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Art of Design: Santa Fe Style

Joseph Pubillones on

Yee-Haw! During the 1990s, there was a fascination with the architecture, interiors and designs inspired in the southwest. The decor came in waves by travel and a rediscovery of places such as Sedona, Taos and Santa Fe. The color palette was filled with earth tones born of the adobe architecture peppered by tones seen in the sky at dusk ranging from faint amethyst to cornflower blue. The desert flora and fauna are the inspiration for many of the interiors we saw during their original heyday.

This style is definitely historically significant to American culture. The southwestern architecture and design spread widely beyond its geographic boundaries and made its way out towards California and southeast to Louisiana and in places such as Florida, where early developers and architects chose this style as a simpler alternative to the favored Mediterranean Revival.

Traditionally, the style that became known as Santa Fe was inspired by the architecture and furniture designs brought over to the missions by the Spanish clergymen. Heavily carved dark wood furniture, mixed with naturally tanned leather seating and velvet upholstery were the norm. Accessories and artwork at the hands of local artists were filled with religious symbols and references such as saints and crosses. The architecture with its handcrafted and rounded edge adobe walls, timbered or hand-framed ceilings and the clay tile that blanketed many of the homes south of the border, the saltillo were standard. Textiles and rugs were often the work of Natives of the area.

Some interior designers today are delighted, as it seems Santa Fe style interiors are coming to life again. Today's Santa Fe interiors are more playful and less restrictive. In fact, they are melding as most other styles into an eclectic version of what they used to be, and integrating furniture pieces from every era covering from American mid-century pieces to sleek contemporary European-style seating.

In this new mix, Flame-stitch patterns have been replaced with Ikat fabrics, and the rough textures of leathers have been replaced with suede, micro-fibers and classic cottons and linens. Color ways have subdued into neutrals with splashes of color than the old vibrant chromatic colors expected of the southwest.


In architecture, there has also been a merging of styles. Besides the traditional adobe constructions around courtyards, the southwest was also influential in the architecture of the 1950s and 1960s ranch. Today's architecture while claiming some of the original traits of the courtyards, it has incorporated more glazed surfaces and less walls to view the dramatic landscapes. Large overhangs protect glass walls from overheating in the summer heat.


Joseph Pubillones is the owner of Joseph Pubillones Interiors, an award-winning interior design firm based in Palm Beach, Fla. To find out more about Joseph Pubillones, or to read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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