How my trip to Mesa Verde changed my perspective about design

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

My family and I recently returned from a family vacation at the historic Mesa Verde National Park. For those of you who haven’t had the opportunity, I highly recommend it!

Mesa Verde is in the southwestern part of  Colorado and known for its well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, notably the huge Cliff Palace. I had only traveled there to run a cross-country race in high school, but this time I was able to appreciate the surroundings and the ancient Native American lifestyle with my family.


While touring the sites, I noticed a consistency within the dwellings. Each community had several kivas. The larger kivas were underground rooms used for ceremonial, political, and special occasions and smaller kivas (sometimes called clan kivas) were used by family groups. Near the kivas, one would find a “mealing” room where the women of the Puebloan people worked for hours grinding grain and performing other domestic chores.

By the end of the walking tour, it was apparent that every room regardless of size had a specific purpose and the utilization of natural resources were astounding! The on-site history museum displayed hundreds of hand-made Native American artifacts; the  rich colors and intricate pieces were impressive beyond words.


Upon my return home, I began to compare our lives to those of the Puebloan peoples. How are we similar? How have we evolved? What have we learned in these thousands of years since their existence? Most importantly, what would my role have been? I mean interior decorating wasn’t really a thing back then…or was it?


The Native American designs of today have a rich history. While we may have evolved in how art is produced, the Southwestern style continues to influence many famous architects and designers alike.

A couple examples of well-known designers include Frank Lloyd Wright and Ralph Lauren. Lloyd Write relied heavily on Native American influence which are evident in his popular craftsman designs and architecture. Lauren often uses Navajo weavings as rugs on the floor, wall hangings, and across the back of a couch or chair.


Colors that are indicative of Southwestern designs include cactus green, adobe red, bright yellow, dusty orange, and desert-toned neutrals. Many stagers capitalize on these bright colors mixed with a neutral background. Think about it, the color teal is derived from turquoise and nearly EVERY staged home has a mix of teal!


As I was thinking about the topic of this blog, I realized that my vacation provided me with all the material I needed. My appreciation for the Native American culture has been elevated to a level where I can appreciate from many perspectives. Indeed, I believe the Native Americans were the original designers and I feel honored to be able to share a small part of their influence with others.


So, the next time you walk into a home, look for pottery, succulents, decorative tiles, desert-toned neutrals, colorful textiles combined with geometric patterns, or rustic furniture. Chances are a large part of the design influence originated from the Native Americans thousands of years ago.

Mesa Verde
My family
Native American Artifacts
Native American Artifacts

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