How To Design & Decorate A Southwestern Bathroom

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Designing and decorating a Southwest style bathroom will give a certain feel that will emulate a distinctive desert culture and lifestyle. Essential style elements to ponder when creating a Southwest bathroom are to use desert colors comprising of sandstone and browns, Native American patterns and plants, and animal ideas native to the American Southwest region.

A Southwest style bathroom should evoke peace and serenity, much like the vast and open land of the desert where many visitors and residents believe there are strong spiritual bonds to this area of the country. In addition, décor that is reminiscent of the Southwest should include elements of wood and stone that are native to that region, which will further recreate your existing bathroom into a colorful and authentic Southwest space.


Southwest décor may include desert and animal designs, which can inspire a shower curtain, towel bars, hooks and other hardware. Décor can include simple accessories with a Southwest influence.

  • Decorative tissue boxes, soap dishes, dispensers, toothbrush holders, hampers and wastebaskets are small, inexpensive items that can be purchase or made in the Southwestern style.
  • Accessories and décor can also incorporate a Southwest theme in wallpaper or wall art used in a bathroom.
  • Vanity lights and switch plate covers as well as bathroom hardware can be decorative items as well. Light fixtures can also feature the design of a cactus or wildlife outline as well as nightlights and even rugs and linens.
  • Classic Southwest design elements can include Native American prints and designs as well as stone tile and pottery.
  • In addition, an adobe influence within a bathroom may include rounded half walls to separate a toilet, tub or shower from the rest of the bathroom. An adobe addition brings in a desert element that is soft, shapely and meandering.
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Finding these particular design elements for Southwest style may take some research if you do not live in the Southwest of the U.S. Home décor magazines and online retailers will feature many theme inspirations as well as buying opportunities for buyers across the country.

Colors And Materials

  • Authentic Southwest style will present earth-tone colors and rough textures along with intricate woven patterns and terra cotta texture and color.
  • Clay and stone tile in sand and desert red colors are an integral part of a Southwestern design palette.
  • Adding to the earth tones can be naturally occurring Southwestern colors including cactus green, adobe red, turquoise and the variety of sunny shades from bright yellows and oranges to dusty yellows and reds.

The sandy and rocky surfaces of the desert can be replicated in a Southwestern designed bathroom creating a unique environment. Wall treatments, vanity surfaces, tile and flooring can have textures that present a Southwest feel.

  • Tiling a shower and bathtub in stone or sand-like colors will also create a Southwest influence.
  • Other design additions may include knotty pine wood for a vanity, crown molding, baseboards, doors and windows.
  • Keeping the wood light but stripped is a Southwestern style, especially when adding desert stone and adobe styles. In addition, distressed finishes embellished with burnished metal accents for hardware are a nice Southwest compliment to knotty pine or stone tiling as well as adobe décor.
  • Décor items to include are Talavera pottery, which are painted ceramic pieces whose inspiration date back to 16th century Mexico, and are classic color and designs for a Southwest style. Certain pottery pieces may end up influencing hand-painted tiles for a bathroom floor, walls and vanity tops with wrought iron hardware.

A Southwestern styled bathroom can be very chic and modern, or classic and traditional. Mixing warm styles of wood and adobe can create a comfortable bathroom for a family, while chic tiling with Native American design and patterns in reds and browns can create a spa type bathroom, which emulates an oasis in the desert. Iconic patterns of Native American emblems or figures can give a more personal touch to a Southwestern styled bathroom, which can be featured in linens and other bathroom items that do not have to be permanent. There are many historic themes that can influence Southwestern style but be careful to not overdo it, as too many patterns and decorative items will likely clash.

When designing a Southwest style bathroom, whether it’s with tile, adobe finishing or simple décor, stay true to your theme and use colors with discretion and thoughtfully. Using rugs and linens are an excellent way to add accent colors without being overwhelming or making permanent or difficult to reverse changes. Also, do not clutter a bathroom with too many decorative elements where the theme is lost. Keeping textures to a minimum will also present a pleasant Southwest style bathroom environment.

Last Updated: December 19, 2011
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About Sabina Dana Plasse Sabina Dana Plasse holds a bachelor's degree in history from Bucknell University, a master's in liberal arts from Johns Hopkins University and a master's in film and video from American University. She is an award-winning writer and editor living in Sun Valley, Idaho. Besides writing on fine arts, lifestyle, home and garden, entertainment, philanthropy and business, she enjoys teaching film and writing screenplays. Sabina has served as the arts and events editor and living writer for the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper, a twice weekly national award-winning newspaper serving Idaho's Wood River Valley. Sabina adores mountain town living where she is an active snowboarding, skier, mountain biker, hiker, supporter of the arts and an avid seeker of practical living ideas.  

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