You don’t have to live in Arizona or New Mexico to appreciate the Southwestern design style. In fact, with the right approach, you can create your own Southwestern oasis regardless of where you live.
With the right colors, faux wood beams and either faux wood viga tails or the right exterior brackets and corbels, you can transform any home into a casually elegant abode that looks like it’s been transplanted right out of the desert.
The first step in your home makeover is to determine how extensively you want the Southwestern design ethic to influence your home’s design. Will you do just a room or two? The entire interior? The backyard patio? And how will you make sure the exterior of your home sets the right tone?
Regardless of which path you choose, there are simple shortcuts to help make creating your Southwestern retreat easier, faster and more affordable.
What Makes a Home “Southwestern”
Certain colors and finishes are the hallmarks of the Southwestern design style, and they include rich colors that evoke images of the desert landscape.
This can include such colors as terracotta, rust and bright red; neutral, earth-colored hues such as a dusty orange or a deep mahogany brown; shades of the sunset ranging from orange and gold to deep purple and the light tans and grays seen in the area’s rocks and sand.
Turquoise, which plays such a distinctive role in the culture as a popular stone, also is seen in the many shades of blue used in the Southwestern color palette.
Originally built by indigenous people to weather the harsh desert climate, the distinctive exteriors of Southwestern style are typically adobe or stucco, with thick walls for insulation. They are designed low to the ground and, initially, had small windows located high on the building to help keep the home cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
Today, the designs have been modified, and with the discovery of such things as indoor climate control and more efficient windows that can save energy, the modern Southwestern home typically incorporates larger windows.
If you’re doing a home remodel (or if the existing façade already has a Southwestern flair) there are certain touches you can add to enhance the look.
Using (and Choosing) Viga Tails, Exterior Brackets and Wood Corbels
Some of the most distinctive features of Southwestern homes are the viga tails on the exterior of the building. Traditional adobe architecture used tree trunks, called vigas, as beams to support the roof.
The ends of the vigas, referred to as viga tails, would stick out through the exterior of the building, giving the homes a unique look that has now become one of the signature elements of the Southwestern style.
Today, you don’t need to have viga beams running through your home to take advantage of that look. Viga tails can be added to the exterior of Southwestern-style homes and, with the development of faux wood viga tails, you can add that look for less and also reduce the amount of maintenance required.
While real wood is vulnerable to deterioration from the elements — which means it may crack, split, rot or warp, faux wood viga tails give you the look of real wood without the problems that can accompany it.
Made from high-density polyurethane foam, faux viga tails are perfect for replacing existing, damaged wood viga tails or for adding new detail to your home to create greater curb appeal. Because they’re made in forms molded from actual wood viga tails, they have the pattern and texture of the real thing. Their lightweight durability makes them easy to install and replace, if needed.
Another way to carry out the Southwestern style is through the use of corbels, which were originally solid exterior brackets used to help support the weight of the roof. Today, they’ve become part of the overall look of a Southwestern home, and they can be as simple (or as ornate) as the exterior design calls for.
When placed underneath the roof overhang or window ledges, they give a visual aesthetic that perfectly conveys what Southwestern design is all about. And, like the faux wood vigas, faux wood corbels are lightweight, easy to work with and are impervious to pests like termites — as well as resistant to the most extreme weather conditions.
Bringing the Outside In
If you want to carry the Southwestern theme inside, there are several ways to do it. Clay, stone or terracotta floor tiles provide the perfect starting point. A few colorful, woven rugs on the tile floors will add to the warmth of the space while also giving it even more Southwestern flair.
Interior paint colors should pick up the warm colors of the desert, with blues, reds, browns and golds working well in the space. Pairing a wooden door or window frame painted turquoise or red with sand- or brown-colored walls, for example, helps pull together some of the most popular colors from traditional Southwestern colors.
Forget about sleek furniture in this space; think wrought-iron lamps and statuaries, knotty pine wood furniture with iron hardware, leather upholstery and plenty of colorful pottery for accent pieces. And, to carry out the rustic feel of the interior, look at adding exposed wooden beams to the ceiling. These are particularly effective in pulling the entire Southwestern look together.
Using faux wood beams made of polyurethane allows you to easily add this design element to your home’s interior without having to worry about adding extra weight to the structure and possibly causing permanent damage. Because it is so much lighter than real wood, it also is easier to work with, and it’s easier and less expensive to maintain or replace.
When you’re ready to give your home that Southwestern design appeal, you can begin at the curb and work your way in. With the help of faux viga tails, exterior brackets and wood corbels, you can conjure up that desert feel regardless of where your home is located.