5 Savvy Ways To Get The Southwest Vibe In Your Home When Decorating

Southwest design celebrates the history and culture of the people in the U.S. states from New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, parts of California, and more. The American southwest is a deeply historical and culturally rich area with influences from Spain and Mexico, parts of the Caribbean, and European/American settlers who moved west. Of course, Native American tribes from the Navaho, Apache, and Pueblo to the Hopi and Zuni have all had a significant influence as well, with each group bringing its own influences and beliefs to its settlements. As DesertUSA says, you can see reflections of heritage and faith in items such as hand-woven baskets, fetishes, blankets, and pottery. As such, they deserve not only admiration for their craftsmanship but respect for centuries-old traditions.

Whether you live in the American southwest or have only seen it represented in pictures, it's easy to see why decorating with the colors and textures of this unique region has universal appeal. Geometric designs are often found in inspiring colors on hand-made items, and with a focus on organic materials, southwest design is used all over the U.S. from coast to coast and in many other countries as well. Here are five surefire ways to bring a southwest vibe to your personal space.


The beauty in decorating with a southwest flair is that it's easy to add a little or a lot of color in the basics such as walls and flooring, as well as accents such as trim and molding. Benjamin Moore offers a basic palette that works for exteriors and interiors. Deserts and mesas are dominated by a deep blue sky, as their collection reflects. Towering, wind-swept, ochre and red-toned cliffs are dotted with dark green vegetation. Elsewhere, white and gray rock formations take up part of the landscape as well.

These are the colors to bring into your space in order to accomplish a southwest-style design in any room in your house. Start with incorporating brick and teal and then add off-white and dark blue. From there, layer in additional colors or repeat these basic southwestern colors in different parts of the house. Paint an entire wall a deep rosy orange, reminiscent of the pueblo buildings that have been built for generations in New Mexico and Arizona. Or, if that's too much color, work up a scheme that starts with white or gray walls and then add touches of the desert tones in the rugs, pillows, wall trim, curtains, and artwork you place in the room.

Natural materials

Right after color comes the natural materials that are prominently displayed in southwest architecture and decor. Impressive Interior Design suggests using birch, oak, hickory, and maple woods for finishes, furniture, and flooring. Another design element is wrought iron, used in decorative elements from chairs to curtain rods, stair railings, light fixtures, and even kitchen cabinet drawer pulls. Mosaic tiles — a mainstay from the Spanish tradition offering a generous splash of color — are often found in kitchens and baths, as they are a durable addition to any room.

Pottery and terra cotta offer some wonderful details to a room, and they are an easy way to start adding southwest touches. Fiber and woven materials in the furniture, pillows, and rugs also work as accent pieces. Some decor also uses truly organic materials, mixing in the use of leather in furniture and accessories, and deer antlers in everything from lighting fixtures to table decorations. Hat Creek suggests using these materials as a tasteful way to create high visual impact.

Geometric elements

As noted by the Nazmiyal Collection, much of the American southwest was pioneered by the Spanish who brought a love of color and geometric design into their homes. They were in good company because the indigenous Navajo also celebrated geometric design and incorporated stripes, squares, and diagonals into their woven blankets and rugs.

Canyon Road Arts has a deep, insightful explanation regarding the use of geometry in Navajo weavings, indicating that particular symbols carry great significance to the artists. From zigzags to crosses, each means something to the traditional weavers, all resulting in eye-popping shapes and motifs that enhance any room. The Rug Goddess points out that patterns in rugs, for example, run to diamond and triangular shapes, so much so that some patterns have names such as El Dorado, Horse Thieves, and Coweta. Some patterns used in rugs are repeated in woven baskets. You may also find the precision of the shapes in pillows and throws. Whichever way you choose to incorporate it, it's an excellent addition to your southwestern style.

Authentic artwork

To truly bring the southwest vibe into your personal space, think about adding original artwork. Fine Art Publishing points out that authentic art is not only easy to obtain but easy to add to your interiors. For example, you can quickly turn handcrafted Navajo weavings into a focal point for a room by hanging a throw rug on a prominent wall. The same holds true for baskets and, with just a little shelf space, pottery as well. Unfortunately, inexpensive knockoffs are all too readily available through websites and discount retail operations. Take the time to do research so you can avoid mass-produced copies and instead add pieces from trustworthy galleries and individual artists.

In their quest to preserve endangered languages, Native Languages of the Americas, has developed a list of recommended websites where people can connect directly with Native American artists. This list is a great start to finding people who are creating images and artifacts that are literally part of their heritage. The more you learn about southwestern art, the more apparent it becomes that having the real thing — something authentically crafted by an artist firsthand — is as important to the composition of a room as the colors and materials.

Mixed textures

As reported by the Associated Press, expert designers suggest that you balance out elements which echo the American desert with other pieces to give a room depth and authenticity. As with any strong style or trend, converting rooms into a space showcasing nothing but southwestern flair will age poorly over time. Instead of redecorating a room completely in one style, try to balance out your current style by mixing in a handful of key southwestern pieces that you love.

Further ideas for a southwestern-inspired home include mixing and matching bold color onto more bold color with layers of rugs, bright upholstery, and eye-catching pillows. If you prefer a more modest approach, keep your walls and floors neutral, and then add colorful and textured elements to the room a few at a time. You can even add one highlight color throughout a minimalist aesthetic, just be sure to draw from the desert palette for a southwestern element. No matter how you introduce this bold American character to your home, like any decorating, be sure you love what you add to your rooms for a comfortable and welcoming environment.