How to Build a Cheap Pergola – Southern France Style

Jul 27, 2017 | French Farmhouse Design, Full Time Family, Gardening, Potager | 13 comments

En plein air…. Plein air dining.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

One of the best expressions EVER.   Perhaps you know it best as

al fresco….

or picnic

or just plain eating outside.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

Whatever you call it.   I love to do it.   Eating outside is one of life’s true, true pleasures.   Few things conjure up a true South of France experience for me like eating outside.   It’s a beautiful, beautiful things.   The breeze, the birds, the cicadas buzzing.   But when the southwestern sun is frying your back?   Not so much.

The simple metal and bambo pergolas of southern France have always caught my eye.   My French design mags like Coté Sud and Maison et Décor are full of them.   And their simplicity is so much more my style than the more popular wooden timbered construction.   I’ve always wanted one of those gorgeous wrought iron, arched pergolas with the bambo filtering the light.  But there is no way I’ll invest in that for this property.

Last year we scored this super fun “harvest table” at my favorite barn sale.   Really, it’s an old cafeteria table topped with huge planks of amazing barn wood.   The metal needs to be painted but it’s quirky and seats fourteen people and that makes this hostess very happy indeed.   But then when I see my guests jockying for a position at the table that isn’t completely and utterly blinding that happiness turns to frustration.   I myself am a total vampire and need to wear a hat and sunglasses on even the most overcast, cloudy day, so, I feel their pain indeed.

It was time to come up with a solution.   And not just any solution.   No garden umbrella would do.   I needed something that would compliment the herbs, the gurgling fountain and the pea gravel and the whole “A Good Year” vibe I’ve tried to create out there on this little rental farm.


So here’s what I did:   I sent the Man (who you can now follow on Instagram!   LOL!   @afulltimefamily)… I digress, I sent the man to the hardware store for three super long pieces of conduit and two rolls of bambo fencing.   I had an idea swirling around in my over creative brain and I had to see if it was gonna work.   Sixty dollars later he pulled in the driveway, ripped off his shirt (woohoo!) and got to work in the hot summer sun.   I had a dinner party planned for the next day and so this French Inspired Sixty Dollar Pergola got bumped to the top of the honey-do list!

With a fence post pounder thingy (like this one) we stuck the conduit into the ground at least  two feet deep, three posts equally spaced apart covering the distance of two rolls of the fencing laid side by side on the ground.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

About twelve feet.   Then he hopped on the roof to locate the supports in the gutters and with some twine he tied the fencing to those supports, slightly overlapping the fencing in the middle.   We then took three small sections of 2 x 4 and drilled a shallow hole in them, the same size at the conduit.   They rest on top of the conduit, deep enough to not fall off and wide enough to keep the conduit from poking through the bambo fencing.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

You follow?  I was going to cut the fencing off but once we unrolled it noticed how it made a nice wall on the southern exposure I decided to leave it, thus creating a little “room” effect.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

How to BUild a cheap pergola

Et voila.   Instant, cheap pergola – southern France style.   Seriously folks.   I’m in love.   It’s so cozy and romantic and for a little time each day I am transported… le sigh.    Sixty dollars and one hour of labor.   It was a total SMASH at our dinner party the next day.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

Happy hostess again.   Now, as far as wear and tear we’ve had some horrible storms here and it’s held up beautifully.   The only problem is our stupid barn cats.   They crawled on it before I took these pics so it’s not laying like it should.   Normally there is no crack opening between the two pieces of fencing.   This weekend we will be adding an additional piece of conduit in the middle to provide a bit more support for the little bit of extra weight involved in the center from the two fence pieces overlapping.

How to Build a Cheap Pergola

Creating environment is so important to me.   And with this project we’ve added to our little piece of paradise.   I hope you find yourself inspired!   Santé!

How to Build a Cheap Pergola


  1. Christi {Jealous Hands}

    Lovely, Angela! Thank you for sharing! xo

  2. Nita Hiltner

    This bamboo fencing was my nightmare about 37 years ago. I needed some privacy around our new pool so we fastened 100 ft of it to my chain link fence with wire. Imagine my surprise when we came home from Disneyland one evening to find all my bamboo fencing ripped apart and IN the pool! What a mess. It was unusable. I thought I had vandals come in to do the damage, but no, it was just our old Santa Ana winds that did it all. Yours is sooooo pretty, never saw it before.

  3. lori barre

    perfect! its great when we can create something that fits our style and wallet too!

  4. Sharon Morrison

    Love it!! Going to do that on my back deck that has a frame with nothing in it. I hung canvas last summer, and it lasted one year. Weather did it in! Bamboo fence will do the trick. Thanks

  5. Margaret

    Hi Angela,
    Do you have a link for this bamboo fencing? What is the approximate size? Thanks.

    • Parisienne Farmgirl

      So sorry — I got it from Home Depot. It was supposed to be linked. The pieces are 8 by 12 I think.

  6. Suzanne

    Thanks for the terrific article


    What a wonderful idea! I’m going to do this on the top of my chicken run.

  8. Tait Weigel

    I enjoy your You Tube films. It’s especially pleasing to see how you work around your children while doing projects. No scolding. Your parenting is the best.

  9. Patient gardener

    Please tell me about that table! What is it called and where did you find it?

  10. Pedro Krenning

    Normally I don’t learn post on blogs, however I would like to say that this write-up very pressured me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thank you, very nice article.

  11. Deb

    I only found your blog this evening and immediately subscribed. Love the idea to put basic things into use to make a lovely experience (conduit, bamboo poles, old cafeteria table) It looks so very french, stylish and do-able! Of course, you may not realize it but you are a very talented photographer – looks like a magazine. Can’t wait to read more of your posts. Truly inspirational. Merci (thank you) for sharing.


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