Desert Home Style Guide

Tara Dickinson
6 minute read

Listen to article
Audio is generated by DropInBlog's AI and may have slight pronunciation nuances. Learn more

Desert Decor Designs From Southwest to Desert Modern


Traditional desert decor is influenced by the culture of the Southwest states as well as the history that transformed those areas throughout time. Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada can be included in the Southwest list. This distinctive decor has been almost entirely shaped by the surrounding nature and unique setting. The desert environment offers vibrant flora, open vistas, and historic influence from the original tribes of those regions.


The foundations of a desert style come from Spanish colonial revival design. But with the rate of growth and influx of new business and residents over the last 5-10 years, desert design is becoming more contemporary, adding more vibrant color and more connection to the desert landscape. Designers have learnt not to shield out what might seem like a hostile environment but rather embrace the desert’s natural beauty.

Spanish Revival Elements

  • Mediterranean styles have a strong presence.
  • Rich sunset colors against muted tones.
  • Handcrafted clay tiles, flagstone, and sandstone.
  • Tile roofs.
  • Rustic wood beams.
  • Ornate detailing on the doors.
  • Courtyards.
  • Using local materials, creating a connection to the natural surroundings.

Modern Desert Elements

The growth in Southwest states like Arizona, where business is booming, has seen the new design trend being incorporated into the traditional SW decor.

  • Contemporary commercial urban architecture is influencing residential tastes.
  • Downtown restaurants, hotels, and clubs have noticeably more contemporary decor.
  • This stunning new architecture is being called “desert modern.
  • Appreciation for the desert landscape is moving into interior design.
  • There’s a desire to seamlessly blend interior and exterior spaces.
  • Eco-conscious design principles, such as sun orientation and thermal properties combined with more energy-efficient materials, are now more mainstream.
  • Southwest architecture does reflect old-world and Mediterranean traditional styles, but a shift to a more urban, contemporary lifestyle is emerging.
  • Use of unique indigenous local materials such as cantera stone and glazed Mexican ceramic tiles makes desert design truly unique. 


You can't go wrong in your desert design using a color palette full of earth tones. Neutral shades in all ranges of brown, clay earth, and brick red are the traditional Southwest colors carried over from the Mediterranean/Tuscan influences.

DesertMore modern desert design is seeing the color palette move towards a base of gray with additional pops of color plus the inclusion and graphic prints. Want to update your more traditional Mediterranean-style home? Use some of these fresh color pops to bring in an element of desert modern.FURNITURE


Leather and Southwest decor simply go hand-in-hand. Leather has always been a home decor staple in desert style and will most likely always be. To stay with the more traditional desert design, leather sofas and sectionals in browns of any shade is a sure bet. To modernize the look, choose leather furniture in black or white or the lighter shades of cow hide (or faux materials are just as fabulous in today’s markets).

Sturdy Furnishings

Home furnishings in the Southwestern desert style are practical, heavy, solid pieces that can stand the test of time and tough environments. Think rugged sensibility. Pieces can be made from:

  • Tin
  • Weather wood
  • Patinated iron
  • Woven branches and grasses
  • Distressed texture painted pieces
  • Upholstered furnishings in natural & durable materials: cotton and burlap

Balance the look out with a few finer structured pieces to lighten the visual load. A slimmer side table and chair or a decorative shelving unit would work nicely. 


An additional way to decorate your desert-inspired space is to place area rugs with a Southwestern feel. Authentic rugs of this kind are often covered in geometric patterns. Then to liven up what might be a more neutral space, whether you’ve chosen earth tones or more modern shades of black, white, and grey, bright colors found in the desert- reds, greens, yellows, purples- will make a wonderful contrast. Neutral area rugs in tones of beige and brown hues with interesting patterns are another option too. Matching geometric throws pillows make the design look finished and polished in this desert decor style.


​​Marble countertops in desert kitchens are all the rage right now. They used to not be installed quite as often as there was hesitation over the material being porous. But advances in technology have made sealing marble slabs easy and homeowners can now have the gorgeous material as part of their desert style kitchen decor.


As with most dry climates, such as northern California and African styles, windows are kept open and the flow of living space easily moves from indoor to outdoor in a seamless manner. It is the appreciation of nature and the ​​inclusion of views of wide open landscapes that people love.

  • Sliding doors are prevalent.
  • Stacking doors as well.
  • Water features de-stress and offer the illusion of coolness.
  • Energy-efficient glass walls are common, inviting the outside in.
  • Awnings and overhangs are generous to create outdoor shade.


When adding accents to your decor think desert chic, running from traditional to modern styles. Keep it classy, meaning don’t go overboard with dreamcatchers, everything in turquoise, or an overabundance of silver chotchkies.

  • Native American icons
  • Animal hides
  • Cowhand tools — for example, a mounted coiled lasso


Earthen pottery in rich terra-cotta and earth tones is just right for the Southwestern desert home. You can freely mix matte and glazed finishes with solid colors and painted designs for variety and interest. Choosing pottery with a hand-thrown feel in an assortment of different shapes and sizes keeps the decor personal and interesting.


There is no style of home decor that doesn’t benefit from having fresh potted plants as part of its accent decor. Placing some low-maintenance native plants throughout your desert style home will bring a sense of life and freshness to the space. So be generous with your greenery; from cacti to succulents to mini palm trees, don’t forget to add some lovely desert flora to your home.



#southwest #arizona #nature #newmexico #desert #landscape #newmexicotrue #utah #sunset #art #naturephotography #roadtrip #phoenix #travelphotography #desertlife #turquoise #cactus #wanderlust #outdoors #beautiful #santafe #albuquerque #desertvibes #desertlove #joshuatree #desertliving #desertphotography #desertdecor #desertlandscape #deserts #desertbeauty #desertdaze #desertplants #desertsouthwest #southwesternstyle #desertsky #desertsafari #interiordecorating #desertduskpalette #desertplant #yuccavalley #desertforce



« Back to Blog