Southwest style gets a bohemian bump from a new generation of artists and designers.
“I grew up in a house that had teal green couches and that light peach Southwest [color] everywhere,” artist Kelli Van says with a laugh. “I love the cactus and the plants, everything that makes Arizona what it is.”
People around the world agree: Cactus, succulents, dreamcatchers, steer skulls and all manner of desert design homages are trending on Pinterest, selling like hotcakes on Etsy and gracing the pages of ELLE Decor and Architectural Digest. “Living in the desert has become cool,” says Van, who co-owns the boutique Moonage in Tempe with her partner Tyler Greene. The new desert vibe nixes the cartoonish adobe and tacky terra-cotta of the Reagan-era Southwest style boom in favor of bohemian interpretations – free-spirited, feminine and modern touches, with lots of color, flowers, lace, leather, fabrics and precious stones and metals like turquoise and silver.
“I think that’s why people cringe when they hear ‘Southwest’ or ‘Southwest design,’” says Danielle Farley, who creates colorful quilts, crafts and watercolors with her sister Erin Willoby under their Buffalo Gals Co. label. “They think all brown, cowboy, kachina dolls. We’re trying to get out of that.”
Or to mix a little bit of that with diverse design elements for a more personal, less themed look. “We love the Southwestern bohemian aesthetic because it has more mass appeal,” says Katie Young, who crafts reclaimed-wood art, signs, ornaments and custom pieces with her husband Brandon. “Just Southwestern or just bohemian feels more nichey. The melding of the two styles creates a more modern and sophisticated look that appeals to a larger audience and is more accessible to pull off.”
“If you love it and it’s part of you, it’ll work in some way or another, and Arizona is in us,” Willoby says. When she and her sister first conceptualized Buffalo Gals Co., Willoby says Farley came up with a story their wares should tell. “If we were nomads or gypsies or whatever, what would we have to make our home? Gypsies are resourceful and they’re very crafty, but they love things that are beautiful.”
Moonage (pictured above)
1020 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Moonage’s collective of about 50 Arizona artists skews heavily Southwest in inspiration and materialization. Rather than buying a mass-produced imitation of an aesthetic that is organic to our area, co-owner Kelli Van recommends “getting a more unique piece from somebody local, like if you really do want a Southwest piece, [get one] made by an Arizona artist.” Pictured pieces range from $12 to $900.
Check Instagram for local market appearances and retail locations: @lettercraft
“Both Brandon and I are from other states and we never had any intention of staying here,” says co-owner Katie Young. “When we started LetterCraft, we started to feel connected to the Southwest and became more and more inspired by its beauty. The Southwest blends perfectly with our rustic, reclaimed and graphic style.” This Indian headdress design ($100) was hand-drawn and burned on reclaimed wood.
Savannah Ashley Art
Check Instagram for local market appearances and retail locations:
“As a Phoenix native, I have grown up in the desert and incorporate that into my creations. I have floral antlers, dreamcatchers and steer skulls that incorporates the Southwest bohemian aesthetic into my home,” says artist Savannah Ashley. Her decorated steer skulls range from $100-$200.
Buffalo Gals Co.
Check Instagram for local market appearances and retail locations: @buffalogalsco
Co-owner Danielle Farley loves that Southwest bohemian incorporates “lots of layers and textures, and my kids can mess something up,” she says with a laugh. “You’ve got that rustic feel to it, so you don’t have to worry and be like, ‘Don’t touch the furniture!’” Farley’s sister Erin Willoby painted these watercolors ($12 for 5×7-inch print, $19 for 8×10-inch print). Farley sews quilts ($185 and up) using Anna Joy French designs.