Backyard Shade Structures to Escape the Summer Heat

A backyard shade structure with closed roof covering outdoor furniture.

Summer months mean more daylight, vacation season and sweltering afternoon heat, making it tough to spend too long outside. Yet, backyard shade structures — combining form and function — help you enjoy the outdoors even as the temperatures rise. Designed to filter direct sunlight and encourage airflow, shade structures like pergolas, gazebos and awnings can be tailored to meet the unique needs of your landscape. In this blog, we’ve outlined some of the most popular and aesthetically pleasing structures to inspire you to escape the summer heat.

Custom wood pergola in a backyard.


Typically featuring columns and a flat roof, pergolas are large wooden shade structures that serve as an extension of an indoor/outdoor space. They provide a shaded area for entertaining, dining, relaxing and can be attached to the exterior of your home. They may even provide cover for a hot tub or swimming pool. Oftentimes, pergolas feature a slatted roof, which allows for filtered sunlight to shine through, while still protecting against direct sun.

An arbor attached to a backyard fence with climbing vines and flowers.


On the other hand, arbors are smaller freestanding structures that tend to be less detailed than pergolas. Yet, while the design typically features fewer flourishes, they are often arched and add striking visual interest to a landscape and can be placed along a walkway, attached to a gate or in a garden. Arbors are also popular choices for supporting vines and climbing plants, adding to their aesthetic appeal.

A custom designed gazebo in a backyard.


Stunning and often featuring intricate design details, gazebos add an elevated air to your landscape. A closed roof, partially open sides and an oval or octagonal shape are hallmarks of their design. Gazebos provide more full coverage from direct light, thanks to the closed roof, but are still airy and bright due to the open sides.

Two modern cabanas next to a swimming pool.


Ideal for relaxing poolside, cabanas are freestanding covered structures that provide loungers with a respite from direct sunlight. While the word “cabana” may bring tropical vibes to mind, these structures can be designed to meet any architectural style — from plush and elegant to sleek and modern to modern farmhouse, depending on your preference.

A backyard patio with a sun shade to protect against the heat.

Screens & Sails

Shade screens and sails are versatile options for protecting against direct sunlight. Made from fabric, shade sails offer a wide range of options for installation and design — the most popular of which are triangular shapes that can be configured to create a variety of patterns. Shade screens, which can be made from numerous materials depending on the location, configuration and aesthetic you are looking for, help filter light and protect against heat.

A backyard patio designed with an overhanging roof.

Patio Covers & Awnings

Patios are a popular area for entertaining and relaxing outdoors. Adding an awning or a cover can help elevate this prized outdoor space, making it an ideal place for spending time year-round. Awnings and covers are typically built onto permanent structures, such as the side of the home, providing long-term protection against the heat. By protecting against direct sunlight, they help keep the side of the home cool, as well as the patio itself while encouraging open airflow.

A covered outdoor kitchen overlooking the skyline.

Outdoor Kitchens

Taking dining al fresco up a notch with a custom summer outdoor kitchen. From grills and dining areas to embedded speakers and TVs, outdoor kitchens can be fully customized to meet your hosting needs. You may opt for a fully enclosed ceiling to protect against the heat, while a ceiling fan can help circulate hot air and keep you cool while cooking, dining and entertaining.

In conclusion, shade structures help you get the most out of your outdoor space. These structures can be designed to integrate with your landscape design, complimenting existing architectural elements, gardens, plants and your home’s exterior — all while providing a relaxing reprieve to catch some rays without burning up. If you’re interested in adding a shade structure to your landscape, let’s talk. Our design-build approach can help keep you cool when the summer heats up.