If you’ve got a deep love for the West, that can spill over into all areas of life, including the home. But you don’t have to prop a saddle in the corner and attach horseshoes to every surface to achieve a Western style in your abode. These two interior designers who are well-versed on rustic and western décor shared tips to bring home the essence of the West.
Beyond the Fringe
Tanner Dipple owns fine leather and home décor store Adobe Interiors in Fort Worth, Texas, a city known for a history of ranches and cowboys. Dipple says Western interior design and decor can be separated into a couple of different aesthetics beyond the iconic Western style most people recognize.
“I call the first ‘Yippee-ki-yay’ because I think it’s not necessarily elegant and high-end,” Dipple explains. “Then you have what I call ‘Western elegance,’ and more of a ‘Modern Western.’”
Dipple says Western elegance and modern Western styles are gaining popularity with his clients.
Another style he’s seeing more often is modern rustic style. This can look like a mid-century modern style sofa, or a Chesterfield couch, finished with distressed leather and rustic accent pieces like a live edge reclaimed wood coffee table or a cowhide ottoman.
“They were two different styles, and now modern rustic is its own style,” Dipple says. “Distressed wood or hand-burnished leather invokes that modern rustic look, but it’s often with very modern, clean lines.”
Textiles and Textures
In the iconic mountain community of Aspen, Colorado, Preethi Rajaratnam serves as senior interior designer for Cathers Home Furniture + Interior Design. Many of her projects are ranches and vacation cabins, and her clients want their homes to embody the Western lifestyle.
“Most of our clients want their homes to look like they’re in the mountains, so we don’t do a lot of modern design,” Rajaratnam reveals. “We do more transitional timeless patterns and mountain modern elegance.”
One of the easiest ways to add a bit of the West is with textiles. Leather, suede, and western-inspired patterns bring Western flare to any room.
“We incorporate textures like a leather outback chair, but with a softer fabric seat and a timeless Western pattern to soften it up,” Rajaratnam explains. “We use a lot of Ralph Lauren and Pendleton fabrics to tie into that timeless cowboy feel.”
In Rajaratnam’s experience, faux furs and sheepskin are Western interior design staples, too.
“We do a lot of Icelandic sheepskin, and that could be a bit of a Nordic influence,” Rajaratnam mentions. “A lot of people want a cozy, fur type feel, so whether that’s an accent pillow or a throw—or even a full chair in a faux fur—people are loving it. We have a popular chair with brown faux fur fabric and leather arms, which is really fun and a great example of rustic Western style.”
Dipple agrees that leather is an integral part of any Western aesthetic.
“90 percent of the pieces are going to be leather and cowhide,” Dipple shares. “When you’re working with fabrics, you can look to southwestern patterns on tapestries. There’s nothing wrong with marrying Western and southwestern styles—that’s actually really common.”
Punch Up the Cowhide
Whether it’s true hair-on-hide or a print, cowhide is always a nod to the West, but Dipple says you don’t absolutely have to use it for the home to feel rustic. Other animal hides or variations on cowhide can make it feel fresh. These patterns are ideal for accent pillows atop a timeless leather sofa or chairs.
“Get some axis deer hide, or look for a gray brindle, or a speckled longhorn hide, which plays more into that modern look,” Dipple advises.
Whether you choose an animal hide, faux fur, sheepskin, or a Western pattern, accent pillows are the simplest way to transform your space and create an out-west aesthetic.
“You can transition a style just by changing those elements,” Dipple says.
Dipple says replacing your rug can also bring in Western elements. You can lean on Southwestern patterns or look for a rug in a Western color palette.
“If I’m going for an elegant Western look, I’m going to look for rich colors of dusty red, grassy greens, olive greens, earth tones,” Dipple says. “If I’m going for a modern Western look, I’m going to swing toward something with soft grays, creams, whites, and light blues.”
An accent chair with Western details—like a Western fabric, haired material, or leather—can easily compliment your space.
Another easy Western interior design upgrade Rajaratnam suggests is to swap your lighting for fixtures with hand-forged metal or wrought iron.
“Mixing that element of metal adds a rustic feel to any place,” she says.
She prefers light neutral colors for drapery over heavy patterns but suggests adding an accent banding with a southwestern pattern or other rustic elements for a subtle hint of Western flare.
Selecting for Scale
In a place like Aspen, homes and vacation spots alike usually have high ceilings with large windows to show off the scenery. To balance with décor, Rajaratnam advises choosing larger scale furniture pieces when possible.
“Whether it’s a sectional or a large, cozy armchair, those really speak to the architecture of this kind of home,” Rajaratnam says.
Dipple agrees that heavy pieces with substantial construction are a pillar of Western décor, particularly when finished with Western textiles such as leather, cowhide, or printed fabrics.
That Rustic Feel
Strategically working in wooden pieces with a live edge, like a coffee or end table, instantly speak to a rustic aesthetic.
“Rustic wood and live edges bring those elements of the outdoors inside,” Rajaratnam says.
Don’t be afraid to add patterns and colors when building a Western aesthetic.
“I think so many people are trying to make everything so neutral these days,” Rajaratnam says. “It’s just fun to play on patterns and timeless colors like blues, reds, and tones from nature—bringing them into your house really gives that Western feel.”
Feeling nervous about adding color to your space? Start with a neutral palette for your walls and trim and add color with pillows and art that you can replace more easily than a major piece of furniture.
While you should choose colors that suit your style, Rajaratnam notes that she sees fewer gray tones in her clients’ homes in favor of warmer palettes.
“Even if it’s a warmer hue of a taupe or a greige, we’re not seeing as much of those cool palette colors,” Rajaratnam says. “We’re seeing warmer tones, and I feel that also speaks back to nature.”
In Texas, Dipple is seeing more gray and white interior design elements in modern, Western homes rather than bold, vibrant colors with a Southwestern feel.
“The original Western style has tons of turquoise and colors,” Dipple says. “But I think it’s evolved into a very classy and elegant look—more of a ‘Western elegance’ where we’re not using those same turquoise color tones anymore. You’re seeing these nice warm browns, accent greens, soft blues, or even touches of red.”
Western-themed art is an excellent way to signal your love for the West and tie in other rustic elements while allowing you to keep the majority of your décor relatively neutral.
Resources like local art galleries or online art suppliers can provide perfect focal pieces for your walls.
“You can use photography of horses or of the West, but for the latest trends, look for a sophisticated, elegant feel to bring to life those elements in your home without making it feel like you’re completely in a barn or on a ranch,” Rajaratnam says. “You can really play around with pottery, texture, art, and fabrics.”
Dipple suggests elegant paintings of buffalo, horses, or cattle and statement pieces like mounted horns from a longhorn cow incorporated into furniture. Another option to consider is adding accent art pieces like sculptures and wall decor of well known Western icons to solidify a Western look in any room of your home.
“Integrating art is a really great way to incorporate a classy, Western look,” Dipple says. “Throw in a real buffalo skull, and that can add to the feel without being too much. A buffalo sculpture or cowboy boots and a hat can give you a stronger Western vibe.”
Shop Western style for your home at adobeinteriors.com and cathershome.com.
This article about western interior design appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Western Life Today. Click to subscribe for more!