When musician Joseph August left Los Angeles in early 2015 for a sabbatical in the area where he grew up, his solo sojourn inspired him to create an artistic AirBnB experience in the desert.
Together with his partner Justine Bennett and his childhood friend Andrew Uhlhorn, the trio of friends purchased a lot unseen later that year and bootstrapped their way to build Joshua Tree Acres—a growing village of Airstreams that just added its fourth rehabbed trailer last month.
"We’re all self funded with money saved and borrowed, so cash flow has always been tight," says artist and musician Justine Bennett, who explains how she, Joseph, and Andrew renovated their first property to fund the purchase of JT Villager—one of the original 1947 homes in the heart of Joshua Tree Village that became their first AirBnB rental.
The revenue from that first project enabled them to purchase their "dream property," a five-acre site with stunning mountain views, a 280-square-foot homestead cabin, and plenty of twisting Joshua Trees.
Along the way, they had also started collecting old Airstreams plucked off Craigslist that they’d flip for additional funds. Their hard work—they once traveled as far as Mexico to bring an Airstream home—paid off when the friends began adding renovated Airstream trailers to their property.
"We also started thinking about what we really enjoyed as avid travelers ourselves," shares Justine. "The theme that kept surfacing was that we wanted to create a communal space—a place where like-minded people could come together to meet, share stories, and experience the stark, beautiful, unique nature of the Joshua Tree desert."
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A sharp eye for thrifted pieces, a bootstrapping mentality, and a commitment to eco-conscious design were three important ingredients to bringing Joshua Tree Acres to life.
The project began with the complete overhaul of the existing cabin on the property, now called "The Clubhouse." Working in collaboration with local carpenter Nicholas Holmes, they covered the walls with eco-friendly American clay, added recycled blue-jean insulation, and used locally felled timber from an Idyllwild forest.
What makes this desert oasis so unique is how there are a total of four Airstreams on the property.
The Piece of the Sky 1975 Airstream and Sound of Silence 1964 Airstream—both named after songs of their respective eras—were lightly renovated to retain original vintage elements, yet modern touches were also integrated for additional comfort.
For a more contemporary stay, guests can rent the fully renovated Merchant on the Road Airstream, which features eclectic midcentury-modern and Moroccan influences, hardwood floors, white walls, and custom cabinetry. The interior of this trailer was led by Merchant Modern.
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Last month, Joshua Tree Acres added their fourth and newest Airstream: Kind of Blue 1959 Airstream. This trailer has been completely overhauled into a crisp modern space.
The Clubhouse and vintage Airstreams are all fitted with vintage finds and second hand treasures that Justine, Joseph, and Andrew collected from around the world. "This organically became our design style—vintage treasures mixed with found objects combined with handmade pieces," explains Justine.
"We collectively have spent hundreds of hours laboring and hand-making things, such as curtains, pillows, benches, tables, planters, and wall hangings. We’ve pulled all nighters cutting wood trimmings by hand, painting, and finishing every detail to stay within a deadline. We’ve done everything we can with our own hands to showcase our unique style, while also sparing our limited cash flow."
The growing success of Joshua Tree Acres has given the three friends the means to purchase the five-acre plot next door, where they plan to add a saltwater pool and an eco-campsite.
The growing Airstream oasis also has its eye on hosting more events, including celebrations of every solstice and equinox in the coming year.
Interested in booking a stay at Joshua Tree Acres? Check out all their listings here.
General Contractor: Jim Roses + Joshua Tree Acres Design
Landscape Design: Joshua Tree Acres Design
Cabinetry Design/Installation: Jim Roses + Joshua Tree Acres Design
American clay walls/ceilings with textural straw: Nicholas Holmes
Cedar wall: Nathan McConnell