Southwestern style interiors are very inviting due to their warmth and ethnicity. It has a distinctive flavor, featuring the infusion of the Native American and Spanish styles. It takes on the image of the desert, with all its warm colors and textures, and blends it with additions of ornate ironwork, textiles, woodwork, and decorative accents. It’s not fully traditional, but it’s not contemporary either – it’s a mix of the old and the ethnic. It’s a casually elegant style inspired by nature and the Spanish and Pioneer settlers that populated Southwest America during the 18th and 19th centuries.
You don’t have to live in New Mexico or Arizona to adapt this style – if you love culture and history of the Southwest (or simply the aesthetic appeal of their style), then you can adapt this into your own home. Here are some ways on how you can achieve it:
1. Use warm and vibrant colors
The colors in a Southwestern interior are the colors found in an American desert. It is warm and bright, and it’s important in creating a warm and vibrant room. Think of colors like sand, mahogany brown, terracotta, rust, bright red, sky blue and cactus green. These colors are paired with vibrant colors like orange, red, blue, and gold through accessories, walls and hand-crafted textile or tile work. Paint colors used for interiors include red, orange, yellow, gold, blue and desert-toned neutrals, and these are important in making its traditional accent. Just stick to earth tones that evoke a homey and rustic feeling. Also, it’s important to limit your color scheme to two to three hues to keep things visually pleasing.
Wood is prominent in Southwestern design-inspired interiors (and even exteriors). It’s either honey-colored or brown, giving a nod to nature. Woods used in this type of interior include pine, oak, birch, cherry, and hickory. Avoid very pale woods like maple, and dark woods like mahogany or walnut. Furnishings are usually made of wood, chunky and constructed with thick legs. Painted furniture is also common to add contrast and interest. It is common to find painted wood furniture like tables, armoires (or even doors) in yellow, red, cobalt blue or lime green. Mix up painted and natural wood finishes all over your home. Remember to keep paint colors strong and vibrant – white, creams and pastels may look more like a cottage than Southwestern.
Wrought iron and other metals like steel are used in Southwestern interiors as decorative elements. It is influenced by the industrial style that emerged during the 18th and 19th century. Add metal detailing through your stair railings, or by picking cabinets with crown details, wall art, and shelf brackets. Wrought iron furniture with ornate detailing for the patio can work just as well for a Southwestern home. Put a wrought iron stand for your pottery or greenery. Decorate with wrought iron lamps and wrought-iron statuary.
4. Bring in vintage, rustic and simple furniture
Southwestern style furniture can range from plain plank tables to intricately carved headboards and chair backs. There is no specific furniture style fitting for this type, but a mix of vintage, rustic and plain is the usual. Wooden furniture pieces are typically made of pine since the warmth of this wood reflects the inviting vibe of this style. Iron tables, cabinet hardware, and lamps are used as accents for pine furniture.
Large chests and cabinets are popular since built-in closets weren’t existing yet in the 18th to 19th century. They are solid (or even chunky) and has a rugged sensibility. Rustic wood furnishings are paired with patinated iron and tin, as well as woven textiles. Distressed finishes and patinated surfaces reflect the rugged origins of the Southwestern Style.
When it comes to upholstery, it’s either made of leather or loosely woven fabrics. Mixing up upholstery finishes and textiles are common, and it gives the room a lively and eclectic punch.
If you’re not sure what to buy, Southwestern style furnishings are sold by retailers such as DeMeijico, Direct From Mexico, Southwest Style and Tres Amigos World Imports.
5. Add texture, especially to your walls
A traditional Southwestern home has walls made of stucco, clay bricks, adobe or smooth stone, giving it a distinct texture and look. If you think it’s impractical for you to build with these materials, the effect can be replicated using textured painting techniques or wallpapers. Enhance these textured walls with aesthetic murals, and offset them with thick, coarsely woven fabrics. Remember that layers of texture will stand out most only when broken up with smoother surfaces. For instance, a stucco (or stucco-like) wall should be found next to plain, smooth flooring like tiles.
One trademark element found in Southwestern homes is the intricate, hand-crafted Mexican mosaic tiles. Mexican tiles are often infused with intricate, tiles gives a sense of character and uniqueness. Since they are hand-painted, no two tiles look the same, as compared with machine-crafted ones. These tiles are used for backsplashes, floors or tabletops. They are also used as decoration, like for instance, a border around a fireplace or wall art, or pieced together as a mural. However, avoid mixing too many different tile patterns in one room, as these could cause visual chaos. Use these tiles sparingly in a room and use it only to create an engaging focal point.
Hand-crafted pottery is a key detail in a Southwest interior. The most commonly used pottery is terracotta since it’s easily potted by hand. The rust-orange color of terracotta mimics the warmth of the sunset. Add indigenous pottery as accent pieces in your home, and use them as vase or planter for cacti. Keep in mind that it’s better to choose pottery with a hand-thrown feel and get them an assortment of different shapes and sizes. The grouping of similar, mass-manufactured terracotta planters doesn’t give contrast and character just like those that look handcrafted and unique.
In addition to wrought iron, pottery, and mosaic tiles, there are a lot more Southwestern decorative accents you can add to fully furnish your home. Think about desert chic. The traditional Southwestern items like potted cactus plants, Kachina dolls, dried flowers, woven rugs and throws, animal skulls and American cowboy accessories (like wagon wheels, leather saddles, coiled lasso as a wall sculpture, and cowboy art) are typically used as decoration. You can collect accessories yourself by hunting or from buying from Native American market or flea markets. Besides murals, you can display wall paintings of Southwestern settings like a painting of a cowboy barn or a desert sunset. Anything that reflects the tradition of the Southwest or native Americans work just as well.