The arid, rugged, desert lands of southern California, Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, once the frontier with Spanish-owned territories, are the home of the attractive American furniture known as Southwestern style furniture.
Southwestern Furniture Origins
Many influences converged to create this unique style. In common with ranch style furniture, Southwestern furniture was often built for utility by unskilled carpenters, using whatever materials came to hand. Native Indian heritage also played its part in the development of furniture southwest style, especially in the choice of colors, fabrics and motifs. But the predominant influence in Southwest furniture is that of the Spanish conquistadors, who brought with them skilled woodworkers.
Southwest New Mexico Chair.
The carpinteros, as they were called, were part of the old Spanish guild system, where skills were passed down from father to son. Thus they brought with them age-old traditions of Spanish, Moorish and Christian designs. However, though the skills were available, the tools and materials were often scarce in these remote regions. Often working with nothing but an axe and a chisel, and having to make mortise and tenon joins in place of nails, craftsmen of this period still produced furniture with the beautiful lines of old Spain. The only suitable wood available was Ponderosa Pine, a semi-hardwood not well suited to ornate carving due to its tendency to split along the grain. Motifs were still incorporated on many pieces in spite of this, using chip-carving techniques. Hinges, knobs and pulls were made of rough iron in simple styles, forged on site by the craftsmen.
Southwest Design Furniture Charm
The appeal of Southwest design furniture is its contrast between the rough materials and finish, and the truly beautiful and elegant lines of the design. Southwest style furniture of the late 18th and early 19th century era fetches high prices at auctions and in antique shops, since it is fairly rare. However, the style has given rise to the popular Southwest home decor style, and quality Southwestern handcrafted furniture in this tradition is an attractive addition to the home.
The Southwest decor begins with the home itself, which ideally features rough wall finishes and tiled floors in the Mexican style. Cool colors, reminiscent of sandy soils, cactus plants and early dawn over the desert, are the prevailing theme, with colorful fabrics in Indian styles. The living areas are light and airy, simply laid out to reflect the simple yet elegant style of Southwest pine furniture. Southwestern dining room furniture typically features highbacked chairs around a finely proportioned dining table, with spacious and practical sideboards and cupboards to match. Southwestern styled patio furniture is particularly attractive and practical, reflecting the outdoor living style of days gone by. Southwest bedroom furniture provides plenty of storage space and comfort, with massive armoires and intricately carved bedsteads. Southwestern decor furniture is blended with accessories of either ranch, Mexican or Indian styles to give a feeling of the old hacienda.
Rustic & Elegant
Southwestern furniture is a unique blend of the rustic and the ornate, combining the elegant traditions of Old Spain with the "make do" tradition of the pioneers of Early American history. Surprisingly, this blend is a huge success and is one of the more practical and pleasing styles of popular home decor.