I love pergolas. They give shade and add detail and interest to any structure, although I have to admit that there is no pergola which is perfect for all situations.
We sometimes create free-standing pergolas, however most are connected to a home or out building. Materials for posts and beams can either match the larger structure or be completely different creating a contrast. If plants are allowed and encouraged to grow over the structure, care should be taken to choose durable materials and finishes. If the pergola is to be painted, vines may need to be cut back for maintenance.
When designing a pergola, it is critically important that the structure be able to withstand the loads of vines covered with ice or snow as well as the forces created by cross winds. We always have an engineer check our designs for structural capacity in the worst weather.
In addition to providing shade, a pergola can create an entrance or emphasize a path. A garden entry is a perfect spot for the perfect pergola.