11 Homes That Capture the Spirit of Joshua Tree

11 Homes That Capture the Spirit of Joshua Tree

These cabins, domes, and houses channel the free-spirited nature of the desert.

Over the years, many creatives, adventurers, and solitude seekers have succumbed to the spell of Joshua Tree—and it’s no wonder why. The rugged landscape is sublimely beautiful, with its towering rock formations and twisting, spiky trees—and it’s uniquely suited to alternative lifestyles. Fittingly, the region has its share of stylish residences—read on for a look at 11 landmark homes that range from domed dwellings to spartan prefabs and midcentury wonders.

iT House by Taalman Koch Architects

The iT House was designed by Linda Taalman and Alan Koch of Taalman Koch Architects. The minimalist desert escape has an industrial aesthetic, and it pushes the envelope in terms of green design—the owners even decided to forgo air conditioning. The home’s sustainable building strategies include: large doors and operable windows for cross-ventilation, overhangs for shade, and solar panels to harness the power of the sun.

At first glance, the Folly cabins may appear to be a pair of abandoned sheds, left to rust amidst the desert landscape. Within their walls, however, is a modern dwelling swathed in raw plywood with a living space, dining area, kitchen, bathroom, and sleeping mezzanine. A soaking tub anchors a wooden deck; and just up the stairs is a stargazing portal. The off-grid cabins were created by architectural designer Malek Alqadi, who has a penchant for sustainable living.

Upon purchasing a 10-acre plot surrounded by a cluster of boulders, a couple wrote a handwritten letter to architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, which resulted in the 5,000-square-foot High Desert House on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park. Kellog spent five years designing a home that would settle into the landscape, "crouching on the rocks, maybe like an animal asleep." The house features 26 freestanding concrete columns reminiscent of rib bones, and a glass ceiling that fills the home with daylight and views of the stars at night.

Over the course of 10 months, Louis Litrenta and Natalie Saunders built this Georgia O’Keefe–inspired vacation home, which is filled with items from their travels and elements inspired by the local landscape. The interiors have a simple material palette of plaster, microcement, and wood—which keeps the focus on the desert views. A small, open floor plan makes efficient use of space, and the bedrooms are located on either side of the residence to provide privacy. 

Husband-and-wife team Elaine and Stanley Yang of real estate and development firm Mini Inno discovered this 2,000-square-foot ranch home, and set about transforming it into an idyllic weekend retreat. Built in 1966, the home sits on 3.6 acres and, while the bones were good, it was a bit outdated in terms of style. The revitalized, Moroccan-inspired retreat is a sanctuary worthy of its soothing surroundings. 

It’s hard to believe, but this trendy stay was purchased by Kathrin and Brian Smirke at a tax auction for $7,000. While it sounds like a great deal, the 1957 property was abandoned—and it needed to be stripped to the studs and completely rebuilt. The DIY interiors now are teeming with photo opps—from stylish vignettes to an outdoor tub constructed from a water trough.

Tech entrepreneur Sam Friedman found himself drawn to the desert after selling his app, ParkMe. He invested in a 112-acre property with an abandoned 1,600-square-foot geodesic dome, and then set to work transforming the structure into an off-grid retreat. He helmed the entire overhaul—from pulling permits and drawing up plans to developing the solar and gray water systems. He gutted and remodeled the structure with the assistance of day help and friends, while living in an on-site Airstream.

Los Angeles–based writer Leslie Longworth knew she’d found the perfect retreat when she spotted a five-acre lot in Pioneertown. Immersed in the rugged beauty of Joshua Tree with a dirt road for access, it was an ideal creative space. Seeking a low-impact build, she hired prefab company Cover to draft, construct, and install a custom home. The prefab came complete with fixtures, finishes, Wolf Sub-Zero appliances, and a state-of-the-art radiant heating and cooling system. In order to design around endangered Joshua trees, boulders, and the view, Cover used a combination of 3D mapping via drone imagery and handheld photos.

Nestled on a sweeping 45-acre lot, this dome-shaped cabin was designed by multidisciplinary architect Fritz Haeg. The residence itself is just 721 square feet, but the one-bedroom, one-bath home is big on style. A tall, barrel-like ceiling adds a sense of whimsy, while sliding glass doors bring in a sense of the outdoors.

This three-bedroom, three-bath home was given a makeover by artist and designer Lindsay Hollinger. The 1,116-square-foot residence sits on a five-acre lot, and the interior is swathed in natural light. While the space is almost entirely updated, there are remnants of the original house—including an original stone wall that stands as a focal point.

This refurbished home set on 2.5 acres embraces the tranquility of the desert. The home offers an array of lounge areas as well as a hot tub and fireplace to take in the stars. Every room in the house offers desert views, and sliding glass doors connect the living areas to the expansive deck.

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