The Complete Guide to Designing a Southwest Inspired Living Room

The rugged beauty of the American Southwest has captivated designers for generations. From earthy terracotta hues to intricately woven Navajo rugs, this aesthetic brings a warm, inviting spirit into any home. Whether you live in the desert or want to bring a touch of the landscape inside, these tips will help you create a space that honors Southwestern traditions with contemporary flair.

The Origins of Southwestern Style

Southwestern decor traces its roots to the Native American and Spanish colonial influences of states like Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Traditional elements from Indigenous cultures like the Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo tribes brought natural symbols, geometric patterns, and a reverence for local materials. When blended with the adobe architecture of Spanish missions, it formed the basis for the Santa Fe and pueblo revival styles. Over time, touches from Western ranch culture including cowhides and wagon wheels were incorporated.

Today, this aesthetic embraces the region’s unique culture with a respect for craftsmanship and connection to the land. Organic textures, warm earthy hues, and handcrafted accents create a cozy, casual backdrop. The living room often serves as the hub for gatherings, so Southwestern interiors focus on welcoming, communal spaces.

southwest living room ideas

Choosing a Color Palette

Color is one of the most important elements for setting the overall mood in a Southwestern living room. A combination of warm neutral bases and pops of saturated accent shades creates vibrance without overpowering the space.

Base Colors

Creamy tans, light terra cotta, and soft clay colors make excellent foundational tones. They provide a subdued backdrop that allows the textures and patterns of the decor to stand out. Neutral bases are key, as they anchor the room while playing up accent shades.

Some great Southwestern palette starters include:

  • Creamy Sand
  • Terracotta
  • Adobe
  • Tan
  • Beige

Avoid going too dark with base colors, as this can make a room feel closed in. Lighter neutrals help create a bright, airy atmosphere even in smaller living rooms.

Accent Colors

Punctuate your neutral foundation with eye-catching accent hues. Typical choices include aqua blues, mustard yellows, brick reds, and sage greens. These can be incorporated through throw pillows, area rugs, pottery, wall art, and other decor details.

Aim for colors with vibrance but a certain earthiness as well. Bright pinks or oranges may feel out of sync with the natural scheme. Instead, opt for muted versions like salmon, terracotta, or rust. Soft pastels like robin’s egg blue and pale yellow work nicely too.

Display different accent shades in the same room to create visual depth. Just avoid going overboard, as you don’t want the space to become too busy. Limit yourself to 2-3 statement colors for the most pleasing look.

Selecting Furniture

The furniture forms the foundation of your living room, so choose wisely to embrace the Southwestern aesthetic. Look for natural materials and silhouettes that invite relaxation and connection.

Wood & Leather

Natural materials reign supreme in the Southwest. Opt for solid wood furniture in oak, maple, cedar, and pine. Distressed finishes in darker walnut or ebony tones add character. Leather upholstery also fits right in, ideally in warm earthy hues.

Mission style sofas with squared arms and exposed legs are fitting. For chilly nights, adobe-inspired chairs and corner benches with built-in blankets offer comfort. Reclaimed wood coffee tables and hand-carved cabinets speak to the craftsmanship of the region.


Arranging furniture into inviting conversational groups encourages connection. Float sofas and chairs to designate sitting areas while keeping the flow open. Leave room for layering in Native American-style rugs and woven blankets to underscore the palette.

Place focal points like a large fireplace or picture window to highlight views of the outdoors. This pays homage to the Southwestern love of nature. For entertaining, incorporate built-in seating around a firepit or sectional sofa.

Creating Texture

From coarsely woven rugs to weathered wood beams, texture adds dimension to Southwestern rooms. Use it to impart welcoming warmth and tie the look together.


Natural fibers like wool, cotton, and leather bring organic depth. Layer wool throws in stripes and diamond patterns. Accent with cowhide pillows or sheepskin rugs for contrasting feel. Avoid silky, shiny fabrics and opt for visible weaves and nubby textures.


Cover interior walls with reclaimed barn wood or red brick for rustic appeal. Exposed beams, unfinished wood paneling, and ceramic tile lend raw, natural texture. For a smoother but still organic look, opt for plaster or adobe-inspired stucco.


Hardwood oak flooring establishes warmth underfoot, while Saltillo tile and stone add Old World charm. Layer hand-knotted wool or jute rugs on top for definition. Audition various sizes and patterns for visual interest.

Incorporate Native American-made rugs for authenticity. The visible weave provides beautiful texture to accent your base floors. Choose complementing tones to tie the palette together.

Adding Southwestern Accents

Accessories, wall art, and decorative decor add those finishing Southwestern touches. Display cultural symbols, rodeo memorabilia, and organic accents throughout the space.

Art + Wall Hangings

Handcrafted pieces bring handmade appeal. Dreamcatchers, ceramic masks, and woven wall tapestries reflect indigenous craftsmanship. Display colorful serapes as beautiful blanket art. Try black and white photography of Western landscapes to accentuate colors.

Navajo rugs, Mexican blankets, and Native American art prints add authentic flair above sofas or beds. For a bolder statement, mount saddlebags, cowboy hats, or antlers for ranch-inspired character.

Natural Accents

Bring in cacti, succulents, potted palms, and flowering desert plants for organic texture. Display them in handmade ceramic pots or woven baskets. Strategically placed antlers, driftwood, and stone sculptures also work nicely.

For lighting, replace harsh overheads with wrought iron sconces or hanging lanterns. Flickering candlelight or a crackling fire evoke cozy evenings in the desert.

Handcrafted Pieces

Display hand-thrown pottery, woven baskets, and carved wooden boxes to channel traditional Southwestern crafts. Intricately etched vases, clay pitchers, and talavera pottery reveal incredible artistry. Hang ladles and weathered farming implements as charming focal points.

Putting It All Together

Certain design principles help realize a holistic Southwestern interior. Keep them in mind as you select and arrange decor elements for cohesion.

Repetition of Colors and Textures

Repeating colors and textures throughout provides continuity. For example, recover two chairs in the same Navajo rug pattern. Echo wall paint hues in the area rugs. Distressed wood finishes on both the coffee table and builtin cabinetry tie the look together.

Symmetry & focal points

The Southwest embraces geometrics and symmetry. Place matching bookcases or pilasters on either side of a fireplace. Flank windows or doors with matching sconces or embroidered curtains.

Use focal points to draw the eye, like a rustic wagon wheel chandelier suspended above a dining table. Symmetrical repetition with a bold accent pulls the room together.

Incorporate Natural Light

Large windows, skylights, and French doors allow bountiful natural light reminiscent of the desert landscape. Opt for unobstructed views to really maximize the sunlight. Use sheer curtains to filter while still preserving that indoor-outdoor feel.

Common Mistakes

While designing your Southwestern living room, avoid these key missteps:

  • Overusing patterns. Stick to 1-2 statement prints with solid grounds and accents.
  • Too many colors. Limit yourself to soft bases and 2-3 pops for optimal cohesion.
  • Feeling cluttered. Leave open floor space and clear surfaces for an airy aesthetic.
  • Going over-the-top Western. Avoid cliche items like wagon wheels on the wall.
  • Forgetting lighting. Include lanterns, sconces, and ample windows to feel bright and inviting.

Creating a Southwestern living room requires thoughtful curation but rewards with a warm, welcoming space. By layering natural elements, authentic handicrafts, and organic textures, you can craft a desert oasis right at home. Just take it step-by-step to thoughtfully blend colors, materials, and decorative accents. Keep our tips in mind and you’ll have a living room that honors the artistry of the American Southwest.

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