Pergola ideas: On the patio, a DIY faux stained glass door

The pergola was one of my big spring projects. While brainstorming pergola ideas for our new patio and garden, I knew it needed to be cozy but airy, a place to hang out, eat, work, and host dinner parties while enjoying the shade endowed by the Lady Banks climbing rose overhead. All of that, with a 1970s vibe.

To start, I wanted to add an antique door to the pergola, and give the door a faux stained glass treatment. Why stained glass? Initially I was fixated on showing off the swirly lines of a vintage black wrought iron peacock chair (which otherwise got lost in the dappled garden hubbub around it). Think, the Iron Throne on Game of Thrones but backlit with fuchsia. You can find this peacock chair in the photo at the very top of this post, hidden in the shadows to the left.

So I: (1) found an antique French door from the 1920s on OfferUp for $50. Wood frame, 10 square glass panes, from a home renovation happening in Monrovia. I can’t stress enough how exciting of a score this was. Then (2) leaned it against a pergola post while I figured out how to paint the glass, but (3) realized its “temporary” spot was actually its perfect spot.

lady banks climbing rose on trellis roof of pergola

The pergola as seen from across the garden. When we moved in in March, the pergola roof was blanketed with the flowers of the Lady Banks climbing rose.

Quick flash forward to the “after” with Marlowe…

and Jazzy…

After moving in some thrifted and hand-me-down furniture. Morning in the outdoor pergol-office.

How it started. This antique French door — from the 1920s and scored on OfferUp for $50 — has “bookish sunroom” written all over it.

This door on the pergola — with its dark wood and brassy hardware — makes you feel like you’re entering a conservatory or a parlor. It makes this part of the patio feel more cozy and contained.

We made it official. We drilled the door into the pergola post with deck screws, then wedged some thin wood strips underneath to stabilize it.

Deck screws — screwed in with an 1/8″ drill bit — will stand up to the elements.

Attaching the door to the pergola.

~ First of all, what’s the difference between a pergola, an arbor and a gazebo? ~

And heck, a pavilion? I’ve said the word “pergola” more times in the last three months than I have in the last three decades. I wasn’t always sure I was using the right word until I looked up the differences.

  • An arbor is more of a freestanding outdoor doorway or entryway — whereas pergolas, gazebos and pavilions are more like outdoor rooms (to varying degrees described below).
  • While all three are shade structures, what makes pergolas different from gazebos and pavilions is the roof. The latter two have solid roofs while pergolas have slatted roofs. Perfect for trellising.
  • Gazebos are often octagonal or oval, somewhat enclosed on the sides, and with their own floors. Pavilions by contrast tend to be rectangular, open on all sides, and installed directly on the ground or patio floor.

~ False starts ~

Back to the stained glass. In the beginning, painting the glass on this door was a fiasco. These first two experiments failed:

  • Mixing acrylic paint with clear Elmer’s and applying with a sponge or paintbrush. This method is all over YouTube. It’s used for painting detailed images on glass, instead of large square panels. So in hindsight it makes sense that my attempt was a streaky disaster. I couldn’t get anywhere near a smooth, uniform 12″ x 12″ swath of a single color. The color also rinsed right off during a March rain shower.
  • Getting a tube of real “stained glass paint.” The thin spout should have been my first hint that this paint was also for details — not whole panels. Insert clown emoji here.
  • But when one door closes…

I went back to the drawing board and remembered my original goal for this door. Which was to make my favorite color family glow when the sun is low in the sky. What other times had I wanted to tint the light? Then I remembered using light filters to warm up some kitchen lighting years ago, and found this Rosco Color Effects Filter Kit with 12″ x 12″ sheets. The colors are saturated but not too “primary.” Shades include “Golden Amber,” “Light Rose Purple,” and “Blue Green.” It’s me to a T.


Color filters temporarily taped up to test out the order.

From there, the rest was a snap. The DIY:

Pergola ideas: How to add faux stained glass to a patio door


– Door with ~12″x12″ glass panes (aka French door)

– Wood waterproofing spray

– Glass cleaner

– Damp cloth

Rosco Color Effects Filter Kit, in 12 x 12″ sheets

– Loctite glue


1. If you’re placing this door outdoors, waterproof the wood with spray. Use product as directed. Protect adjacent glass with painter’s tape.

2. After a couple days (when weatherproofing is dry), clean glass with glass cleaner.

3. If you’re using multiple colors of filters, lean the sheets against the panels to figure out your ideal arrangement of colors.

4. If your glass panels aren’t the exact size of the sheets, center the sheets and mark the glass. The glass panes on my door are actually about 12.5″ x 13″ each, but the clear margins looked fine as long as I centered the panels.

5. Tape the sheets in their final spots, avoiding the corners (this is where you’ll apply the Loctite glue).

6. Gently peel back each corner of the sheets and spot-clean glass, this time with a damp cloth.

7. When that spot is dry, apply a small dot of Loctite glue directly onto the glass under every sheet corner, then press filter against the glass for 15 to 60 seconds.

8. Don’t remove the tape you applied in Step 5 yet. The tape keeps your filter sheets stabilized while you’re glueing and while the project’s drying.

9. Use a library card or squeegee to gently smooth each panel. Make sure not to poke the filter with any sharp points or else they’ll make the sheets look ripply.

10. Allow Loctite to dry for an hour, and keep away from water for the next week. That said, we haven’t had rain in these parts to test the filters’ water resistance yet!

The dramatically veined leaves of the Nonstop® Mocca Pink Shades Begonia add to the gothic stained-glass effect.

This pergola and patio door also acts as an outdoor room divider.

While no color is repeated in the filter kit, several shades are similar to each other — so the effect is joyful but not kindergarten. Those 1970s floral crochet tops were a big inspiration.

This door is absolute magic. When the sunlight hits it early in the morning and again around sunset, the tinted panels light up the ground and plants around it. Everyone and everything looks happier standing next to this door. It’s the first of several pergola ideas I have in store, and I couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out. The effect is welcoming. It’s giving “come on in” even though you’re outside.