What is 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 might also speak 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 translates into a cultural cornucopia as well, 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 very contemporary shapes for wall sconces. Wrap a rustic beam with unadorned bulbs strung from exposed wiring for a contemporary 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, the eye-popping colors of Mexican weavings, or go subtle with hues from the desert, the prairie or gentle mountain valleys.
Elements of Southwestern Design
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 totally dissimilar to Oregon Coastal. But the common theme is organic, the integration of function and beauty, and an appreciation of age, use and history as well as for well-worn and reclaimed materials. The architecture of the West and Southwest reflects history, but is not a slave to it. 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, 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.
Quirks and Tangents
Perhaps, most importantly, Western & 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 and tossing in an artistic accent or a weaving from another area. It works; natural elements and expressive arts reflect individuality.
If you love the symbolism of a Texas Star, go ahead and 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.
This gorgeous southwestern kitchen was a farmhouse remodel done by Vernon Sons Construction in Santa Barbara. The wood flooring is Provenza Old World Siberian Oak Fossil Stone Stone (sku #667). via: Houzz
Another photo of the Vernon Sons Construction farmhouse remodel. I love the cowboy artwork above the entry. via: Houzz
For further information on Southwestern Design, check out my article on Southwestern Outdoor Ideas with design tips and stunning photos of outdoor patios and porches.