This Yucca Valley Retreat Packed With Tile and DIY Hacks Is Pure Desert Magic

By Lauren Jones / Published by Dwell
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A $2 comal moonlights as a brilliant sconce in this revitalized ’80s ranch home.

"For every raised monster truck, there is someone who has opened a crystal shop," says designer Claire Thomas about the location of her new project with cinematographer Yayo Ahumada. "Yucca Valley is a really interesting and accurate snapchat of California, and the different cultures and personalities that are intersecting."

While Joshua Tree has been a hot spot for years, real estate prices have skyrocketed—and Yucca Valley, which could be called Joshua Tree’s hip little sister, is the new go-to for those seeking a desert escape with shopping, restaurants, and more affordable properties.

The living room includes a Retro Burn fireplace and a coffee table Thomas made herself from boulders found on the property.

Claire Thomas 

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Hans J. Wegner Easy Chair

“A chair is to have no backside,” said Hans J. Wegner. “It should be beautiful from all sides and angles.” Sculptural and balanced, his Easy Chair (1950) embodies this maxim, a classic example of the “organic functionalism” for which he is famous. Its natural elegance is exemplified by the paper cord that creates the seat and back – more than 1300 feet of cord is used on each chair. Handwoven by a skilled craftsperson, it’s a process that takes eight to 10 hours. The solid oak frame has fluid lines and exacting joinery, which is expertly assembled and requires no hardware. Relaxed and intuitively ergonomic, the Easy Chair is just that – a seat that can easily blend with modern or traditional interiors, in nearly any room in the house. Made in Denmark.

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Before: The original home had good bones and great potential, but lacked finesse. 

Claire Thomas 

With a low budget and high ambition, Thomas and Ahumada set off to find their "unicorn in the desert." They eventually landed a one-story ranch home with knotty pine walls set on five untouched acres filled with boulders, cacti, and even jackrabbits.

The duo wanted to rent the space out for visitors and creative projects (like short films, music videos, and brand partnerships), so the house and the site had to have a very particular sense of place, with both visual and emotional impact. 

The circular wall sconce is a nod to Ahumada’s Mexican heritage. It’s made from a $2 comal—a type of cookware that is traditionally used to prepare tortillas. "We bought four of them, and they turned out amazing using an LED strip and a cake plate," Thomas says. 

Claire Thomas 

While designing the retreat, which they have since dubbed the Oeste Home, the pair were inspired by unique stays like San Luis Obispo’s Madonna Inn, with its themed bedrooms and tongue-in-cheek decor. Accordingly, the home has a soothing agave-themed room, an all-pink bedroom that’s a nod to I Dream of Genie, a sun-filled master suite with a circular window, a DIY pergola, and a neutral living room with a homemade coffee table and terrazzo details.

 "We did a style of kitchen that you would find in Oaxaca," says the designer. It’s simple and durable, and made for cooking any type of food.

Claire Thomas 

The main spaces are all colorful, so the kitchen, living, and dining areas play to the opposite. The pair gutted the kitchen to create a highly functional space fit for entertaining, with simple concrete slabs and cabinet fronts by Semihandmade for IKEA. "I want guests to be able to cook with turmeric without worrying about staining anything," Thomas remarks. 

The circular window seat was inspired by Thomas’s love for Los Angeles’s Spanish Colonial homes, while the built-in shelves were taken from a look Studio Shamshiri did for  Sonia Boyajian Jewelry in L.A. Clay pieces Thomas found on her travels to Oaxaca fit nicely with the irregular shape of the shelving.

Claire Thomas 

In the living room, which was inspired by the highly photographed Phillip Dixon house in Venice Beach, terrazzo is the real star. There’s a built-in terrazzo couch with planters, and Thomas used leftover terrazzo blocks to fill a cutout between the living room and the adjacent listening room. "Terrazzo is a huge part of Mexican design, because it lasts forever," she says. 

Textiles from St. Frank accent the all-pink guest room.

Claire Thomas 

The guest bedroom has another cinematic moment with a gilded bathtub, a salvaged antique Tudor window from a Hancock Park home, and Moroccan-style tiles from Concrete Collaborative. "It shows that all of these design styles reference other cultures and times," she adds.

Architectural styles blend in this guest bath painted Eames for Blue by Dunn Edwards. 

Claire Thomas 

The patio features a DIY pergola made of leftover timber and foraged fire-resistant ocotillo. The triangle-shaped seating structure is an homage to a similar one Thomas saw at a rooftop patio while in Marrakech. The pink hue mimics the sunset, and a nearby copper tub provides a place for guests to cool off.

The outdoor seating area features Fireclay tile, St. Frank pillows, and a Huxley pendant from Hudson Valley Lighting.

Claire Thomas 

Overall, the Oeste Home is full of surprising DIYs and international finds—and it’s the perfect gateway to the beauty of Yucca Valley. If you’d like to reserve a stay, bookings are currently available via Airbnb.

Related Reading:

Claire Thomas Restores an Endlessly Charming L.A. Midcentury

Claire Thomas Takes Us Inside Her Retro Mountain Getaway

These 7 Homes in the Southwest Show How to Design For the Desert

Project Credits:

Interior Design: Claire Thomas / @clairethomas  

Builder/General Contractor: Michael A. Wilson

Lighting Company: Hudson Valley Lighting / @hudsonvalleylighting

Cabinetry: Semihandmade / @semihandmade

Finishes: Concrete Collaborative / @concretecollaborative

Tile: Fireclay Tile /@fireclaytile

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