Designing and building the perfect courtyard garden trellis

Courtyards are always challenging spaces to decorate. But the rewards make this project worth it.

The finished wooden trellis is 8 feet tall and 27 inches wide. The benefits of building your own trellis is you can build it according to the specific dimensions you need in your courtyard.
The finished wooden trellis is 8 feet tall and 27 inches wide. The benefits of building your own trellis is you can build it according to the specific dimensions you need in your courtyard.

Courtyards are always challenging spaces to decorate. But the rewards, as I would discover, make this particular project worth it. My courtyard has stucco walls spanning two stories on three sides, with the home wrapping around it. With this trellis you can soften the space, add interest thanks to lush, crawling plants and get a custom fit.

During the initial landscaping of the home, I had Saltillo floor tiles installed and an arbor overhead that spanned the entire width of the space. I choose to have the arbor installed 10 feet from the ground so that the area felt both spacious and cozy. It’s a very simple design with wood beams suspended across two of the courtyard walls. It defines the space while still affording generous views of the sky.

You really have to be careful a courtyard doesn’t become a concrete jungle. In mine, I have a tree in the middle and five plants around the perimeter to soften up the area. Two of these plants—star jasmines—have become unwieldy in the absence of a structure to train their growth. I wanted the plants to climb up the walls to further soften the area. I don’t like plants that are able to climb walls by themselves as many will damage paint and walls when you go to trim them.

The solution? Two wooden wall trellises.

The "before" photo of the unwieldy star jasmine. An unsuspecting spouse sits in the background. Little does Clint know he will be dragged into my trellis project.

I searched online and at garden centers for the perfect trellis for months, but could not find one that had the ideal dimensions, materials and aesthetic qualities I wanted.

By designing and building my own, I could get the perfect dimensions that would frame the area and a design to suit my courtyard space.

In terms of dimensions for wall spaces, similar to a carpet on the floor, I wanted a trellis that would comfortably fill the blank stucco wall without being too large. A garden structure that is too small would be chotsky-looking. For the particular space, I wanted two trellises that were going to be 96″ in height and 27″ in width. Because I wanted to maximize the space, I didn’t want the trellis sticking out too much from the wall. Most commercial trellises have a lattice design which requires pieces of wood being laid on top of one another. I wanted a trellis which was more streamlined.

Below is the material required; you will need to adjust this depending on the dimensions required for your space. I recommend you sketch out your plans like I have. I will post up my plans soon, or if you are interested, email me.

This is the material list for one 27″x96″ trellis.

2 – 2″x2″x96″ pieces of redwood/cedar/teak
2 – 2″x2″x27″ pieces of redwood/cedar/teak (suggest having this cut slightly longer so you can adjust the fit)
2 – 1″x2″x24″ pieces of redwood (suggest having this cut slightly longer so you can adjust the fit)
8 – 1″x1″x33.9″ pieces of redwood (suggest having this cut slightly longer until you actually fit the trellis together so you can adjust for a good fit)
3 – 1″x1″x24″ pieces of redwood (suggest having this cut slightly longer until you actually fit the trellis together so you can adjust for a good fit)

Laying out the general pattern for the trellis.

The dimensions and quantity listed above is for a 27″ x 96″ trellis. If you want a larger or smaller trellis, the basic design will transfer, however, you will need to adjust the lengths of the pieces of wood. Think of the first two items on the material list as the frames so they will be cut to the exact dimensions of your trellis. You can cut a 45 degree angle to get perfect dimension. For this project, I just nailed in the top two pieces to the either end of the trellis at the end to stabilize the structure so the actual dimensions of the completed trellis was just under 100″ in reality.

A miter saw is a must in any DIYer's garage. Great for this project, crown moulding, baseboards...
Getting a diagonal design is more work than a straight up/down and across design but the resulting aesthetics are worth it in my opinion.

I performed the extra work of cutting into each piece of 1″x1″ for the diagonals so that it would all lay on one plane. I used a nail gun to attach the cut pieces. You also want to make sure that each 1″x1″ is flush with one side of the 2″x2″ so that when the trellis is mounted to the wall, there is space behind the 1″x1″ wood pieces for the vines of the plant to weave through.

The surface that will be mounted to the wall is on top. The side that will be exposed when viewing the trellis once mounted is facing the floor.

You want to attach the continuous pieces of 1"x1" before going back to attach the pieces that will need to be cut in the middle to enable all the criss-crosses to be one a single plane.
Laying out the other pieces before cutting. It is always a good idea in a complex measuring exercise to get a feel of the entire project before cutting begins.
You have to love nail guns. Here, Clint uses pliers to make sure his hands are not the way of any stray nails.
The compressor. Another must have in any DIY garage. Well worth purchasing instead of renting.
Close up. I stained the trellis after I finished building it. In our particular case, we could attach one end to the arbor. If not, make sure to use the proper drill bit and screws to attach to the stucco. I like buying an exterior, waterproof caulk to shoot into the pre-drilled hole before the screws go in. For this project, we had to alternate between a wood drill bit and a stucco drill bit to get a continuous hole from trellis to wall. I need to paint the metal bracket a dark brown still.

I hope to post more detailed plans for this project later on. If I don’t get them up by the time you are inspired to try this out, email me.

Note, if you are looking for just a standard trellis, it is much more cost effective just to purchase one from your garden center. However, if the trellis will be in a special area in your home and aesthetics matter, this is a great option.

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Loni Stark
Loni Stark is a self-professed foodie, and adventure travel seeker, and yet is also passionate about technology’s impact on business and creativity. She's the host of our Stark Insider video features. It’s been said her laugh can be heard from San Jose all the way up to the Golden Gate Bridge. She makes no claims to super powers, although sushi is definitely her Kryptonite. Loni's story...
  • woodworking project plans

    The basic design will transfer, however, you will need to adjust the lengths of the pieces of wood.