15 Modern Desert Decor Ideas That Will Transport You to Joshua Tree

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.

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.

Advertisement

Video of the Day

Looking to bring this aesthetic into 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-y, 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 desert 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.

Get the look:Lulu & Georgia x Elan Byrd Moroccan Shag Rug, from $1,298

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.

Advertisement

Get the look:Direct From Mexico Equipale Barrel Chairs, $219

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.

Get the look​​:Block Shop Sunwave Woodblock Print, $600

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.

Get the look:Loom & Kiln Antique Persian Rug, $678

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.

Advertisement

Get the look:Aleksandra Zee Wood Wall Hangings, from $250

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.

Get the look:Kudd:Krig Segment Tapestry, $480

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.

Get the look:MINNA Steps Mat in Beige, $180

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.

Advertisement

Get the look:The Citizenry Chunky Wool Throw, $495

9. Welcome the sun.

Modern desert homes are not a place you're likely to find blackout curtains and small windows. In a place where sunny, bright days are to be expected, heavily relying on natural light during the daytime is common practice. Placing large mirrors throughout the home can amplify the sunlight your home is already getting, while a unique frame can add to your interior style.

Get the look​: West Elm Bennet Wood Frame Floor Mirror, $399.20

10. Bring elements of the outside in.

Turn to the outdoors for inspiration. Blooming desert cacti against dry land create a beautiful backdrop for a home, but those same colors, elements, and plants also do wonders inside. Cacti and succulents require a novice-level green thumb, making them an ideal house plant. Adding that green to an otherwise neutral-hued home can incorporate just the right amount of color into the space. Alternatively, there's the option to bring in the look through wall art.

Get the look​: Society6 Arizona Desert Art Print, $27.29

11. Create a social space.

While desert modern homes are often airy and open, that doesn't mean that social spaces can't be carefully created. Long couches offer ample seating space without cutting off any part of the room like an L-shape might. And adding a few, smaller accent chairs can create more seating in the room without over-running the space.

Advertisement

Get the look​: Anthropologie Lemieux et Cie Layers Sofa, $2,898

12. Furnish outside.

When crafting the dream desert oasis, it's easy to set our eyes on space -- what will be the flow for the living room? How many rugs is too many rugs? But don't get so caught up in perfecting the inside of the home that you forget what's outside your door. Take advantage of the warm weather by creating an outdoor space you'll enjoy spending time in. Whether you're wanting an outdoor dining table for dinner parties or the perfect fire pit for cold desert nights, it's important to create an outdoor space you'll use. And if you're not in the desert, you can always pull inspiration from this style of making the inside flow into the out.

Get the look:Lulu and Georgia Garner Indoor/Outdoor Dining Table, $1,748

13. Don't be afraid of color.

While the desert-modern color palette tends to lean neutral, that doesn't mean that there isn't room for some color. Take inspiration from this desert home, where sea-green cabinets complement the light, earthy tones of the kitchen. For a simpler and more subtle pop of color (that requires no painting), replace the knobs and handles with something a little more eye-catching or grab storage containers you won't be upset about displaying.

Advertisement

Get the look​: Hawkins New York Storage Containers, $48

14. Mix materials.

Combine desert staples with your modern taste by mixing materials. A large, wooden dining table speaks to desert inspiration; it's natural, earthy, and bright. But add that modern flare by switching out wooden chairs for a metal set.

Get the look​: West Elm Metal Stacking Chairs (set of 4), $598

15. Play with levels.

With the high ceilings so many desert homes have to offer, there is ample room to play with levels. We love how this living room is far from uniform when it comes to height, with low, soft things near the floor and a fireplace and cactus shooting to the sky. This decor utilizes the entire space and draws your eyes to each and every part of the home.

Get the look​: Wayfair 25" Electric Stove, $559.99

Advertisement


Kaelin Dodge is a writer/editor based out of Los Angeles, California.