Paint Color Schemes for Southwest Decorating

You don't have to live near the desert to get in on the feel of the Southwest. Using a themed color palette, any room--from your den to your bedroom--can carry the charm of this region's warm, sandy tones. Depending on your design aesthetic, choosing dusty neutrals or calming sunset hues can add a splash of the Southwest into your home decor.

Desert Tones

Re-create the Southwest with your home decor.

Capture the neutral sands and beiges of the Southwestern desert in your home decor. As a basic color scheme, desert hues reflect the geography of the region and provide a backdrop for more colorful furniture and accents. Although traditional desert tones may be more subdued hues such as tan, a pop of cactus green or sky blue can add a decorative touch that is in keeping with the overall paint theme. For example, an airy sky blue accent wall set against a sand or beige room evokes thoughts of a sunny, cloudless desert day.


The muted reds of terra-cotta can add the prefect accent to desert-themed decor. Use this neutral red on walls, borders or even the ceiling. If you are looking for a bolder option in red, a chili pepper hue will keep with the Southwest style. While this fiery shade of paint may be too overpowering for an entire room, using it for an accent wall or trim can spice up your room with a hint of color.


Aside from desert sky blue, there are many different shades of this cool color that make their way into the Southwestern style palette. Taos blue, a mix of light blue and violet, has a long history in Spanish settled areas for warding off evil or bad spirits. Another well known blue is the green tinted turquoise shade. Used in jewelry, this stone has been mined in Southwestern areas for centuries. Whether you choose a bright bold sky tone or a vibrant turquoise, blues can give your Southwest decor a punch of color without going overboard.

Yellows and Oranges

Evoke feelings of a warm Arizona or New Mexico sunset with bold yellows and oranges. Although you may be hesitant to use such bright hues, this Southwestern color scheme can add an authentic touch of style. Create a duel-toned paint job with one color under and the other color above a chair rail or other horizontal divider to utilize both shades; pick one to paint trim or use one for a bright accent wall. If bold doesn't describe your design scheme, try a muted option such as pale yellow or rusty orange. This can provide a lighter feel in contrast to vivid sunshine hues.

About the Author

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.