Create an Arizona-Inspired Space

Arizona is a haven of regional midcentury architecture, and there’s also myriad collections of Spanish, Mediterranean, and even Tudor Revival designs. Clean lines and neutral colour palettes, often inspired by the landscapes the state is revered for, plus minimalist forms, is often what makes up a contemporary home here. From Al Beadle to Frank Lloyd Wright, many of the most prominent post-WWII architects designed homes in the Phoenix area. And now, new Arizona home design reflects a style of architecture that champions a connection to the environment with open design concepts and open space.


When John and I decided to build our second home, the decision to lay roots in Scottsdale, Arizona was an easy, if not immediate one. We’ve been vacationing in the Grand Canyon State for as long as we can remember, and it’s warm and energizing climate is what we crave when we want to escape the colder Canadian climate. We are building on a large piece of land that gives us direct views of Camelback Mountain, while also being in close proximity to the indigenous cacti and fauna that abounds in this surreal desert landscape. The beauty and character of the Southwest can be a central character in your home design too, so I thought I’d share some ideas for a contemporary style that will bring this elegant and fuss-free style to your own home.

Allow the colours of nature to play a role in your colour palette

For me, I wanted to pull from the traditional colour palette of my surroundings, which I find totally inspiring, but I wanted to make sure my take on it was updated, and “soft” contemporary, which is to say I didn’t want anything to feel too modern or not in keeping with the landscape and location. Warm, inviting, airy and bright are how I would describe it.

When you think of the Arizona desert, you may assume the main colour story is brown. And while the state does have plenty of shades of brown-from beige tumbleweeds to the brown-orange desert clay, the Sonoran Desert is also full of bright colours, thanks to the range of cactus flowers that can be found in the region: pink, yellow, orange or purple. Plus, don’t forget the spectacular (and fiery orange) sunsets, too. Consider all of this when choosing your paint colours or home accents.

Bring greenery in

Bringing plants inside is the easiest way to blend the outdoors with your home design. From native plants like Parry Agave and Wild Hyssop, to the variety of different cactus and succulents, finish off your space with a healthy dose of plants in terra-cotta planters: the material will instantly make your space feel more desert-like. Plus, the great thing about Arizona flora is that it tends to be pretty hardy and need very little water, so if you like low-maintenance plants, these are a great suggestion.

Go with leather furniture

Not surprisingly, leather was considered a staple of the Wild West, so if you’re looking for ways to furnish your home like a native of Arizona, look for soft leather couches and sectionals. Brown is the obvious choice (especially in a rich cognac), but if you’re looking for something more modern, go with black or white leather if you choose, just make sure the overall composition of the furniture is contemporary and not dated. You could also add smaller leather accents (in different shades of coral or sand) to give your space a laid-back desert style.

Borrow from Native American and Mexican cultures

Modern desert décor is much more than just “American.” Borrowing from Native American and Mexican influences: Navajo patterns, cowhides, aged leather, wood and southwestern-style rugs, the style is also greatly influenced by many other gorgeous dessert communities globally: Chile, Turkey, Columbia, and Morocco. The result is not only worldly, but filled with warm hues like tan, sand, ochre, orange and red.