From the Middle East to New Mexico, desert destinations are the hottest of muses for many interior designers right now, as nature continues to inspire. Introducing: Desert Décor
From the leafy green forests that lend themselves to biophilically- designed homes to the clean, fine lines of minimalist spaces that nod to the Scandinavian landscape, nature has long been an inspiration for interior designers all over the world. With their vast open spaces and soothing colour palette, it’s no surprise that desert destinations as far reaching as the Middle East, Morocco and New Mexico are currently having a moment which, marrying a collection of crafted treasures in balanced tones with boho-inspired materials and fabrics, are dissected to create interiors designed to evoke the same feeling of happiness experienced while watching a sunset in a far-flung place. And we’re most certainly here for it.
Nomadic in its feel with earthy hues and materials, 2023’s ‘Desert Décor’ is less polished and more raw than seasons past, resulting in an eclectic mix of cool that’s both calming and stylish all at once. “Desert-inspired interiors incorporate a palette of warm colours and natural materials to create a scheme that feels welcoming and timeless while remaining firmly rooted in nature,” Clara Ewart, head of design at boutique interior design studio Kitesgrove tells MOJEH. Based in the heart of London’s prestigious Chelsea neighbourhood, with clients all over the world, it prides itself on its nuanced and subtle homes that are known for their originality. “This design aesthetic is incredibly versatile, one of the main reasons behind its popularity, as the interiors can range from minimal and contemporary to rustic and traditional.”
As with all interior design trends, the colour scheme is the first aspect to be taken into consideration: “Before you commit to any wall colour, make sure to observe how the shade looks in different light conditions,” Myca Yutuc, senior interior designer at the Dubai-based Albal Design Studio tells MOJEH. “Paint swatches on pieces of paper and move them around the room throughout the day, observing how they look in different corners of the space.” Here you’ll want to opt for a mix of neutral and earthy hues true to the sandy landscapes that surround us, with every opportunity to take more chances with a broader variety of shades. Err on the warmer side of the palette with a range of sandy and terracotta hues including calming corals, balmy apricots, tans and graceful russets, while for a bolder look try the pinks of a warm sunset or the deepest orange. “Hues like terracotta, oxblood and warm neutrals come to the fore in desert-inspired decor, and can be paired with rich shades of blue or green to add balance and depth to a scheme,” advises Ewart, who points to the studio’s work at Casa La Siesta, a boutique hotel in Andalusia launched by Lee Thornley of tile brand Bert & May. Here Ewart was tasked with the redesign of a suite that’s now imbued in Spanish charm inspired by the surrounding landscape. “We incorporated a palette of warm reds and off whites, and texture through natural materials like the reclaimed wooden base for the bed,” she explains. The bed itself comes flanked by two raffia wall lights made by La Fabrique a Abat-Jour and a pair of black Pujo Wall Tables from Ferm Living, which add a monochrome edge to the space. “In the bathroom we chose the abstract, irregular designs of the Quad from the Bert & May x Kitesgrove Irregular collection. The milky off-white and pale pink tones sit harmoniously amongst the warm tones within the rest of the space.”
Natural materials are also at the heart of a desert-inspired home, so opt for clay or plaster wall finishes, rustic character-grade timber, leathers and textural fabrics for window treatments. “Desert-inspired décor is a fine line between stylish and comfortably warm — modern yet earthy,” adds Yutuc. “Blending natural materials and refined craftwork has always inspired this trend, which also relies on clean-cut décor. The use of soft textiles like linen, cotton, or soft leather will also give a more cosy and homey feeling around the space, yet make it ultra-modern.” Chunky ceramic earthenware rubs shoulders with the likes of jute rugs, weighty textiles and tufted throws that help layer up the look for a decidedly mis-matched feel. “Rich textures in the shape of woven baskets, rugs and upholstery best bring this style to life,” adds Yutuc. “And when it comes to patterns, primitive or geometrical work best.”
As for furniture, natural wood keeps a clean yet sophisticated look that marries perfectly with the trend. Invest in two to maximum three big statement pieces such as a console table, cabinet and leather or vegan leather sofas, and then pair them with pieces such as handwoven rugs, large cushion plants and succulents, stone vases, baskets and abstract paintings to complete the desert-inspired look. “Just don’t try to mix all these materials in one space,” says Yutuc. “Choose two or three to create a feeling of cohesion instead.” Perhaps our favourite example of desert décor done right is The Joshua Tree House. A popular group of Insta-famous homes for rent in Southern California’s Mojave Desert, they offer a calming space surrounded by a forest of Saguaro cactus, native plants and an abundance of wildlife perfect to reflect, reset and create. “We view the purpose of each house or suite as a space to connect our guests with the surrounding landscape, but ultimately the star of the show will always be nature,” Sara Combs, who created the homes alongside her husband Rich, tells MOJEH. “It’s not our goal to compete with being outside or create a replica, but to naturally blur indoor and outdoor space and intentionally slow our guests down so that when they go back outside they can stay curious and marvel at the wonders of the natural world. We look to the desert landscape for inspiration on what materials to bring inside such as wood, plaster, stone and natural fibres.” Highlights include warm white walls married with earthy tones to ensure the space feels inviting; limewash on the walls to give that slightly lived-in feel; hand painted tiles inspired by the terracotta and ochres in the sand, the dusty blues and greens of the cacti and perhaps the world’s most perfect sofa – SixPenny’s Neva.
Lighting is key to creating the desired effect, particularly in bedrooms or living rooms where layering and versatility is a must. “Overhead lighting with a dimmer helps create atmospheric light in the evening and provides brighter and more invigorating light during the day,” Combs tells us. “Desert-inspired interiors are bright and welcoming, and so warm yellow light will help to enhance the desert aesthetic.” Yutuc agrees, adding that these interiors encapsulate the essence of open spaces, so it’s important to take advantage of natural light wherever possible. “The fact we live in a country that receives ample sunlight allows us to make use of this natural light to showcase décor and furniture to create a more sophisticated and inviting atmosphere,” she explains. “When night falls, this is when glass or bamboo lights should come into play.”
Living in an actual desert with ample sunlight, we’re lucky enough to be blessed with the right landscape to easily nail this style at home without too much hard work. “We’re really just creating a natural extension of the scenery around us,” enthuses Yutuc. “Most of the properties in the UAE already have the coved entryways and arched nooks which help in creating the desired look. Then there’s the abundance of local suppliers and artists that can source or curate statement pieces such as handmade rugs, pottery and paintings to help create homes that give the feeling of an oasis within the vast desert.” Is there any place you’d rather be?
Desert Décor: Get The Look
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