Gazebo design and building

Whether a gathering point or an architectural accent, a well designed gazebo is an asset



While the word “gazebo” is now used to describe structures of various styles, for many it denotes a structure of traditional or period design. Victorian-style gazebos have long been popular, as have gazebos of colonial or English style, but gazebos can be of oriental inspiration (such as the ornate pagoda style), of Asian influence (such as the thatched Balinese hut-style) or something of more modern design. To be considered a gazebo, it just needs to be a roofed structure that stands alone and is open on the sides.
For some, a gazebo is a place to gather. Depending on its size and location, it could be a simple yet charming structure with bench seating where you can simply relax and read a good book, or it could contain tables, chairs and a barbecue for outdoor dining and entertaining. For others, a gazebo is an ornamental feature. Placed at the end of a garden path or in a corner of the garden, it acts as a focal point, punctuating the design of the landscape and drawing the eye towards something beautiful and away from less pleasing vistas.


How will you use it?

A gazebo is meant to stand out (in a good way, of course), so location and style are key factors, but the first thing to think about is how you intend to use the structure. Will it be purely decorative — more an architectural feature or design accent than a space to be used? Will it be a place for private reflection or somewhere you can sit and admire a lovely view, perhaps of a river or beach beyond the boundaries of your property? Or perhaps you have an outdoor spa that needs protection from the elements?
Many will want to use their gazebo for socialising. This could range from small, casual gatherings to larger, more structured outdoor entertaining. How the structure will be used will influence location and access, size, how many support posts it will have and how high or low the railings will be, the configuration of the furniture placed within it, whether lighting, heating and sound systems need to integrated — also, the planting and landscaping around the structure.


Size and location

Because a gazebo is stand-alone structure, it isn’t a wise idea for small gardens, as even a gazebo of modest size and restrained design would look imposing and out of scale. For this reason, gazebos tend to work best in larger gardens where they can be integrated into the design of the landscape but still act as a focal point. For period-style gazebos, lush gardens are ideal settings. They create a pleasing destination point within the garden and a prime spot from which to survey the greenery and garden beds. They also present a vignette, which can be appreciated when looking out from the house into the garden.
Location will be determined by size, aspect, sun exposure and the contour of your land (after all, you need a level spot with good drainage). How the structure will be used also plays a determining factor — if you want to use it for outdoor entertaining, you may want to place it as close as practical to the home for easy access to the kitchen. Then there are local council regulations to consider. For example, what are the setback laws?
Walk around your garden to get a sense of how the gazebo would look from every angle and what views you would get from the gazebo. To be sure the size of gazebo you have in mind won’t be too big for your chosen location, spray-paint the structure’s outline on the lawn.


Choosing a style

The popularity of the period-style gazebo never seems to wane. Reminiscent of the charming timber gazebos and rotundas seen in parks and heritage homes, they bring a touch of romance and old-world charm to a garden. The Victorian style is one of the best known and one of the most elegant. Look for a structure of octagonal shape with ornate arches, railings that look hand-cut and a pagoda-style roof.
Gazebos can also be of Colonial, Federation or Edwardian style or they can be rustic timber structures with a woodland feel. Other options include Japanese pagoda or teahouse styles, tropical resort-style thatched designs or a custom design. If the structure is mainly to be used for decorative purposes, an ornate gazebo of wrought iron can look very effective (depending on the style of your garden) or you might want to go for something more gothic — perhaps stone (or stone-look) supports with a decorative iron cupola.
If the gazebo is to be located far away from the house, you have more leeway to choose a style that is not married to the architectural style of the house, although both gazebo and landscape need to be in harmony. The closer the structure to the house, the more it needs to reference the materials, colours or style of the home to ensure an overall look of cohesion.


Materials and accessories

While gazebos have traditionally been built using hardwood timber that is then painted, that isn’t your only option. Depending on the design of the structure, personal taste and budget, you can use metal instead (this is usually cheaper than timber and requires less ongoing maintenance) or a mix of materials. If opting for a Bali-style or tropical-look gazebo, the support posts might be of carved timber.
Floors can be of tile, concrete, stone or timber while the roof might be tiled, covered in shingles, made of Colorbond or, in the case of tropical-style gazebos, comprised of thatch.
Depending on the purpose of your gazebo, you will need to choose furniture, accessories and a decorating theme. If the purpose is to simply sit and admire a lovely view, a timber garden bench with an ornately carved back might be all you need. Or, perhaps, a small table and matching chairs made of rattan or synthetic wicker. Larger gazebos that will be used for entertaining might need a comfortable outdoor lounge setting or tables and chairs. They might also benefit from lighting, a ceiling fan or side blinds that can be lowered in inclement weather.


Kit or custom design

Gazebos can be built from scratch on-site, come pre-built or in kit form. To ease the process, it might pay to find a company that specialises in gazebos or the construction of outdoor structures and let them co-ordinate everything. Some companies will have a range of standard designs you can choose from; others will also offer a custom-design-and-build service for those who want something unique. Getting advice from your local builder is a good idea, and when it comes to building your gazebo , a builder with experience in this area could save you time and money.
And for those who just want a gazebo in the summer months, there are portable gazebos/pavilions available from hardware stores and the like. They usually consist of an easy-to-erect light metal framework covered in canvas or weather-proof material. Once the warm weather is over, disassemble and store (properly covered) in your garage or shed until next season.






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