Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Creative Ideas to Bring the Southwest-Style to Your Home

By Interior Designer, Tracy Svendsen | Published Oct 30, 2023

Southwestern Decorating Ideas: Decorating in a southwestern style can add warmth and character to your home. Earthy colors, natural materials, and bold patterns can create a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Additionally, southwestern decor often incorporates elements of Native American and Spanish culture, adding a unique and rich cultural touch to your space. 

Whether you live in the Southwest or appreciate the style, decorating with a Southwestern aesthetic can bring comfort and charm to any home.

The West and Southwest have not disappeared from the scene. If anything, today’s style brings fresh good looks, mix-and-match capabilities, and the widespread appeal of sprawling land, blue skies, towering pines, and majestic vistas. 

Twenty-first-century Western style is glamorous, upbeat, refined, colorful, comfortable, and anything but kitschy! It’s a look we wholly embrace, and there’s enough variety to accommodate a vast world of preferences.

Nancy Farina of the California Design Center describes Southwestern style architecture as “large rooms, high ceilings, and huge entryways to reflect the vastness of the Southwest landscape.”  Feature image above courtesy of Sotheby’s Realty

Modern Southwestern Decorating Ideas | Tracy Svendsen Design

Modern Southwestern Decorating Ideas | Visual Conception by Tracy Svendsen

What is Southwestern Design?

Southwestern design is a popular style that incorporates elements inspired by the beautiful landscapes of the American Southwest. Warm, earthy colors, bold patterns, and natural materials like wood, stone, and leather characterize this design style. 

One of the most iconic elements of southwestern design is the vibrant geometric patterns found in everything from textiles to furniture. Another key feature of this style is rustic materials like adobe, rough-hewn wood, and terra cotta tiles. Southwestern design is about creating a warm and welcoming environment that reflects the Southwest’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

Southwestern Decorating Tips

1. Neutral Base

Neutral colors like beige, gray, and white provide a calming and versatile backdrop that allows southwestern decor’s natural textures and patterns to shine. It also provides the perfect background to layer in warm earth tones and vivid splashes of color.

Southwestern Living Room Ideas

Southwestern Decorating Ideas for the Living Room
Image courtesy of Architectural Alliance

A stunning modern Southwestern living room with log beams, flowing lines, and organic accents.

2. Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood adds a unique, rustic charm that perfectly complements the warm and earthy tones often found in this style. The character and history of each piece of reclaimed wood can bring a sense of authenticity and personality to any southwestern space. Reclaimed wood is an innovative and stylish choice for southwestern design, whether for a feature wall, furniture piece, or accent decor.

Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Open & Spacious Southwestern Living Room
Image courtesy of Estately

3. Southwestern Decorating Ideas | Earthy Tones

When it comes to southwestern design, earth tones are an essential component. The region’s natural beauty inspires these colors found in the earth, rocks, and mountains surrounding the area. 

Using earth tones in southwestern design helps create a warm, inviting, rustic, and sophisticated atmosphere. It is also a great way to bring a touch of the outdoors inside, which is perfect for those who love nature.

Some popular colors in southwestern design include warm earth tones such as rusty reds, deep oranges, and golden yellows. These colors are often paired with cool blues and greens, creating a beautiful contrast. 

Additionally, neutral shades like beige and brown are frequently used to balance out the boldness of the brighter hues. Overall, the colors in Southwestern design are inspired by the region’s natural beauty and evoke a sense of warmth, comfort, and familiarity.

Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Sante Fe Southwestern-Style Living Room | Southwestern Decorating Ideas
Image courtesy of Sotheby’s Realty

The featured Southwestern-style home in the image above is in Santa Fe, N.M., owned by Mary and Joe Clark. They were looking for a large house with ample entertainment space and found a contemporary pueblo-style home on three-plus acres with views of the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez mountains. They purchased it for $2.2 million in 2013. ‘I think I overuse the word magical when I talk about that home, but it is just a magical property,’ says Mrs. Clark.

French doors open to outdoor space on each side of the concrete-floored living room. Hanging over the fireplace is a picture by the artist Caroline Christie. ‘People always comment on that photograph. It has a mirrored quality in person,’ says Mrs. Clark.

4. Wrought Iron

Wrought iron adds a rustic and authentic feel to the decor, quintessential to this style. It’s versatile for decor, lighting fixtures, furniture, and accessories. Many southwestern homes have intricate black wrought iron staircase railings due to the influence of Spanish home design since the Spanish were the first European settlers to inhabit the area centuries ago.

Southwestern Style Living Room

Southwestern Living Room
Image courtesy of David Naylor Interiors

5. Mid-Century Furniture

Mid-century furniture is an excellent choice for those who want to incorporate timeless style into their southwestern design. The clean lines, minimalist design, and organic shapes of mid-century furniture perfectly complement southwestern decor’s natural elements and rustic aesthetic. Plus, mid-century pieces are often made of high-quality materials, ensuring they will last for many years.

Southwestern Living Room Ideas

Pueblo-Style Living Room by Helen Thompson | Southwestern Decorating Ideas
Image courtesy of Cowboys Magazine

6. Leather Furniture

Leather looks visually stunning, but it’s also incredibly durable and easy to maintain. Leather furniture can add a rustic and natural feel to your home, perfect for southwestern design.

How to Decorate in Southwestern Style

A Bland Ranchouse Transformed into a Southwestern-Inspired Paradise
Image courtesy of Architectural Digest

7. Stucco Walls

Stucco is a durable material that can withstand extreme weather conditions, making it a practical option for homes in the desert. Stucco is a versatile material that can be shaped and colored to fit a variety of design styles, instantly adding a Southwestern vibe.

Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Southwestern Living Room in Joshua Tree, California
Image courtesy of The Joshua Tree House

This beautiful vacation home was designed by Sara & Rich Combs, who own several homes with a relaxed Southwestern style. One of the design mantras they swear by is designing with natural materials as they tend to enhance with us and celebrate age as character.

They implement this design principle throughout their homes, including rustic woods, natural fibers, and earthenware. They wanted to find a sofa that would allow a casual atmosphere where guests could enjoy themselves without fear of ‘ruining’ something.

8. Navajo Throw Pillows

One of the main advantages of using Navajo textiles in your Southwestern design is that they add a sense of cultural authenticity. These textiles have a rich history and are steeped in tradition, so incorporating them into your décor is a great way to pay homage to the Navajo people and their heritage.

In addition to their cultural significance, Navajo throw pillows and blankets are incredibly versatile. They come in various colors, patterns, and materials, so you can easily find the perfect match for your existing décor. Whether you’re looking for a bold, statement piece or a subtle accent, Navajo textiles offer plenty of options.

Rustic Southwestern Pillow
Rustic Southwestern Blanket

Paseo Road Taos Southwestern Pillows

9. Longhorn Skulls

Longhorn skulls have been a prominent symbol in southwestern design for centuries. They represent the strength and resilience of the Wild West and its inhabitants. 

Adding longhorn skulls to southwestern decor gives a space a rustic, organic, and earthy feel. The intricate design of the horns and the skull make for a striking visual element that can be used in various ways, from wall art to table centerpieces.

Rustic Bedrooms Decorating Ideas

Bedroom with Navajo Throw Pillows & Skull Above Bed | Southwestern Decorating Ideas
Image courtesy of Locati Architects

10. Colorful Terracotta Tile

Terracotta tiles provide a rustic charm, and their earthy tones complement the natural hues in southwestern decor. Terracotta tile is also durable and easy to maintain, making it a practical choice for high-traffic areas like entryways or kitchens. 

Plus, with its timeless appeal, terracotta tile can add value and style to your home for years. These orange/brown tiles bring in warm tones that help create a dessert vibe.

Southwestern Decorating Ideas | Spanish Colonial Revival Staircase | Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Spanish Colonial Revival, Southwestern Staircase by Pritzkat & Johnson Architects
Image courtesy of Houzz

11.  Rustic Light Fixtures

Rustic lighting can be a great addition to a southwestern design theme. Consider choosing fixtures made from natural materials like wood or wrought iron to use rustic lighting effectively. These materials will help complement the natural elements found in southwestern design, such as stone and adobe. Consider using fixtures to highlight architectural features like exposed beams or stonework or add light to a dark room corner.

Southwestern Lighting

Rustic Lighting Fixture Designed by Tate Studio Architects
Image courtesy of Houzz

12. Rustic Pottery

Adding pottery to southwestern design can bring a sense of authenticity and tradition to the overall aesthetic. Pottery is a staple of Native American art and culture, and incorporating it into southwestern design can pay homage to the history and heritage of the region. 

Pottery can add texture and dimension to a space and serve as a beautiful and functional decor piece. Whether it’s a large vase or a small bowl, pottery can enhance the beauty and character of this design style.

Southwestern Dining Room Ideas

Southwestern Dining Room | Southwestern Decorating Ideas
Image courtesy of Emily Henry Interiors

13. Woven Baskets

Woven baskets have been a staple in southwestern design for centuries. These beautiful and functional pieces are aesthetically pleasing and serve a practical purpose in storing and transporting goods. 

Using natural materials like straw, reed, and yucca gives woven baskets a rustic charm that perfectly complements the warm and earthy tones commonly found in southwestern decor. Additionally, incorporating woven baskets into your design can add texture and depth to a room, creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Southwest Interior Design

Entryway Designed by Nancy Meyers
Image courtesy of Architectural Digest

14. Native American Patterns

Native American patterns have a rich cultural significance and history that adds depth and meaning to any design that incorporates them. Additionally, they often feature bold, vibrant colors and intricate geometric shapes that are visually stunning and eye-catching. 

Finally, Native American patterns are often associated with the natural world, which aligns perfectly with the Southwestern aesthetic and its focus on nature and the environment. Be sure to incorporate Native American rugs, pillows, and blankets to add color, pattern, and texture to the space.

Southwest Interior Design

Southwestern Textiles
Image courtesy of Pinterest

15. Desert Vibes with Plants

Cactus and succulents are a great addition to southwestern design for a few reasons. Firstly, they are low-maintenance plants that can withstand the hot and dry climate of the Southwest. They also add a unique texture and shape to the design, creating a more natural and organic feel.

16. Ranch Style Southwestern Decorating Ideas

Ranch and southwestern style go hand-in-hand as many southwest homes are on ranches. Incorporate ranch style by focusing on earthy colors and textures. 

Use natural materials like wood and stone to create a rustic feel. Stick to simple, clean lines in your furniture and decor. Add elements like cowhide rugs, woven baskets, horse photography, ram horns, and pottery to bring in a southwestern vibe. Remember to incorporate plenty of greenery and natural light to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.

17. Sheepskin Rugs & Pillows

Sheepskin adds a cozy and comfortable texture to your space while complementing the natural materials and earthy tones often found in southwestern design. Plus, sheepskin can be used in various ways, from a rug on the floor to a throw on the couch or even as a cozy accent on a dining chair.

18. Maintain the Design Integrity Throughout the Home

Whether you choose a traditional or modern approach to Southwestern Design, it’s important to maintain the design integrity throughout the home.

Southwestern Home Decorating Ideas
Southwestern Kitchen Decorating Ideas
Southwestern Bedroom Ideas
Southwestern Dining Room Ideas

Traditional Southwestern Design Carried Throughout Kitchen, Living Room, Bedrooms, and Dining Areas
Image courtesy of HGTV

19. Outdoor Patio 

The Southwest United States is known for its arid heat climate, and an outdoor patio area is necessary. To create a beautiful southwestern outdoor space, start by choosing a color scheme that evokes the warm tones of the desert. Use earthy browns, deep oranges, and warm yellows to create a cozy and inviting atmosphere.

Add key elements to make your space feel authentic to the southwestern style. This could include a rustic wooden bench or table, a set of adobe-style planters, or even a traditional woven rug. 

Remember to incorporate plenty of natural elements, such as plants, rocks, and sand. Succulents, cacti, and other desert plants will thrive in this environment and add to the overall ambiance.

Finally, consider adding some unique touches to make your outdoor space amazing. This could be a custom mural or wall hanging, a set of hand-painted tiles, or even a collection of vintage southwestern pottery.

Southwestern Outdoor Design Ideas
Southwestern Outdoor Design Ideas

Southwestern Outdoor Areas
Image courtesy of The Joshua Tree House

Elements of Southwestern Design

Rugged and Natural

The best of the genre stems from nature, both in materials and spirit. It may reflect the rugged frontier landscapes or the nature of vast skies, brilliant sunsets, and violent storms. It also speaks to the majesty of towering mountains and crashing waves or the appeal of flowing streams, colorful land formations, and wildlife. 

This diversity of natural resources also translates into a cultural cornucopia, with a one-style-cannot-contain-it-all philosophy that embraces it all.

Western and Southwestern décor does not hesitate to mix materials: It stems from a history of using what was available. It seems appropriate, and it makes sense. 

Go ahead and hang a chandelier of blackened iron dripping with polished crystals, or opt for rusted metal forged into contemporary shapes for wall sconces. Wrap a rustic beam with unadorned bulbs strung from exposed wiring for a modern twist on what could have been a “frontier” solution.

Mix graphic weavings with calico and plaid as easily as with soft leather and natural hides. Take color cues from the vibrancy of the sunset, cactus flower blooms, and the eye-popping colors of Mexican weavings, or go subtle with hues from the desert, the prairie, or gentle mountain valleys.

Southwestern Decor: Elements of the West

Texas is in no way similar to Alaska, just as New Mexico Pueblo differs from Southern California Mission, and Rocky Mountain chic is dissimilar to Oregon Coastal. But the common theme is organic, integrating function and beauty and appreciating age, use, history, and well-worn and reclaimed materials.

The West was changed by settlers arriving from other areas, and decorating preferences are still influenced by what is popular elsewhere. Native American and First Nation peoples exert yet another influence on Western and Southwestern decorating. 

Mix Navajo rugs with contemporary furniture, dress your beds with native weavings, upholster furniture in eye-popping graphics, and stock up on North Woods blankets in historic designs.

Set your table with embellished Mexican silver, and collect hand-thrown pottery and decorated serving pieces. Think about copper, hammered or weathered, for sinks, countertops, table surfaces, and kitchenware.

Collect old wood pieces just because they are weathered and scarred. Put the old and damaged to new use. Just as the West was changed by settlers arriving from the East, by the railroads and highways and population growth, decorating preferences are still influenced by what is popular elsewhere and by the past.


Southwestern Interior Design

Quirks and Tangents

Perhaps, most importantly, Western and southwestern décor is not fussy and should not require a lot of polishing and upkeep. Keep the emphasis on comfort and orient your lifestyle toward ease. You will have more time and energy to enjoy family and friends, pursue activities you enjoy, and enable your home to function as a personal retreat where you can be yourself.

You need not fear choosing a color palette from one region, tossing in an artistic accent, or weaving from another area. It works; natural elements and expressive arts reflect individuality.

If you love the symbolism of a Texas Star, hang one on your wall. The same goes for a rusting Route 66 sign, a cowgirl poster, a lifelike buffalo – or even that laughable howling coyote – Your decorating style should reflect your personality. It should put a smile on your face! Why live any other way?

At its heart, this style is an individual expression of taste and preference. If it suits the way you choose to live, use it. Incorporate the elements you love into your décor, and you will always be stylish, even as trends come and go.

Southwestern Decorating Ideas Pins Optimized for Pinterest

Southwestern Decorating Ideas
Southwestern Decorating Ideas

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