How to Paint Southwest Furniture


The colors of the Southwest reflect the colors of the dry earth and the deep clear blue sky that is so prevalent most of the time in the area. This palette has become highly developed in such style-conscious towns as Santa Fe and Sedona, where anything from tennis shoes to beach towels can reflect the popular array of colors. Manufacturers of house paint are also aware of the stylish colors and so nowadays someone painting a piece of furniture in New England, can emulate the desert hues of Arizona.

Things You'll Need

  • Sandpaper Primer Paintbrushes (polyester 2- and 3-inch trim) 3-inch polyester brush Semi-gloss latex paint Clear acetate Utility knife

The Prep

  • Prepare the wood for the primer coat of paint. Wash, sand and scrub as needed until the wood surface is clean and smooth.

  • Paint the wood with a good-quality acrylic-latex sealer-primer paint. Apply the paint with a 3-inch polyester brush and make sure the paint covers the wood with one evenly applied coat.

  • Let the primer dry for at least 24 hours before beginning with the top coat.

Painting the Furniture

  • Choose a turquoise blue and several earth colors as your basic paint colors.

  • Choose one of the earth colors to completely cover the piece of furniture. The wood should be painted evenly with smooth and steady brush strokes.

  • Choose a second earth color, close in tone to the first. Use the second color to create a striped pattern to the painted surface. Often the most successful looking designs occur when these colors are close together on the color wheel. If desired, a third color can be chosen to add to the effect. It too should be like the first two colors.

  • Take the deep blue turquoise ( a forest green can also work) and use this color to create a decorative pattern to accent the paint job. Simple geometric shapes such as squares or triangles work fine or you can use icons of the region. This might include arrowheads, wagon wheels or maybe a Navajo zigzag pattern. You can apply the paint freehand or cut the pattern into a small sheet of acetate and then move the design around the furniture.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sometimes part of the wood can be left bare to contrast with the painted areas. A light acrylic paint can be used like a stain on wood to produce an antique look. If any wood native to the Southwest is present in the furniture, those parts may be left natural. Ponderosa pine, mesquite and pinyon pine are common lumber sources that grow in the Southwest. Sometimes large areas can be covered with one pastel earth color.
  • Try and keep the designs simple. Southwestern style is known for its austere beauty and not for busy color. Cacti are considered by many to be a much overused Southwestern icon.

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  • Photo Credit turquoise jewelry image by Kathy Burns from
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