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Guide to Modern Desert Decor

Updated on October 22, 2018
lindacee profile image

Linda is a seasoned writer and home-decorating authority. She loves sharing design trends, decor ideas, and useful tips with her readers.

When thinking of desert home decor does your mind conjure up images of coyote and cacti figurines frolicking in a sea of turquoise and mauve? If so, those outdated images might explain your aversion to Southwestern desert style decorating. Luckily things have changed a great deal and it no longer means tacky.

Let’s say we leave those hideous 1980s decorating trends in the past where they belong. Today's take on Southwestern decor infuses homes with a modern blend of history, diversity and style—all while maintaining a balance with the surrounding environment.

Coyote figurines are a no-no.
Coyote figurines are a no-no. | Source

Color Palette

One would best describe a Southwestern desert color palette as warm and welcoming. Imagine the colors of a Navajo blanket, a sunset as it slips behind the mountains, a garden of flowering succulents or the shimmer of sand in the moonlight.

The entire idea of desert decorating is to bring as much of the outdoors into your home as possible—in a subtle way, of course. Consider earthy tones of adobe, terracotta and rugged landscapes. Bring in warm colors and contrast with cool hints of sage greens and ice blue to create a natural balance.

Use the desert landscape to guide your color choices. This cool color palette would definitely inspire.
Use the desert landscape to guide your color choices. This cool color palette would definitely inspire. | Source


Think of furniture for your desert home as a mix of casual, modern and rustic. If you use a combination of styles your Southwestern home should take on a relaxed feel. This way you can create your version of desert style without looking kitschy or themed.

Every desert home needs a piece of leather furniture. Go large with a sectional or more understated with an occasional chair or two. You can dine at a rustic harvest table or enjoy a dinner for two at your vintage Saarinen tulip table. Shake things up by pairing modern chairs with rustic pieces and vice versa.

Desert modern rooms always need at least one piece of rustic wood furniture. A live edge coffee table, a walnut hutch or a burl dining table hearkens the dusty desert environment. Bedroom furniture should stay simple and low profile. As with other rooms in your home you don't want to detract from or obscure the glorious views to the outside.

A touch of leather is the perfect compliment to a Southwestern home interior.
A touch of leather is the perfect compliment to a Southwestern home interior. | Source


Carpet has no business in the desert. If your home has an urban vibe sleek tile is definitely the way to go. Go with varying sizes of large-scale tiles placed in an offset pattern with thin grout lines. Tumbled Travertine is the perfect material for this type of installation as it echoes the color of sand.

Southwestern homes situated far from the madding crowd may be better suited to hardwood flooring. If you are really into becoming one with nature consider natural products like sustainable bamboo. Or better yet check out wood floor tiles for the best of both worlds.

If you are looking for warmth underfoot take advantage of local artisans. Nothing is more striking than a Mojave rug in the living room or bedroom. And don’t forget, tribal rugs can be great inspiration for your overall color palette so you might want choose your rugs first.

Tile or wood floors are your best bet for a modern desert home.
Tile or wood floors are your best bet for a modern desert home. | Source

Fabrics and Accessories

The use of fabrics and accessories make a desert house a home. Choose natural fabrics that are full of tactile textures such as buttery, coarse and nubby. Go bohemian with African mud cloth pillows, Ikat patterns and indigo textiles for an eclectic personality.

Stick with nature-inspired accessories and add pops of color with native art pieces, rugs and wall hangings. Nature-themed artwork is the essence of the desert. Black and white landscape photography and even cactus or palm tree prints create a warm desert welcome.

To create a clean and modern background, paint your walls with a crisp white or dusty neutral hue. Protect all of your furnishings and fabric window treatments from the harsh desert sun by installing durable solar shades or custom sunscreens.

Native American pottery makes a colorful addition to a neutral room.
Native American pottery makes a colorful addition to a neutral room. | Source

Take an Inspired Road Trip

Hit the road and check out classic mid-century modern desert homes in the Palm Springs and Phoenix areas. Discover pristine and well-preserved interiors among dozens of retro subdivisions. Soak up more Southwestern inspiration by touring model homes in brand new housing developments throughout the region. Enjoy to your heart's content!

Phoenix Desert Modern

Marlen Grove:
Bethany Home Rd & N 10th St, Phoenix, AZ 85014, USA

get directions

A citrus grove transformed into one of the most stellar neighborhoods in Phoenix. The 1950s homes feature bright accents and sandblasted exteriors.

Marion Estates:
E Stanford Dr & N 44th St, Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA

get directions

This is one of the most eclectic mid-century modern neighborhoods in metropolitan Phoenix. They were innovative and customized by famous architects.

Town and Country Scottsdale:
N 72nd Pl & E Oak St, Scottsdale, AZ 85257, USA

get directions

This mid-mod gem of a neighborhood was built in 1958. The development was designed by Haver featuring low-sloped roofs, clinker bricks and clerestory

Paradise Gardens:
N 36th St & E Gold Dust Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85028, USA

get directions

Some homes were actually designed by Al Beadle. This development was set against the Phoenix Mountain Preserve making it a true mid century gem.

N 44th St & E Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85018, USA

get directions

This is also a Ralph Haver subdivision from the 1950s. It's 60-plus years old and the neighborhood is in the midst of preservation and renovations.

Windemere is a modern time capsule of Phoenix residential design.
Windemere is a modern time capsule of Phoenix residential design. | Source

Palm Springs Southwest Modernism

Twin Palms:
1042 Apache Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA

get directions

It consists of 90 homes on the south side of Palm Springs. The Twin Palms project was a marriage between William Krisel and an inventive builder.

Indian Canyons:
1300 S La Verne Way, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA

get directions

Indian Canyons is the an impressive collection of mid moderns. Architects including Palmer & Krisel, Wexler, and Frey designed these high end home

Deepwell Canyon:
S Sunrise Way & E Palm Canyon Dr, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA

get directions

While not as prominent as the others, Deepwell is impressive with its towering palm trees and variety of architecture that keeps you engrossed.

Vista Las Palmas:
500 S Palm Canyon Dr #321, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA

get directions

These 1960s homes are tucked into The San Jacinto mountains. The largest Alexander homes are here and that's why so many stars had holiday homes here.

Little Beverly Hills:
El Cielo Rd & Ramon Rd, Palm Springs, CA 92264, USA

get directions

This Alexander small subdivision is comprised of 84 homes. It's named after Beverly Hills, California because of its similarly named streets.

Wexler Steel Home:
290 East Simms Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262, USA

get directions

Beautiful inside and out, this steel house will give you plenty of inspiration to decorate your desert home in the mid-century modern style.

A Palm Springs A-Frame "Swiss Miss" house in Las Palmas Estates.
A Palm Springs A-Frame "Swiss Miss" house in Las Palmas Estates. | Source

© 2013 Linda Chechar

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    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      5 years ago from Arizona

      aesta1, I've had plenty of desert decorating experience. We've lived in Palm Springs (an extension of the Sonoran called the Colorado desert) and Las Vegas (Mojave desert). Definitely preferred Palm Springs. Thought about moving to Phoenix or Tucson, but I think we're done with deserts for a while. We just moved to North Central Arizona from Vegas. Good luck with your search in AZ!

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      We are right now in Arizona testing out retirement places and the desert is fascinating. While we saw deserts before, this is our first time to live in the Sonoran Desert. Your ideas would be lovely around here.

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Vespa, I've seen homes out here decorated in many different styles, but am always drawn to those taking the surrounding environment into consideration. Glad you stopped in for a visit! :)

    • vespawoolf profile image

      Vespa Woolf 

      7 years ago from Peru, South America

      This style is common in many homes in Phoenix and I've always enjoyed the casual but clean look of our friends' homes when we pay them a visit. Thank you for these great ideas!

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      You're right Angela, desert decorating does mix well with other styles! So happy you enjoyed this Hub. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday! :)

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Heidi, maybe a tropical room would suit your humidity better! ;)

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Jackie, that's exactly the thing that draws me to this palette. It is so Zen! Thanks and take care. :)

    • lindacee profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Chechar 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Carol, just make note of the colors that inspire you and revisit the painting project when you have the time. When I am thinking about redoing a room, I start by putting together an "inspiration" file to refer to when I'm ready. Thanks for reading and visiting with me today! :)

    • Angela Blair profile image

      Angela Blair 

      7 years ago from Central Texas

      Even tho I live in small town, central Texas -- and we certainly aren't in the desert area of Texas -- I always try to include a bit of "desert" in my decorating. It's usually a bit of pottery or rugs -- and it's amazing how one can include a touch of "desert" with many other styles of decorating. I totally enjoyed this Hub as I'm such a fan of the "desert look" of casual elegance. Best/Sis

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 

      7 years ago from Chicago Area

      Even though I'm in Chicago which, in the summer, is humidity city*, I love the desert look. So peaceful. Great pictures!

      * Is there a humid decorating look? :)

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 

      7 years ago from the beautiful south

      The colors co-ordinate with sand, I like it. Looks like a calming and peaceful palette.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 

      7 years ago from Arizona

      Living the desert this really interested me...I am thinking of painting the interior...and have been for a year. I have so much on my plate right now..but it is something I want to do. Love your suggestions and will pass them on.


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