10 Desert Modern Living Room Ideas That Offer a Warm Welcome

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It's 2020, and desert modern interiors are sweeping the design landscape, from Santa Fe to the East Coast and everywhere in between. What is desert modern style, you ask? It takes cues from desert decor — think earthy hues like terra cotta, leather, mixed textures, Southwestern rugs — countered with clean-lined, minimal, neutral details to keep it feeling fresh. Picture, for example, a bright white room with minimalist wood floors and simple furniture mixed with a faux animal hide rug and warm colors. The result? All the texture of the desert aesthetic with none of the kitschiness, plus the clean, streamlined good looks of modern style.

The ease of mixing desert with modern means you can get the look at home by adding just a few on-point pieces to your existing space. And we think the living room is the perfect place to start. Want to give it a try? Just take a look at these 10 desert modern living rooms that perfectly blend the two aesthetics. (And maybe take on the bedroom next.)

1. Opt for a white background.

In this Tucson living room by The Joshua Tree House, almost-all-white interiors — including sculptural white walls and white built-in lounge areas — act as a simple background for a desert-inspired palette. For a similar look, add earthy throw pillows to a clean-lined white sofa and pair with rough-hewn wood details and leather accents to complete.

Get the look: Uniflame Log Rack, $67.99

2. Add a well-worn rug.

An instant way to create a desert modern living room? Add a well-worn Southwestern-style rug, or a vintage design in a palette of terra cotta and sand. It even pairs well with color-blocked pink walls.

Get the look: Loom + Kiln Andrea Rug, $748

3. Layer texture.

Without the layered rugs, floor pouf, and throw pillows, this living room by Amber Interiors would just read as "modern." But add in leather, faux hides, woven textiles, and other textures — all in earthy colorways — and suddenly it's desert chic.

Get the look: CB2 Leather Pouf, $199

4. Add woven baskets.

Want to incorporate just a hint of desert decor? Adding Southwestern-inspired woven baskets to your built-ins is a low-commitment way of trying out the inviting trend.

Get the look: The Citizenry Mercado Storage Baskets (set of two), $215

5. Mix in trendy pieces.

No need to jettison the trendy pieces you've scooped up lately: Everything can blend into a desert modern living room. Just look at this on-point space by The Joshua Tree House, where a sculptural side table and rattan hanging chairs mix with a well-worn rug, leather sofa, and potted cactus.

Get the look: Broste Copenhagen Egg Rattan Hanging Chair, $355

6. Mix in a faux hide.

You don't need a warm palette to have a desert-modern living room. This one, in an 1890s adobe row house, makes use of a serene color scheme of white and blue — but a round faux-hide rug adds a bit of Southwestern style. (The original fireplace helps, too.)

Get the look: House of Hampton Aric Faux Sheepskin White Area Rug, $72.99 - $99.99

7. Embrace exposed wood.

If you already have exposed-wood ceilings, you're in luck: The texture lends itself perfectly to desert modern style. Take cues from this Joshua Tree living room, where natural elements mix effortlessly with unfinished wood ceilings, cement floors, and clean-lined, midcentury-modern furniture.

Get the look: Lemay Shop Diamond Rattan Settee, $480

8. Install a wood-burning stove.

A wood burning stove, like the one in this Mojave Desert living room, keeps the house warm on chilly nights — whether you live in the city or the desert.

Get the look: Pleasant Hearth Wood Burning Stove, $599

9. Tack up a wall hanging.

Or, if a crackling fire isn't possible in your humble abode, create a desert modern living room by putting up an inspired wall hanging. Whether a tapestry, a woven design, or a poster — as seen in this Newport Beach living room — the end result will add a dash of color and visual interest.

Get the look: Upton Bastille, $65

10. Add a mini desertscape.

When in doubt, you can create an homage to desert style — and add greenery to your living room — by adding some cacti and succulents. Add one, or a dozen, in mismatched terra cotta pots. We love the way the botanicals in this desert modern living room in Pioneertown, California are clustered together.

Get the look: The Sill Hyde Planter in Terra Cotta, $29 - $40


Annie Quigley is a freelance writer, editor, and poet whose work has appeared in Remodelista, Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, and elsewhere.

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