How to Showcase Modern Desert Style in Your Home

It's easy to get the same soothing, nature-inspired style found at HGTV Smart Home 2017, even if you don’t live in the spectacular Arizona desert setting. 

By: Amanda Lecky

Photo By: Amy Bubier

Photo By: David Lauer

Photo By: PHX Architecture

Photo By: Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging LLC

Sonoran Serenity

For a master bedroom addition set in the beautiful Arizona desert, designer Amy Bubier-Klosterman installed wide expanses of windows to maximize the views of coyotes, javalina, and the many muted desert hues of indigenous plants and trees. “The warm neutral palette is calming and classic, including four subtle variations of the main paint color,” says the designer. Note how the colors mimic the sandy shades outside, creating a visual link between indoors and out, a trick you can use in your own space to great effect.

Design and Photography by Amy Bubier-Klosterman, AB Design Elements; www.abdesignelements.com

Reclaimed and Reimagined

At first glance, you’d never know that this eclectic modern apartment was once an 1800’s blacksmith shop. But take a closer look and behind the clean lines and contemporary wall treatments you’ll see the reclaimed elements designer Jonas DiCaprio of Design Platform Architecture and Construction layered into the renovation. “The barn doors were the original doors closing the area where we installed the patterned lath wall,” says the designer. The lath wall was created from reclaimed wood from a different project, its pattern inspired by the strong graphic patterns of the Southwestern rugs and textiles the designers chose for the space.

Design by Jonas DiCaprio, Design Platform Architecture & Construction; www.designplatformllc.com; Photography by David Lauer 

Hotel-Style Amenities

For the master bedroom of a Palm Springs retreat, designer Lori Dennis took care to create the luxurious feeling of a boutique hotel. “We chose over-scaled reading lamps and a dressing mirror that are stylish and very useful.  For all of the furnishings and fabric we used hospitality grade materials, which look fabulous and are extremely durable,” says Dennis. To emphasize the desert setting, Dennis used warm earthy colors, rich natural wood elements, and, of course the sculptural greenery of spiky cacti and low-growing succulents.

Design by Lori Dennis; www.loridennis.com

Details Matter

Architect Erik Peterson of PHX Architecture gave this bright Southwestern office its contemporary look—without sacrificing architectural interest—by stripping down traditional design elements to their most simplified form. He notes the coffered ceiling as one example, and the wood panels as another. “Textured wall coverings soften the room and leather inserts in the ceiling coffers help quiet it. Light colors keep the relatively small room bright and light, for a bigger feel,” he says.

Design by Erik Peterson, PHX architecture; www.phxarch.com; Photography by Werner Segarra

Picture Framing

When working with a project graced by spectacular views—like the desert oasis visas outside this open kitchen and living area—a wise designer chooses not to compete with nature, and instead chooses finishes that show off the home’s setting. Case in point: designer Traci Shields’ taupe-and-cream approach in this elegant space. “The natural finish materials incorporated into this space follow a clean, neutral palette allowing the outside views to provide the drama and color to complete this desert oasis,” she says.

Design by Traci Shields, ASID, Friedman & Shields; www.friedmanandshields.com

Outdoor Oasis

Part of the appeal of living in the Southwest is the opportunity to enjoy three-plus seasons of outdoor living and entertaining, and this contemporary Phoenix, Arizona home offers all the amenities anyone could dream of. “Tucked into Camelback Mountain, this home has unparalleled mountain and city views from all angles,” says Tanner Luster, owner of Luster Custom Homes & Remodeling.  “It’s an entertainer’s dream, with a negative infinity edge glass pool with water and fire features throughout," he says.

Construction by Luster Custom Homes & Remodeling; www.lustercustomhomes.com; Photography by Michael Baxter, Baxter Imaging

Finding Flow

Here, a pared-down aesthetic with wide expanses of glass and low-profile custom cabinetry by Stone River Studio creates a house that’s in perfect harmony with its stark desert surroundings. “In much the same way a photographer crops an image, the design of this house house organizes the landscape into more intelligible formats to focus and celebrate the natural environment,” say the architects at Ibarra Rosano Design Architects. “These design moves blur the distinction between the rugged surroundings and transport spectators out into the wild of the mountains, the flora, fauna and valley of lights. The careful integration of this home in its setting helps immerse the clients into their surroundings while respecting the land upon which it sits.” 

Design by Ibarra Rosano Design Architects; www.ibarrarosano.com; cabinetry by Stone River Studio; www.stoneriverstudio.com; Photography by Bill Timmerman

Perfect Balance

What’s the secret to giving a home a “desert” look, without resorting to decorating clichés? “I find that the juxtaposition of earthy and natural with modern and unexpected elements creates that balance between a home that feels in keeping with a certain style yet timeless and forever-elegant,” says designer Angela Wells, who created this expansive dining room. In addition to its warm, earthy palette, the space features a 600-pound live-edge chamcha wood dining table and custom chrome dining chairs as well as a temperature-controlled walk-in wine room.

Design by Angela Wells Interior Design; www.angelawellsinteriordesign.com; Photography by Trent Teigen

Natural Connections

“This style of architecture is all about reflecting the unique character of a place in the world and making the most of its natural attributes,” says architect Brent Kendle. In this project, Kendle tied the home to its site—quite literally—by using the soil of the site inside and out through the use of rammed earth walls, an eco-friendly construction method rooted in the ancient civilizations that once occupied the land. “By using the same materials inside and out we were able to blur the line between indoor and outdoor spaces, while creating outdoor rooms for enjoying Scottsdale’s moderate climate,” Kendle says.

Design by Brent Kendle, Kendle Design Collaborative; kendledesign.com

Clear Winner

Much as the Southwestern landscape stretches across the horizon, this contemporary home seems to sprawl along its site, its rectilinear shape creating a sharp counterpoint to the undulations of its surroundings. Broad expanses of glass usher in views and light, and offer glimpses of the rich natural materials—warm wood paneling, concrete, stone—that give the interiors their look of low-key luxury.

Construction by The Construction Zone; www.theconstructionzoneltd.com; Photography by Bill Timmerman

Glass Acts

Creating a seamless indoor-outdoor flow is a hallmark of contemporary design, particularly in a warm-weather climate like the American Southwest. To this end, K.H. Webb Architects designed this modern mountain home with a wall of glass to help integrate indoors and out. “The living space provides comfort with a natural palate of zinc panels and natural oak floors which pull in the exterior through the wall of sliding doors,” say the architects.

Design by K.H. Webb Architects; www.khwebb.com; Photography by Brent Bingham Photography