Warm and casual Southwest style is hot in decor
A desert storm is brewing in the design world. Renewed interest in earthy color palettes, rich textures, tribal patterns and rustic elements has sparked a revival of Southwestern decorating style, long associated with homes in New Mexico and Arizona.
The look is interesting and exciting but also warm and casual, designers say.
“The overarching trend for 2019 is all about being real. It’s about surrounding yourself with nature, including natural fibers and earth tones,” said Dayna Isom Johnson, a trend expert with Etsy.com, the online marketplace that focuses on handmade and vintage goods. That’s a change from 2018, she says, when “it was fantasy, celestial and unicorns,” design inspired by mythology and science fiction.
Southwestern decor — distinguished by colorful, geometric prints and a palette that includes periwinkle, terracotta, cream and tan — often evokes a desert feel, said Maggie Lydecker, a designer for the online home-goods store Wayfair.com.
“Southwestern looks feature natural elements that bring the outdoors inside even in a small space that could otherwise look stark,” she said. “For those who are hesitant to pinpoint one particular style, Southwestern can be a nice compromise, as it encompasses many different elements such as batik, leather or relaxed linen. It is easy to mix and match with this style — so what’s not to love?”
Since many homes are in styles or regions that don’t automatically scream “Southwest,” start with small touches, Isom Johnson suggests. “When a trend happens, you don’t have to deck out your entire home,” she said.
Consider adding a throw to your bed, a rug in your foyer, a piece of pottery on a living room table or new knobs to your kitchen cabinets, she said.
Linda Robinson, who works as an interior designer in Arizona, says that even there she adheres to the principle of blending Southwestern pieces with other elements. “It can be beautiful — the mixing,” she said. “Mixing gives character. It’s very today.”
She routinely combines Southwestern items with European antiques or Persian rugs. Two or three antique Apache baskets on a French secretary desk would create “a real focal point,” she said. She often uses wood or metal tables as pedestals to display eye-catching Southwestern pottery, baskets or art. She also gravitates to furniture with clean lines because it allows such special pieces to pop.
Traditional terracotta tiles are another mainstay of this style and can be interspersed throughout the home, Lydecker said. “Bathrooms, kitchens and stairways are great spots to have some fun with tile and clay elements,” she said.
Osa Atoe, a potter in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, incorporates geometric patterns and neutral colors with a Southwestern feel in her pottery. The look is classic, she says, and easily fits in different homes. Her pieces are “colorful and neutral at the same time.”
Vanessa Boer of Portland, Oregon, designs Southwestern-inspired housewares. “My shop’s focus is on textiles, primarily pillows, so people are able to add a pop of color or bold pattern on a couch or chair,” she said. “This adds some fun or character without having your entire living room covered in patterns, or feeling so entrenched in a specific style that you feel compelled to redecorate a year later.”
When done right, Southwestern pieces will gel with elements already in your home, Lydecker said.
“The textiles are often layered, which creates a relaxed, inviting ambiance,” she said. “With white being popular for walls and overall room palettes, Southwestern decorative elements provide a playful juxtaposition that doesn’t feel forced.”