The rich culture and history of the American Southwest is captured in the warmth of Santa Fe interior design. A style with humble beginnings, this type of design focuses on practical elements which are comfortable and rustically elegant.
The Roots of Santa Fe Style
Before European settlers entered the area, the Southwest region was populated by Native American tribes such as the Anasazi. They built the first adobe homes using mud and stone bricks to create condominium style multi-story structures. Settlers who later came along from Mexico and Spain incorporated the Anasazi adobe buildings due to their energy efficiency during both the summer and winter.
The Anasazi placed their homes around central plazas which evolved into the private courtyard with the influence of Spanish settlers. The courtyard is typically located at the front entrance of a home, but can also be found in the backyard area of a Santa Fe style house. The classic courtyard features abundant foliage and flowers along with trickling fountains.
Anasazi communities also made use of circular spiritual chambers called kivas. Over time, this ultimately led to the insertion of curved fireplaces called kiva fireplaces. These softly shaped hearths are usually situated prominently in the corners of Santa Fe style rooms.
Santa Fe Architecture
The overall architectural design of Southwestern style buildings has a tremendous influence on Santa Fe interior design. Homes are still built using the traditional materials of sun-dried clay bricks and mud mortar. However, most modern houses in the region are now constructed of stucco and concrete to replicate the adobe look. The interior walls often echo this stucco finish with rich hand trowel textures.
Original Santa Fe style floors consisted of packed mud or earth, and this trend is reflected in the use of hard surface flooring in modern home construction. Popular choices for flooring in Southwestern interiors include tile, brick, and wood, with little use of carpeting.
Long wooden support beams called vigas are a dominant feature of the flat, rounded Santa Fe style roofline. These rough-hewn beams can be seen protruding through the exterior adobe walls, but they make the biggest impression in the interior rooms where the support beams are left exposed. Another common ceiling feature is the use of small branches called latillas which are placed in layers between the large beams.
Santa Fe interior design has plenty of subtle details which help define the style and adorn the space. For example, hallways and walls often feature recessed niches for displaying treasured items. The soft curves of the exterior are also mirrored inside with the use of rounded corners and arched doorways. Doors and gates are sometimes authentic vintage pieces, or they are carved and distressed to resemble old style doors.
To capture the spirit of Santa Fe in your home, focus on colors and textures for maximum impact. Earthtone hues and neutral brown tones are the basis of this style with occasional pops of clay red, turquoise blue, and green. The use of terracotta tiles throughout the space will establish the perfect vibe.
Rough textures are a big part of the Santa Fe interior design, so seek out natural materials with little finishing. Popular fabrics utilized are suede, leather, serapes, and woven textiles. Furniture pieces are typically made of pine with natural stain finishes and rustic wrought iron hardware. Accessories tend to be handcrafted objects from Native American or Mexican sources and include Talavera ceramics, religious artifacts, and colorful painted tiles. The theme of saints and crosses are also commonly seen in Southwestern accessories.
Resources for Santa Fe Interior Design
Touch of Class - Furniture, rugs, wall art, bedding, and home accents inspired by the Southwest.
Talavera Emporium - A unique collection of Talavera ceramics and home décor for true Santa Fe style.