Expert Guide: How to Channel the Southwest In Your Own Home
A design aesthetic that’s rich in culture and history.
A confluence of history, culture, and craft, there’s nowhere on earth quite like the American Southwest. The aesthetic is the byproduct of its past and present inhabitants and the vast landscape that makes places like New Mexico and Arizona so distinct. “The Southwestern look is defined by the intersections of history, culture, and design,” Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi Managing Director Lutz Arnhold says to TZR. “Beyond an aesthetic, the design elements are the result of hundreds of years of rich history for our region, marked by the blending of Native American and Spanish culture.” The dramatic terrain — from the Sonoran Desert to Bryce Canyon— certainly plays a role. “There is a big influence from the area’s natural surroundings, including the canyons, deserts, and rock formations that are such a striking part of the landscape,” Arnhold adds.
It’s not all that surprising that a region such as the Southwest that’s brimming with history, culture, and natural splendor has a palpable spirituality; this can be seen at the Rosewood’s Santa Fe outpost. “For example, Chaco Canyon served as the main inspiration for our property’s rock fountain and skylight mural — design elements that are reminiscent of the canyon’s natural elements and were also specifically designed to channel positive spirits into the property,” Arnhold says.
Echoing this spirit of the Southwest in your own home encourages creativity and an experimental attitude. “I didn't have a design concept for Casa Gallina per se. I came from the East Coast where every wall is white. I was inspired by the organic spaces in Taos and wanted to have one that was filled with artwork and locally made products,” Casa Gallina owner Richard Spera tells TZR. “I’ve found pieces from estate, yard, and antique sales and listened to my intuition. I wanted to feel good when I walked into my space.” Following Spera’s lead will introduce an element of storytelling to your Southwestern-inspired home, which is a building block to the design aesthetic itself. “Fill your space with items that have stories and make you feel good,” he adds. Ahead, expert-led tips on how to channel the Southwest in your personal space, with ideas for where to source and shop your furniture, artwork, and more.
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Incorporate Organic Materials
If you have the opportunity to make renovations to your home, incorporating organic materials is among the more impactful ways to evoke the Southwest. “Something looks Southwestern because of its organic feel,” Spera says. “You will often find mud ceilings and curved adobe walls decorated with a mish-mosh of Mexican primary colors.” If that’s out of the question, consider pieces like a fireplace or even rounded pottery crafted in terracotta.
Don’t Shy Away From Color
Minimalists take note, decorating your home in the style of the Southwest usually entails a colorful palette. “Don’t be afraid of color. I recommend taking a risk and painting walls with daring, warm, saturated colors,” Spera notes, but with one caveat. “Only do this on walls across from windows.”
…But Also Go For Earth Tones
If a burst of saturated colors feels disparate from your personal aesthetic, earth tones work, too. “Start with a neutral color palate — creams, grays, tans — and build from there,” Arnhold says.
Foster Artisan Relationships
Part of what makes the Southwest feel so distinct is the mosaic of artisan-crafted goods. “When I need rugs to add texture and warmth to a space, I can call a local rug dealer here in New Mexico who will come by in a van that he sells from,” Spera says. “I work with the artisan and indigenous community here in Taos regularly. Artists will ask me to hang pieces up on my wall to sell. When they leave, they will get replaced with more pieces that find their way to me. This process of finding and collecting, flowing, and coming back is evocative of the soul of the Southwest, which is the nickname of Taos.”
A Southwestern home has depth thanks to its masterful mix of textures. Arnhold points to elements like hand-carved doors and wooden ceiling beams, contrasted by softer materials like woven rugs and blankets. “Through the soft elements and art we add some prints and color,” he says of the hotel’s design direction.
Buy Regional Southwestern Art
Adding finishing touches to your space, like artwork and decor accents, should be sourced from artists and artisans from the Southwest. At Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi, the team sourced locally created and artisan-made elements for the design direction, like hand-loomed antique patterned rugs. They also have art by Joel Greene, Emmi Whitehorse, Ted Larsen, Pedro Surroca, and Helen Altman. “Classic Native American textiles and artifacts are all exhibited, with great care taken to explain the significance and history behind each piece and what the symbols and motifs represented mean to the community,” he says. There are also weavings found throughout the property that come from a fifth-generation family of weavers and are made of 100% wool and all-natural dyes. These types of considered pieces are the perfect way to ensure your home is imbued with authenticity (and respect for the communities from which you're drawing inspiration).