Friday, June 11, 2010

Southwestern Home Decor

A mix of Spanish, Mexican, American pioneer and American Indian, the Southwestern style blends the rustic with the refined. Muted desert colors are mixed with rich vibrant tones. Textures range from rough-hewn wood to smooth painted tiles. Defined by the Southwestern climate, the style relies on the blending of natural elements with interior spaces. Does this Spark an idea?


The lower Southwest, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, California and Mexico, enjoys mild desert winters with temperatures rarely dipping below freezing. These balmy months, though, are balanced by extreme heat in the summer, with temperatures reaching as high as 110 degrees.

To psychologically counteract the heat, cool color palettes are used. Muted pinks and yellows are balanced with rich tones such as turquoise and sage. Warm red tones are used sparingly as counterbalance to the chillier hues.


The cool color palette keeps the other elements from "overheating." Wide-planked hardwood floors, either pine or oak, are commonly seen in Southwestern design schemes. Large cabinetry, a Spanish-Mexican influence, is an element of the style; cabinets are often ornate in decoration, painted or host to intricate carving. The floors and cabinetry are dark and heavy and, without the cool colors, could feel oppressive in the warmer months.


The Southwest colors are derived from the desert landscape with its creamy white sand and rock, its verdant green sage and cacti, its brilliant-colored flowers and dark, looming mountains.

The lighter colors are seen in fabric and paints, the darker in accessories. While the color palette is distinctive, it is the imagery that sets Southwestern design apart.

Graphic patterns are commonly used in upholstery. Images of animals such as deer, bears, lizards and birds are seen in blankets, throw pillows, pottery and sculpture; this is the American Indian influence. Landscape vignettes of sleepy villages, a Mexican influence, are favored for painted tile murals.

Large photographs and paintings of vast desert and mountain landscapes serve as artistic elements, their imagery paying homage to the harsh and enigmatic environment.


The cool color palette and use of imagery are characteristic of the Southwest style, but the mix of influences allow for varying types of design schemes.

The Spanish and Mexican influences have merged to create a Hispanic style of Southwest decor: wrought iron furniture for informal dining both indoors and out, terra cotta tiles and pottery, painted cabinetry and, for accessories, painted tin and carved statues of saints.

The American Indian influence is seen in kiva ladders, clay pottery, woven baskets and blankets, and adobe fireplaces. Furniture is made from oak or pine and smaller in scale than those of the Hispanic scheme.

The pioneers and cowboys of the 19th century bring to the Southwest design rustic furniture, leather and rawhide, artifacts of the cowboy lifestyle such as wagon wheels and saddles, and open-air kitchens.


The elements of the Southwestern style can be blended with other interiors as well. American Indian pottery makes for textural and colorful displays in sleek, modern decors. Hand-painted tiles punch up a country kitchen. The earthy appeal of painted tin is compatible with Moroccan and Mediterranean styles.

The confluence of these cultural influences has given the Southwest style versatility in its applications. Whether the dominant features are Hispanic, American Indian or early American, the style brings with it a rustic charm made elegant by its cool colors.

Tags: American Indian, color palette, cool color, American Indian influence, cool color palette, cool colors