When you think of southwestern home design, do you get visions of clay tile roofs and cobalt blue fountains? Do you wonder if chili pepper lights strung on your porch may lean more toward kitsch than couture?
Characterized by bright colors, woven fabrics and handcrafted pieces, southwestern-style decorating takes influences from Native American, Spanish and Mexican art.
Whether you live out west and want your home to reflect your surroundings, or you simply want to incorporate colorful or handmade items into your existing decor, here are some tips to help you embrace southwestern style.
From wall paint and tile work to tapestry and textiles, southwestern decor’s colors are bold and rich, echoing all of nature’s beauty, but enhanced.
Think fiery red, sunshine yellow, sunset orange, cactus green, cobalt blue and desert sand with variations of each shade.
With that natural beauty in mind, desert foliage like cacti and other succulents can add character and are relatively easy to take care of. If you live in a warm climate, desert plants can be used as the focal point of your outdoor landscaping. If you don’t live in a cactus climate, you can still enjoy these plants by placing them in pots on a windowsill.
When it comes to upholstery, leather and suede are often used, as well as wool and other strong woven fabrics. Furniture
is often painted and distressed to have a worn look. You can achieve this by sanding the surface and creating dents in the finish using chains and small tools to emphasize a weathered appearance. You can then apply a paint finish that can crackle the paint for an even more dramatic effect.
Southwestern-style wood furniture usually has a lot of weight to it, featuring chunky legs on tables and chairs and substantial depth and detail on headboards. You can find wood in its natural state for larger pieces or sometimes panted bright colors for accent tables. Matte-finish metal accents are often included, especially for knobs and handles on drawers.
Wrought iron and metalwork are used in everything from sculptures and designer wall art to cabinet details and decorative lamps.
Tile is colorful and brings life to surrounding wood, leather, suede and fabrics. Handcrafted Mexican tiles can be used to create an entire wall, a decorative floor design, a fancy kitchen backsplash or to add pops of color to a neutral wall. You can even use photo stands to display tiles on a shelf or an end table.
A traditional southwestern design element is terracotta pottery. This rust-colored porcelain material is typically left in its natural state for outdoor use. It is often painted or etched with designs for decorative indoor use, even featuring inlaid glass pieces for a mosaic appearance that looks great on a patio.
Similar to pottery, coiled baskets, made of fibers, leaves and grass, are woven into a continuous spiral and come in a variety of shapes and colors, depending on the materials used. Fill these baskets with pinecones and set them near the fireplace, use them to display fruit on your dining room table, or create a pretty holder for hand towels or personal products in the bathroom.
Another traditional element, used especially by Native American tribes, is a dream catcher. A circular web featuring dangling feathers, it is usually placed over a bed in belief that the web will catch bad dreams, while good dreams will float down the feathers and onto the dreamer below. This is a beautiful element to include in a child’s room and may even offer comfort to those afraid of the dark!
Here are some additional items that can add southwestern flair to your home decor.
- Turquoise, coral and other rock/mineral specimens
- Desert or red rock landscape artwork
- Sand paintings
- Rugs made of jute, sisal or wool in Aztec or ikat designs
- Serape-like pillows and blankets
- Desert patio fountain
- Chimineas (outdoor fireplaces)
- Oversized decorative pottery
- Metal sculptures
Southwestern style is about creating a warm environment, full of color, texture and nature. The use of natural fibers recalls a time when most items were created by hand. Weathering makes furniture and mementos appear as though they were handed down from generation to generation. Southwestern decor looks like it’s been through a lot, and that adds to the charm.
Is your house decorated with southwestern style? What special home accents or artwork make your home a desert oasis? Let us know in the comments below!