Monday, September 13, 2010

About Southwest Interior Decorating

Saltillo tiles with animal prints are considered good luck.

Defined as much by architecture as by furnishings, the southwest style of interior decorating reflects the styles of a range of cultures. The characteristics of southwest decor also reflect the local regions, from desert plains to mountainous terrain. Southwest design schemes are a mixture of cultural heritages and the surrounding landscape. Does this Spark an idea?


Southwest decorating roots date back to the 16th-century invasion of Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spanish brought with them the design concepts of ornate carvings in furniture and brilliantly colored tiles and pottery. Over time, the Mexican native motifs such as coyotes and local plant life blended with the Spanish influences.

Native American influences are evident in southwest design as well. As the southwest deserts became inhabited by settlers, goods were traded. Blankets and pottery made by Native Americans were incorporated into the settlers' homes. Styles from Mexico to the south and the local natives throughout the southwest began to merge together.


The southwest design incorporates the colors, textures and materials of the surrounding landscapes. Color palettes range from soft pastels resembling the sandy deserts to bolder colors borrowed from sunsets and plant life. Textures are highlighted in hewn woods and natural woven fabrics. Materials such as stone and wood are highlighted in oversized fireplaces and handcrafted furniture.


Southwest styles include Spanish colonial, Western and contemporary. Spanish colonial is characterized by the use of painted tiles, ironwork and ornate carvings. The color palette includes jewel-toned blues, deep reds and gold. Furniture is oversized with silver or wrought-iron hardware. The Western design is more rustic and incorporates artifacts associated with Native Americans, cowboys and ranch life. These may include painted pottery, Kiva fireplaces, woven blankets used as wall hangings, farm tools, wagon wheels and cowboy art. The color palette includes earth tones such as forest green and brick red.

Contemporary southwest design includes a lighter color palette with emphasis on mid-tones and creamier shades. Fewer furnishings and accessories are used in contemporary southwest decor. A collection of Kachina dolls, for example, may be highlighted but few other accessories added. Saltillo tile floors, area rugs with geometric designs, smaller furniture with minimal carving and wrought-iron wall sculptures define contemporary southwest design.


The southwest region of the United States lends itself to outdoor living almost year-round. This regional quality encourages the blending of indoor and outdoor decor. Southwest interior decorating often includes exterior rooms.

Outdoor kitchens and family rooms play a role in southwest design. Furnishings include wrought-iron furniture with cushions, built-in benches, chimneys and fire pits, and painted concrete flooring.


Southwest interior decorating may include artifacts associated with desert life. Items such as cow skulls, Indian war bonnets, plastic cactus plants and fake tomahawks, however, are not a part of southwest decor.

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