There’s much to love about the Pacific Northwest – the unending views of the rugged mountains, rolling green forests, and sweeping ocean views. It is a region full of natural inspiration and boundless beauty.
Unimpeded to nature, interior style in the area drew a lot of inspiration from the outdoors by artfully integrating natural elements into their personal sanctuary. Overtime, the Pacific Northwest (or PNW) style has become known for its cozy and comfortable spaces that’s full of warmth, even on cloudy days. As the region also sees a lot of rainfall and moody winters, this style finds every opportunity to brighten and lift the mood of any space.
Photo source: Luxe Interiors and Design
To understand more about the Pacific Northwest interior design, let’s start with a brief history.
PNW design emerged from an architectural style that started in the mid-20th century by renowned architects Paul Hayden Kirk, John Yeon, and Paul Thiry. Their work challenged the rigid structures of the International style, and focused more on architecture that can blend well with the local landscape, climate, and lifestyle.
Instead of conforming to modernist structures that were popular at that time, they centered their simple yet functional design around the love of nature that is very much present in the region. Afterall, the Pacific Northwest, sometimes called Cascadia, is surrounded by the coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains.
Being surrounded by all this natural beauty, you’ll find that architecture in the area has more emphasis on sustainability and biophilic design. By bringing the outdoors in and embracing natural elements, PNW houses offer a warm and inviting space where to freely enjoy the beauty and tranquility that their surroundings bring.
Photo source: Urbnlivn
Additionally, this design has a strong connection to Native American history as the area was also home to many different tribes. Their homes, art, basketry and tools (like canoes) were made from tall cedar trees that lined the Pacific shore. Cedar was also used to make multifamily longhouses, built side by side along the shore, facing the sea.
Today, we see modern Pacific Northwest houses utilizing exposed wood and beam structures made from cedar and other locally sourced wood, while Native American art is used to decorate and accentuate the interiors.
So, what exactly does the PNW style embody?
At its core, PNW interior is about incorporating locally sourced natural materials like wood, stone, and concrete as much as possible. Floor plans are kept open and airy to further enhance the feel of the outdoors and large windows are maximized to allow plenty of sunshine that counters dark and rainy days.
As one that embraces biophilic design, this style seeks to create harmony with the outdoors, as echoed by Architect David Stofcik. In an article by HGTV, he shared how he looked for design motifs that embraced the outdoors to curate the decor for a PNW-inspired cabin.
“The Pacific Northwest is about the authentic character of natural materials, colors and details and the inherent relationship between indoors and outdoors, not brightly polished brass or finished items and objects.”
With rich cultural influences in the region, the style has evolved into one that embraces eclecticism. From traditional Indian patterns and modern Scandinavian furniture, to mid-century pieces and boho chic, giving you a stylish, yet rustic and cozy home.
Photo source: Martha Stewart | A scandinavian inspired Pacific Northwest home
How can you do this in your space?
Loved for its warmth and enduring quality, sustainable design, and an appreciation of nature’s uninhibited beauty, the PNW style is definitely something you can emulate in your own space. Read on to uncover tips to help you create a PNW home like a local.
1. Dive into everything wood
Wood is a staple in the PNW style and the easiest way to bring a bit of that love for nature into your home. It can add warmth to minimalist spaces, texture to industrial homes, and earthiness in every style in between. Not only is incorporating wood essential to the exterior architecture of PNW homes, but it is heavily used for the interiors as well. Best of all, it will be easier for you to practice sustainability with wood for its many opportunities to reuse and recycle.
To begin your journey on this design, use wood for furniture, floors, countertops, and stairs. Tables made with local lumber add its own soothing charm into your home and connect you to your local community. While, exposed wood and beam structures mixed with modern accents can work together to create a welcoming aesthetic.
Photo source: HybridArc
You can also get creative and use wood in all its shapes and forms. A carved natural table or a makeshift cabinet made with reclaimed wood will feel right at home. While, live edge wood can be a unique element to beautifully decorate your space. If you’re looking for a more daring look, create a wood accent wall.
Farmhouse design enthusiasts will love this idea of adding a textured wood herringbone wall to complete a classy look for a home office or dining space. Another way to do this would be creating a simple accent wall with vertically-lined, light-colored wooden slats. A modern and elegant way to add color to an open space and one that instantly adds character to any room.
Photo source: Naturalist Interiors
2. Use a soothing palette to complement natural wood
Pacific Northwest folks love nature and stay true to their roots by incorporating greenery and organic finishes to their spaces.
When it comes to color, it’s no different. PNW style is more muted and simple. They stay true to their roots by showcasing natural materials and texture instead of injecting bright pops of color into their space. Therefore, you’ll see more muted and subtle shades while using different colors of wood to make up the color scheme. As such, dark and light wood are often used together to create visual depth and a more dynamic space.
Photo source: Lord Interior Design
Shades of gray, brown, and cream also dominate the space. If you’re looking to add some color of your own, go for earthy hues like moss greens, calming beiges, and faded terracotta.
Pastel hues can also be used to complement the natural wood tones – as seen in the kitchen image below. The light backsplash complements the cabinetry, while the matte black handles create a striking contrast against the subtle color of the wood finish.
Photo source: Alter Interiors
3. Mimic the experience of being outdoors
Nature is in the PNW style DNA. Bring in more elements of the outdoors by recreating it through your furniture and decor.
Decorating your space with indoor plants is one of the easiest ways to create a lush environment that reminds you of walks in the forest, all year round.
- Ferns: They’re found everywhere in the Pacific Northwest and make great houseplants for their foliage and hassle-free care.
- Palms: One of the most popular options. They can thrive in low light conditions and withstand cool winters and humid summers.
- Philodendron: They trail and climb allowing your bookshelves to be decorated beautifully. Also one of the easiest to grow even with insufficient light and warm rooms pose no problems for this versatile plant.
Additionally, having houseplants can be beneficial to your mood and your health. Studies have shown that they can help reduce stress and improve the air quality too. Find out more on how plants can decorate your home and bring positive energy.
Photo source: The Spruce
Alternatively, if plants aren’t for you, use furniture and small decor to follow the curves and color of nature. Like how a dark upholstered sofa replicates tree trunks throughout the landscape and creates a cozy space around a fireplace.
Enhance your personal pocket of greenery by filling your home with the smell of the Pacific Northwest. Find candles that remind you of the scent of douglas firs, ponderosa pines, and the rugged coast that runs all the way up the Pacific West Coast. With this, your space will smell amazing and recreate the cozy atmosphere felt when visiting the region.
4. Nature is your muse
Just like how we’ve touched on wood and greenery, you can also do the same with water. If you have more space, incorporate a small pond in your garden. If not, simply add a water feature in your home to create a soothing atmosphere.
Glass is also another way to bring that peaceful element of water into your home. Shades of gray, white, blue, and sea green can give the look and feel of your very own shoreline. A good example is installing a glass mirror in your living room or having reverse-painted glass for your kitchen backsplash, creating a shiny finish to reference water and its reflective nature.
Photo source: Magzhouse
As for your lighting, go for round glass pendant lamps that look like giant raindrops or use curved coned lights at different levels to replicate droplets pouring down. And in terms of attractive wall accents by fireplaces, use a bit of brick or stone; it’s natural uneven finish and texture mimicking the rugged terrain of the mountains nearby.
5. Embrace easy flow of indoor-outdoor spaces
Having a patio is a great way to extend the indoor living experience. Plus, this creates more opportunities to green up your place with an herb garden as you entertain your guests or as an extra WFO area.
There are plenty of ways to spice your outdoor space with a patio. Add comfortable seating and brighten it up with soft lights for a lively look and feel. For your furniture, choose cedar yet again, for a good moisture resistant option; plus, don’t forget a rain cover just in case. And, don’t forget to decorate with plants!
Photo source: Coco Kelley
If you don’t have space for a patio, you can still create an area where you can appreciate the scenic views outside. Just like a lot of PNW homes, opt for floor-to-ceiling windows that allow natural light to radiate inside. Multiple windows can also function as art as they add nature’s color to beautify your space.
To make the most of this, consider setting up banquette seating or a breakfast nook beside your large windows. This way, you’ll still have a nice corner to lounge and enjoy a cup of cocoa, while taking in the views.
Photo source: Decorilla
6. Decorate with native, local art
The Pacific Northwest is a region known for its Native American products such as engravings and carved wooden plaques. No surprise since the region is surrounded by forests and plenty of natural resources.
Nowadays, these pieces can find a place in contemporary PNW design. They represent a rich history and culture to preserve and celebrate, and add a unique, one-of-a-kind element into your space. Remember that point we mentioned above about connecting with your local community? This is how you do it. In an interview, Alana Willis, an interior design consultant based in Perth also shared the role of indigenous art in our interiors.
“Indigenous art grounds an interior space, adding another talking point. Immediately, it can bring a space together like no other art genre, creating texture and warmth and depth to a space.”
Photo source: Guild Hall Construction
Whether these are striking aboriginal masks and wooden pieces painted in bright colors or simply tinted by natural browns, they are able to fit perfectly into any room with their earthy tones. These pieces can also be hung on walls to add a taste of local flavor into your space.
Other local art that you can add are unique pottery, artisan-crafted blankets, and terracotta pots to name a few. These can be used to add warmth and vibrancy at home.