Decorating with Southwestern Area Rugs

Southwestern Area Rugs bring beautiful colors, patterns and textures to any rustic or western decorating plan.  The Apache, Hopi, Navajo, Pueblo, and Zuni tribes in the Southwestern USA began marketing their handiwork to settlers in the 1800’s. Many of the traditional colors were made from plant dyes, and the patterns they use are rich in symbols related to their spiritual beliefs.

Because they’re generally made of high quality wool, southwestern area rugs are suitable for all seasons. Smaller rugs at the entry and exit of the home can keep the rest of the house clean and larger area rugs can define living spaces, enhance the hallways and keep wooden stairs from being slippery. These colors and patterns are often so vibrant that they can dominate a room, and must either be balanced with equal amounts of color throughout the curtains, upholstery and walls, or calmed by ensuring only muted and solid colors are used alongside them. These rugs are enhanced by furnishings and accent textures made of natural wood grains and elemental substances, like stone, tree bark, and iron.

Colors in Southwestern Area Rugs

Since the fibers used in Native American rugs are traditionally dyed with vegetable dye, the colors are earth tones that reflect the vibrant painted desert, in muted shades. Reds are rusty, browns can range from sand to mahogany, yellows can be cream to ochre and greens can go from avocado to moss.  Turquoise colors are popular in modern southwestern prints, but weren’t traditionally used in textiles before modern dyes were invented. Sun-bleaching brings the lightest fibers to an eggshell color, but rarely true white.

Area Rug Patterns in the Southwestern Style

Patterns in traditional Native American fiber art were designed to show movement and often to tell a story.  Spirals, a chevron or other braided, repeating line movement can signify water or the natural cycles of the earth. Animals can tell a story about the animal itself, or the character qualities they possess, for example, bears are often used to convey leadership, strength, or authority. A bird may represent freedom or omnipotent vision. Native American Gods, like Kokopelli often represent themselves. Elements like the sun, moon and stars are also often depicted, sometimes as the center focal point in a design or interspersed throughout the rest of the pattern. Geometric shapes, wedged into the patterns each often have their own symbolic meaning.  You may enjoy researching the meaning behind the symbols, colors and shapes in your rug, or simply enjoy the feel of their textures.

When you’re shopping for Southwestern area rugs, be mindful of the shape and size of the room where they’ll be placed and consider the other decorative elements in the room. The patterns can be quite vibrant and are often worthy of being a focal point, rather than just a floor covering.