Poolside Structures – Pergola, Gazebo, Ramada, Cabana, Pool House

by Kremy

Summer is coming, which means we need new inspiration and cool ideas for the outdoor space. When you have a pool in the backyard, no matter small or large, poolside structures naturally come to improve your outdoor life.


The opportunity to spend a lot of time outdoors, have breakfast or dinner in the shade of trees and organize parties in the open air is something that we all love. How to choose between the different structures? What are the differences between a pergola, gazebo, pavilion, ramada, palapa and pool house? How to incorporate it in your landscape design and what are the most popular and affordable options?

What are Poolside Structures and the Differences Between Them?

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What is the best poolside structure? There is not a single answer to this question. It all depends on the needs: one needs a hammock under a tree, while the other dreams of a spacious gazebo with lanterns and sofas. Every homeowner needs to choose the type of structure that fits perfectly into the landscape and meets his criteria about comfort. What are the differences between the most popular structures? Let’s have a look!

Ramada vs Gazebo vs Pergola, What is the Difference?

poolside structures and the differences between them

Gazebo, pavilion and ramada are quite similar and very often people use the terms interchangeably. Generally, these are structures with a roof and open sides.

what is ramada poolside structures ideas

Ramada is an open or semi enclosed outdoor structure with a covered roof. It can be either freestanding or an extension of the home. As we mentioned, it is often called “a pavilion” and has rectangular or square shape. It has four supporting columns or posts, with open sides. You will immediately recognize a ramada by the fully-covered roof which can be flat or vaulted. This structure is designed to provide complete shade, rain and weather protection. Usually, a ramada is built to match the architecture and materials of the main house and blend organically into the exterior design. Ramadas are ideal for those who love to spend time outdoors with friends and family. The closed roof provides excellent entertaining space and you can install an outdoor kitchen, wet bar, TV, lights, fans, etc.

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Gazebos (also called Belvedere or summerhouse) are free standing structures with a closed roof but are circular or polygonal (most often hexagonal or octagonal) in shape. The closed roof provides protection from sun, rain and elements and can be screened in on all sides. Traditionally, gazebos are made of wood, but the market offers models made from iron, vinyl or aluminum. Nowadays gazebos come in a variety of sizes and if a small one provides a place to enjoy the surrounding view, larger models can be equipped with kitchen appliances or furnished with comfortable seating making them a fantastic extension of the home and outdoor living area.

modern pergola backyard pool design ideas

Pergolas are exceptionally popular structures for gardens and backyards. They are instantly recognized as they have a flat, open or latticed roof designed in a rectangular shape and provide partial shade. Pergolas can be freestanding or an extension of the home. For additional privacy protection, trellis structures are added and they are suitable for growing climbing plants, vines and vegetation. Despite the fact that pergolas do not provide rain protection, these structures are ideal for spending time outdoors, hanging out by the pool or entertaining friends and family. One of the main reasons for the huge popularity of pergolas as poolside structures is the fact that they come in a variety of designs suitable for modern, contemporary and minimalist exteriors. In addition, they can be less expensive to build than a ramada.

Poolside Structures – Pros and Cons of a Cabana

poolside structures ideas what is cabana

What is a Cabana? By definition, a cabana is a freestanding, tent-like outdoor structure designed to provide shade. In appearance, it is similar to a gazebo.  A cabana has three lightweight “walls,” with one open side facing the water. Usually, the walls are made of fabric and the roof – from wood, metal, or thatch. Cabanas are small-sized and in addition to providing shade, they are most often used as dressing rooms. Nowadays poolside cabanas can be constructed with wood, steel or aluminum frames. The choice of material will depend on how the homeowner plans to use the cabana and the budget, of course, but even a small cabana is a fantastic, romantic retreat. We said that usually cabanas are small-sized freestanding structures (the most common cabana sizes are 10 by 10 feet /3.05 by 3.05 meters) but, depending on personal preferences, they can vary in size. You can construct a larger one, if you have enough space by the pool, add electricity, ceiling fans and mounts for TV.

Poolside Palapa – a Tropical Vibe to Your Backyard Landscape

tropical backyard design with poolside palapa

A palapa is an open-sided structure with a thatched roof made from dried palm leaves and natural poles holding the roof in place. The roof provides shade and protection from the elements. Most palapas are round, they look like an umbrella with a single center support while larger ones are rectangular, constructed with multiple support posts, usually in the four corners. Palapa shade covers are ideal for locations with hot weather, for example it is common on the beaches of Mexico, Caribbean islands, Tahiti, etc. The main advantages of these poolside structures are low maintenance, environmental friendliness and the fact that they create a tropical atmosphere and vacation mood in the backyard. One major consideration that you need to keep in mind is that the thatching is flammable. Open flame – firepit, candles, lanterns, etc. should be kept away from the thatch.

Pool house – a Real Jewel in Your Backyard

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To many people a pool house sounds like a luxury and yes, there are expensive structures with all amenities that provide comfortable stay during day and night. However, the reality is that a pool house can be as small as a garden shed as well as budget friendly. Pool houses come in different shapes, sizes, and styles and can be a really nice addition to any home. A small pool house can be an off-season storage place to contain all your outdoor patio furniture, accessories, toys, chemicals and equipment. It can be the perfect entertaining space. If the budget and space allow, you can turn your pool house into a guest house by adding a bathroom and a bedroom. As a poolside structure, pool houses offer protection from sun, rain and elements as well as comfortable place for relaxation, pleasant pastime, conversation and entertaining.

How to Choose the Location, Size and Design of Your Pool Structure?

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As you can see, there is quite a variety of poolside structures and when it comes to your backyard landscape design you need to consider some important factors – location, size, style, materials and function.

Not all types of structures will work for your home or the available area in the backyard. You want the gazebo, pergola or pavilion to fit in with the design and size of your pool as well. A small pool will look smaller and can easily be swallowed up by a large, oversized or overly ornate structure and vice versa – a small cabana or gazebo next to a very large pool may look ill-proportioned.

how to choose the best poolside structure for your backyard

There is a vast variety of poolside structure designs to choose from, as you will notice in the photos, so it should be fairly easy to find the perfect one for your pool and create the perfect look for your home and yard. It is best if you select a style that compliments the aesthetics of your home. If you are not sure, it is advisable to look for professional help as specialist will be able to offer you a solution that fits your idea, needs, space availability and at the same time blend it with your home exterior concept.

Look at the photos in the gallery for inspiration and see what type of poolside structure is best for your backyard!


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Ramada vs gazebo vs pergola what is the difference

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