If you’re thinking about putting one of these romantic little structures in your backyard, you’ll want to consider a few creative ideas to make your gazebo gaze-worthy.

Luxe but Low-Bucks Gazebos

Originally gazebos were small, unwalled structures meant for sun shade and rain shelter. Open to the breezes, people used them on hot nights, pre-air conditioning, to entertain or sleep more comfortably than they could in their stuffy, not well-ventilated homes. Gradually gazebos took on more functions—outdoor barbeques, hot tubs, entertainment centers, entire kitchens—and became little homes-away-from-home, the adult equivalent of a backyard fort or treehouse, meant for fun and relaxation.

It’s amazing how many creative and yet inexpensive gazebo ideas have occurred to DIYers, builders and homeowners since the detached-sleeping-porch days:

1. Architectural Salvage

Looking for charming, funky gazebo ideas and building materials? Just hop on down to your local architectural salvage yard, or (one of my favorite hangouts) a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Walk around. Open your mind, and start thinking about what your dream gazebo might include. Let your imagination run wild.

2. Water

Gazebos built over or near ponds, streams, waterfalls and pools have a special, inviting ambience friends and family will love. A small pond or fountain doesn’t cost much, either.

3. Comfort

Now that outdoor furniture is so well-made, and outdoor materials like Sunbrella are so good, you can furnish a gazebo like you would a comfortable, casual living room. Cushions, curtains and outdoor rugs make gazebos homey and inviting. Tip: buy secondhand outdoor furniture, and order new weatherproof cushions to renew it. One can also build a pergola for a little less shelter but more integration into your landscape.

4. Lighting 

Skylights, especially the inexpensive ones you can find in home improvement stores, can add a special touch. Add a few well-placed lamps, use yellow bug bulbs, and then, as those lingering, dusky summer evenings turn dark, flip on your warm, amber gazebo lighting and watch your guest’s eyes light up, too.

5. Gazebo Kits

Many, many manufacturers now make relatively inexpensive pre-cut gazebo kits—just do a quick online search and you’ll see what I mean. Made in just about every imaginable style, from Victorian to ultra-modern to steampunk, your gazebo will arrive flat-packed on a freight truck, ready to assemble. This option can save thousands over custom-built, too.

6. Cooking

Using your backyard gazebo for barbecuing, or even installing a full outdoor kitchen, has enormous appeal. Think about using a second-hand stove or oven—this doesn’t have to be expensive. I once ate dinner in an outdoor kitchen Frank Lloyd Wright built overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the Malibu hills in Southern California. He used older appliances from a home remodel, and spent very little. The food was fine, but I’ll never forget the welcoming outdoor ambience. If you're interested growing and cooking your own food read on about building a greenhouse in your yard!

7. Fireplaces and Firepits

If you want to use your gazebo in the colder months, and who wouldn’t, think about installing a gas fireplace or firepit—nothing could be more cozy on a cool evening. I recommend looking at the new generation of inexpensive freestanding fireplace and firepit units powered by a standard 20-gallon propane bottle—beautiful, simple to use and easy on the wallet, too. 

Image Sources:

1. http://oldboards.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/Gazebo.9.JPG

7. http://www.gazeboguys.com/10Estate.jpg