Room Recipe: Desert Modern

Time Several Hours

Budget $ $$$

Skill Level

WORDS BY Kelly O'Reilly

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Published on February 27, 2021

If someone claimed they could whisk you away to the Instagram-ready yucca fields of Joshua Tree right now, what would you say? If your answer is a resounding “YES, I want all the desert vibes,” then we’ve got you. With a cool spirit in warm tones and a throwback attitude that’s just right for this moment, Desert Modern style can make your home look totally hot—without the extreme temps. 

“To me, Desert Modern style is bringing together ‘70s-inspired design with touches of Scandinavian style,” says Havenly designer Lauren Cox. “It blends natural finishes and materials with an unmistakable desert-inspired color palette full of dusty tans, blush pinks, and rust oranges.” 

With its connection to some of nature’s most serene landscapes, Desert Modern can turn any room into a tranquil sanctuary that brings the outside in. As long as you stick to some of the basics, you can nail the look. That means, for starters, opting for light over dark and lots of leather. 

From there, Lauren walked us through the room recipe for a Desert Modern treat.

Anchor with Retro-Inspired Furniture

In the right colors, your sofas and chairs are going to help set the tone for your Desert Modern dreamscape. “The more curves and sculptural elements you can incorporate, the better,” says Lauren. We’re celebrating the 70s with pieces that are soft to sink into and whose sleek silhouettes give a slight nod to the room’s vintage inspiration. ‘Inspired’ is the key word here—so you don’t necessarily have to hit the flea market to find what you’re looking for.

If you’re bringing Desert Modern into the bedroom, focus on a curved headboard, sculptural side table or low-slung bench at the base of the bed to pull off the look.

Start with these pieces to set yourself up for Desert Modern delight:

Go Natural, Leading with Leather

According to Lauren, sticking with elements from the natural world is a must for the all-important desert component of Desert Modern. 

“Don’t overlook the power of leather,” she says. A signature of the style, leather enhances the look in the right silhouette. If you go too ornate or overstuffed, you’re veering off course into the mountains. To keep the room anchored in the desert, think lighter tones and simple lines.  

“It might seem counterintuitive to incorporate leather into a style inspired by 100-degree heat, but a rich, warm leather chair can be the perfect finishing touch to a Desert Modern space,” Lauren says. 

Along with leather, fill your room with natural textures from top to bottom like a jute rug, cane-back chair and plenty of warm woods.

A few natural beauties:

Warm Up with Color

Defined by a muted spectrum of tans, pinks, oranges, and corals, Desert Modern heats up the tone of a room like sun on sand. Once again, you’re staying away from dark and heavy hues that conjure up a cabin in the woods, and embracing the bleached-bright warmth you’d find under the vast open skies of the desert. 

A key ingredient in the Desert Modern room recipe is a backdrop of white walls. “Starting with white walls will give you a crisp, clean palette to start layering in colors that are more muted, dusty, and light in nature.”

Lauren’s warm wishes: 

Pop in Some Pattern

Synonymous with desert style is the distinct design of the American Southwest. Remember that modern is just as important to the recipe as desert, however, our goal is not to recreate an adobe dwelling in the living room of your apartment. 

Pops of geometric pattern in rugs, throw pillows, and abstract art play perfectly with the modern vibe of the room. Lauren suggests scouring your favorite stores for items that can “pull in just a pinch of that Southwest vibe.”

Lauren’s pattern picks:

Sprinkle In Plenty of Plants

OK, so you’ve got your warm-desert colors set against white walls, rich, natural textures and bold, Southwestern patterns—top it off with plenty of plants.

Plants “bring the Desert Modern space to life,” says Lauren, who would opt for varieties close to desert indigenous like cacti and succulents. In keeping with the natural, 1970s-inspired vibe, houseplants can be the cherry—or ficus—on top that pulls the whole look together.

Plan your escape to the Desert Modern life with one of our Havenly designers. Start with our style quiz.

Words by Kelly O'Reilly