We’re officially calling it: The “desert modern” look is a decor trend that’s here to stay. Inspired by sparse yet texturally inviting spaces throughout Joshua Tree, Marfa, and other hot (pun intended) desert destinations, this aesthetic is a refreshing break from the Scandi-modern mode we’ve been stuck in for so long. Characterized by a worldly, boho vibe that’s more minimal than the #jungalow trends of the past, there’s something ultra-calming and subtly austere about this style.
Looking to bring this aesthetic to your own abode? Whether you start with artisan textiles sourced from the communities we mention, or just feel like dipping your toe in the trend with a splash of pink, earthen hues (looking at you, Cavern Clay), there are plenty of ways to experiment with the look without committing to all-out desert living. (Quick tip: Even if you’re hundreds of miles from the closest arid environment, you can jump on the desert vibe bandwagon from anywhere.)
Scroll down to see some of our fave modern desert ideas.
1. Think Neutral
It’s all about an earthy color palette when it comes to nailing the modern dessert trend. While clay-toned hues are an essential (and trendy!) hallmark of desert-inspired design, warm whites can be just as emblematic of the trend — think White Sands National Park. Start with a base of neutrals and build from the ground up.
2. Tune Into Textiles
Textiles are a huge element of what makes this look work, so don’t be stingy. Layering on rugs, from vintage Moroccan finds to cowhides to flat-weave natural fiber options, creates depth and visual interest (and keeps things cozy after the sun sets and temperatures drop in the desert). Fabric wall hangings, well-worn leather accents (like these iconic Mexican chairs), and breezy gauze all coexist peacefully to create an eclectic vibe.
3. Embrace the Abstract
Abstract shapes are a recurring presence in all the best modern desert-style homes we’ve seen and with good reason. The organic forms (especially half-circles and arches) recall both traditional desert architecture and traditional weaving motifs found in desert regions. In stripped-down wall-art form, they’re a modern reinterpretation that blends seamlessly with this style of design.
4. Max out on Textures
Natural textures are the name of the game when it comes to designing for a desert vibe — and it’s no wonder since it’s a look dictated by a landscape. Pull in as much texture as possible with purposeful contrasts between rough and smooth and hard and soft. A plush wool rug underfoot juxtaposes nicely with the raw, craggy edges of a stone or live-edge table. Remember: Opposites attract.
5. Adopt One-of-a-Kind Items
The simple truth: Mass-produced items aren’t going to be enough to help you achieve unique, desert-inspired digs. With a look that relies so much on texture and subtle imperfections to make its mark, OOAK items are key — whether they’re handmade by an artist, DIY’ed from vintage objects scavenged from near and far, or even bits and pieces of driftwood found in nature.
6. Take a Cue From the ’70s
Blame it on America’s historical obsession with the Southwest and the craze for Californian-style decor that really took hold in the ’70s, but even “modern” desert design has a whiff of retro about it. Look for unexpected ways to reinterpret those classic ’70s hallmarks — like shag carpet and macramé — so the overall effect is contemporary, but with a nod to the history of this trend.
7. Bring it to the Bathroom
Maybe it’s something to do with the obvious scarcity of water in the desert, but desert-modern homes really seem to dial it up when it comes to bathroom decor. Transform your bath into a spa befitting a high desert escape with bold black and white tile or sealed concrete floors, then layer in plenty of plush fabrics and a plant or two to create the ultimate retreat.
8. Mix Up Your Sources
“Desert” doesn’t just mean the American Southwest. Draw your influences (and your decor) from a variety of different sources to create a truly well-traveled look in your arid abode; the creative mix of pieces from various desert cultures will add depth and character to your space.
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