To make a yard truly impressive and appealing, it often pays to invest in large, substantial products rather than a bunch of smaller ones. Small decorations and lights may have an effect, but it is the bigger structures that really shine. A pergola is one of these structures. Building one yourself can be done in a weekend or two, granted that all of the materials are ready to go. Compared to something like an in-ground pond, a pergola takes a lot less amount of work. You do need to have some power tools on hand and be willing to work with heavy wood beams.
To start, four thick wooden beams are placed into the ground. Since these are the biggest pieces of wood that will be used on the structure, it doesn't make financial sense to use the most expensive species of wood. However, you can place pieces of wood veneer over some cheap wood beams to make it look as if the wood is expensive and rare. The rest of the structure can be assembled with the rare species since those beams are thinner and less substantial. Pergola plans describe the dimensions of all these beams.
After grounding the legs of the pergola, the rest of the work will be taking place up high. A step ladder and an extra person should be on hand for this. Slightly less thick cross beams are connected perpendicular to the legs, forming a rigid square. The connections are made using long galvanized nails and a hammer. A level is needed to ensure a square structure. Then, even thinner beams with curved decorative ends are placed on top of these cross beams and nailed into place. After finishing off with a set of caps on each corner, the pergola is ready for paint or stain, whichever you prefer. Regular application of weatherproof sealer will keep the pergola in great shape.
It is common practice to place furniture such as garden benches within the pergola. Barbecues can be put under the awning so long as embers do not rise to the top. For night time use, a set of solar lights attached to the edges helps everyone see better.