Southwestern Architecture and Décor

La Fonda on the Plaza in Sante Fe, NM The fireplace, designed by Arnold Rönnebeck, is inspired by traditional beehive shaped fireplaces built into the adobe walls. Photo by Atakra - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

La Fonda on the Plaza in Sante Fe, NM
The fireplace, designed by Arnold Rönnebeck, is inspired by traditional beehive shaped fireplaces built into the adobe walls.
Photo by Atakra

My nephew moved to Nevada from Knoxville, Tennessee. He enjoys decorating and  has been incorporating some local motifs. Just the light makes everything he already owned look different.

I pulled out a book I bought in the early ’90s, The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas. The book has beautiful photography. It tells some history and includes recipes. The chapters are Southwestern Home & Interiors, Southwestern Foods, Southwestern Crafts & Collectibles, and Southwestern Gardens.

I took photos of a few of the pages in the section on Southwestern Home & Interiors to share here.

Sunshine streams in through the picture window of a stylish adobe with a ceiling supported by vigas. The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Sunshine streams in through the picture window of a stylish adobe with a ceiling supported by vigas.
The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

Traditional Southwestern architecture can appear surprisingly contemporary… An older regional dwelling showcases a Native American rug, Spanish-style wooden furniture, santos, and vigas.

The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

Today’s amateur or professional decorator has a wealth of Southwestern objects at his or her disposal, ranging from the contemporary rugs displaying traditional Native American patterns and symbols to a wealth of old fashioned and contemporary decorative items – including painted furniture, a kiva-style ladder, fanciful ironwork, and a folk-art snake. The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Today’s amateur or professional decorator has a wealth of Southwestern objects at his or her disposal, ranging from the contemporary rugs displaying traditional Native American patterns and symbols to a wealth of old fashioned and contemporary decorative items – including painted furniture, a kiva-style ladder, fanciful ironwork, and a folk-art snake.
The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

The book goes into detail on the elements of Southwestern decor and the story behind them. Here are some of the concepts.

Kiva at Mesa Verde National Park has nichos, recesses built into the walls and a kiva ladder - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Kiva at Mesa Verde National Park has nichos, recesses built into the walls and a kiva ladder

A lot of Southwestern motifs go back centuries. A kiva at Mesa Verde National Park has nichos, the recesses built into the walls in an adobe home and a kiva ladder to reach the doorway.

Hallmarks of Southwestern Architecture and Decor

Plaster: Adobe walls are frequently coated with white plaster or white washed

Nichos: Recesses built into the adobe walls

Alacenas: Small cupboards built into adobe walls with a frame and doors often carved and painted

Bancos: Benches built into adobe walls

Fireplace: A cone or beehive shaped fireplace built into the adobe walls

Floor: Wood plank, flagstone, brick or terra-cotta tile

Windows:  Framed and shuttered windows, often weathered and brightly painted, frequently blue

Latillas: Stripped saplings or saguaro cactus ribs on the ceiling

Vigas: Whole trees with the bark removed supporting the roof, they extend out through the adobe walls

Doorways: Weathered wood doorways, often painted blue

Ladders: Rough wooden ladders – Pueblos used to have no entry from the ground floor, a ladder was used to reach the door.

There are a wide variety of beautiful cactus to bring the desert in - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

There are a wide variety of beautiful cactus to bring the desert in

Cactus: Large or small, a cactus brings the desert indoors

Dried Corn: Display ears of dried corn strung, stacked or in a bowl to add color and visual texture.

Hispanic Artifacts: Carved wood or tin animals or other motifs

Salado Polychrome Jar from Tonto National Monument - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Salado Polychrome Jar from Tonto National Monument

Native American Artifacts: Traditional Navajo, Hopi or other hand-made objects or motifs

Polychrome just means painted or decorated in several colors.

Native American pottery is frequently decorated with various mineral colors. Colored slip, minerals dissolved in water with a consistency like very thin clay, is painted onto the pot or the pot is coated in slip, then the surface is carved away to reach the original color underneath. Or a combination of methods and colors is used.

Ranch Hardware: Display things like spurs or bridles that might have come from a ranch.

Various kinds of Ristras made with jalapeños, other chili peppers, or garlic Photo by Eric EHM02667 - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Various kinds of Ristras made with jalapeños, other chili peppers, or garlic
Photo by Eric EHM02667

Ristras: Dried red chiles hung from a peg on the wall or from a rafter

Rugs: Vivid Navajo rugs, Latin American weavings or other rugs or textiles

Skulls: Sunbleached or painted skulls from especially of a steer or longhorn

Sometimes one or a few well-chosen Southwestern objects can make the most profound decorative statement in the home… The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Sometimes one or a few well-chosen Southwestern objects can make the most profound decorative statement in the home…
The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

Southwestern Motifs

  • Steer skull
  • Howling coyote
  • Roadrunner
  • Snake
  • Chile pepper
  • Saguaro
Left: Simple bedroom with many of the Hallmarks of Southwestern Architecture and Decor, white walls with simple wood furniture, a steer skull, textiles inspired by Native American designs, a simple bench painted blue Right: A steer skull decorated with a Native American inspired pattern The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Left: Simple bedroom with many of the Hallmarks of Southwestern Architecture and Decor, white walls with simple wood furniture, a steer skull, textiles inspired by Native American designs, a simple bench painted blue
Right: A steer skull decorated with a Native American inspired pattern
The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

Canyon with Crows by Georgia O'Keeffe - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

Canyon with Crows by Georgia O’Keeffe

Sun-drenched Artwork

It’s not in the book, but I would add artwork that brings the warmth of the desert in. Even if you love the look, but you live in the cool mountains of North Carolina, a Georgia O’Keeffe print or a photo of the Mojave contributes Southwestern Style.

The book has been out of print for a while, but you can still find it on eBay or Amazon.

If you are interested in the area, the book is a beautiful read. Wonderful photos and just enough information.

Find The Southwestern Companion on Amazon >
Find The Southwestern Companion on eBay >

The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas - Southwestern Architecture and Décor – myDesign42

The Southwestern Companion by Norman Kolpas

Comments are closed.