structure for rambling roses, which will make sitting beneath the archway even more of a joy. Made of powder-coated steel, it should last through many winters, too.

If you're looking for more outdoor seating ideas, head over to our feature.

6. Go for whimsical details

garden arbor ideas: white and pink design with curtains

This pretty-in-pink garden arbor is full of charm

(Image credit: Simon Scarboro/Future)

Pink and white tones give this garden arbor a fairytale edge which is difficult not to fall in love with. But if this look is a little too pink for you, then perhaps a different duo of complementary shades is a more suitable approach – powder-blue and light grey, or sage-green and cream would work well.

This is a great example of how to dress up your arbor design too, to make it feel even more special. A hanging planter is a wonderful addition (our window box ideas might have you inspired), and flowing curtains offer an element of softness, as well as privacy when needed. 

It will be your new favorite spot for relaxing with a good book all summer long.

7. Add a blue hue

garden arbor ideas: blue painted arch with bench – paint by Thorndown Paints

Try a touch of blue for your garden arbor ideas – this one is painted in Peregrine Blue wood paint from Thorndown Paints

(Image credit: Thorndown Paints)

If you're after something a little bolder and more vibrant for your garden, then how about this blue-hued beauty? Another design that's combined with a bench, this would work well at the edge of a patio, or to create a destination point halfway down your plot. 

Accented with a pop of sunny yellow along the roof, it feels playful and fun. And, it provides enough space for two to sit and chat alongside a morning cup of coffee. Add a complementary cushion and you're all set. We think it would work well as part of our family garden ideas.

Eager to bring more shelter to your outdoor space? Take a look at our awning ideas.

8. Light up a woven style

garden arbor ideas: woven arch over bench with lights

Illuminate your garden arbor ideas, like in this gorgeous set-up from Lights4fun

(Image credit: Lights4fun)

Good garden lighting ideas can enhance the ambience of any outdoor space, so why not bring them into your garden arbor ideas too? Just a simple string of garden-friendly fairy lights can make a real focal point of a feature and give it an ever-so-inviting appeal. 

This woven design above is a rustic twist on more traditional styles, and paired with a simple bench, offers an organic vibe. Try adding it to your wildlife garden ideas for a quiet spot to sit and admire the view.

9. Create a tucked away spot for your garden arbor ideas

garden arbor ideas: green bench with roof in country garden

Traditional-style arbors look lovely in more formal gardens

(Image credit: Polly Eltes/Future)

If your outdoor space is on the larger side, then a garden arbor is an easy way to create a relaxing retreat for one. Tuck it amongst your flowerbed ideas or to the side of your lawn for an instant hideaway away from the daily hubbub.

A traditional style with a sloped roof works well in country-classic gardens, and will keep you sheltered from the sun's glare or a spot of rain. Here, the window detail in the back panel adds an attractive flourish, framing the leafy background beyond.

10. Choose a natural look

garden arbor ideas: wooden arbor at end of decked path

Raise your arbor up onto decking

(Image credit: Tim Winter/Future)

If you want to go for a more natural vibe for your garden arbor ideas, then you can't go far wrong with unpainted wood. A honey-hued design like this brings warmth to a space and looks stunning against a woven fence and terracotta planters nearby.

Plus, opting for a wooden finish will complement decking ideas perfectly. Positioning your arbor up high will draw the eye to make a striking focal point for your garden, and when you're sat beneath it, you can enjoy a good view of your plot. 

11. Use an arbor as part of your patio seating

garden arbor ideas: pale grey arch over path

Bring garden arbor ideas into your paved space

(Image credit: Spike Powell/Future)

Arbors can be an important part of your patio ideas to provide extra seating. Position them close to other chairs, garden sofas, and outdoor dining tables to offer enough room for all your guests when entertaining alfresco.

This cream design with a tiled roof is full of traditional charm, and offsets the stone wall behind well. Styled with plenty of potted plants and hanging lanterns nearby, the set-up gives an enticing, old-world feel to a small courtyard.

A parasol is a must-have for extra shelter over tables – take a look at our best garden parasols buying guide to find your favorite style.

12. Elevate a gate

garden arbor ideas: white gate with flowers arching over the top

Update a simple gate with an arbor covered in blooms

(Image credit: Zoonar/S.Heap/Getty Images)

If you're looking to elevate your garden gate ideas, then an arbor might just be the way forward. They make the very most of the vertical space above them, adding striking structure and definition.

This design above may be simple, but it adds a ton of romance and character to the entrance to this plot. Covered in tumbling florals, it creates a beautiful first impression.

What plants can I grow around my arbor?

garden arbor ideas: blue arch covered in roses

A simple arbor can be transformed into a show-stopping spectacle when covered in masses of roses

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography/Moment/Getty Images)

'You can soften the hard edges of your arbor with climbers,' says Jenny Davis, of Forest Garden. 'Jasmine, honeysuckle or clematis will be in their element. If your arbor is in a shady area, take care to choose a clematis which is happy with less sunshine.' You can find more picks for the best climbing plants in our guide.

Then, think about the greater area around your arbor. If you want to boost the privacy levels of the space, then Jenny has some planting suggestions to grow nearby. 'A well-placed specimen tree, such as a colorful acer or cherry, or even a line of bamboos can make excellent natural borders for a very private zone,' she says.

'In contrast, lower-level planting such as colorful and fragrant lavenders invite the eye into a much more social space,' Jenny adds. Learn how to grow lavender with our guide.

How do I paint a garden arbor?

'Arbors can create great focal points for relaxation,' says Caroline Thornborough, Director of Thorndown Paint, 'and if painted, not only will they last longer but they can be integrated into the exterior garden design.'

Here's Caroline's top tips on how to get started:

  1. Pick your color. 'Painting an arbor a dark color can really make it stand out, while choosing a softer color will help it blend in with planting,' Caroline says. 'Pick a color that makes you feel happy and works with the exterior colors of your home and garden.'
  2. 'Before starting your project, make sure the wood is nice and dry and the surface is sound and clean,' she continues.
  3. And then, 'Apply two coats for full exterior protection.'

Looking for more advice? Head over to our guide on painting garden furniture.

Holly Crossley
Acting Deputy Editor

The garden was always a big part of Holly's life growing up, as was the surrounding New Forest where she lived. Her appreciation for the great outdoors has only grown since then. She's been an allotment keeper, a professional gardener, and a botanical illustrator – plants are her passion.