Rich Cook and Rezeta Veliu always felt drawn to desert living. After years fruitlessly searching for somewhere to try out the lifestyle, they put the idea on the back burner but held out hope for something truly special to show up when they least expected it. In 2016, that long-awaited call finally came through. The find? An unlisted property, dilapidated, sitting on 20 acres of untouched desert.
The place didn’t look like much initially. "It was a little house that was maybe 1,000 square feet max," remembers Rich. "It had a kitchen, a living room, and a bedroom." What the tiny, broken-down structure did have was enormous potential. The home’s sparse layout gave the couple creative freedom for a complete overhaul, what Rich describes as "not even a restoration, it was a soup-to-nuts redo."
Remaking the home proved an experiment in off-grid construction, something neither Rich or Rezeta had any experience with. The couple enlisted the help of Don Gulley, a local contractor who developed an entire off-grid building system for the project. Working alongside the contracting team, Rich and Rezeta’s home design expanded far beyond the original structure; the build added an entire other level, a solar-powered electrical grid, and a nearly unheard-of off-grid luxury: a swimming pool.
The deck was initially conceived as a much smaller addition, but the inviting landscape and beautiful views proved too good to resist. "We started out with hardwood and got a little carried away because the more we saw the deck expand, the prettier and more inviting the property became. Then we realized that we should probably have a pool because why not?"
Throughout the building process, the main focus lay on the surrounding desert itself. The result, dubbed Whisper Rock Ranch, is a testament to the beauty of Pipes Canyon, a natural area just north of the very tourist-friendly Pioneertown . With panoramic views of the uninhabited desert surroundings, the home is a true getaway from city life – accentuated by Pipes Canyon’s light pollution policy. With the nearest county miles away, once the lights go off there’s barely a trace of civilization around.
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"The whole thing about this build was to not mess with nature, to capitalize on the surroundings and to compliment everything that's there," says Rich. "We really want to make you feel like you truly are living in the desert." The home’s greatest testament to the couple's philosophy is its Juniper Room. Created as phase two of the initial build, the Juniper Room spans 1,300 square feet and is composed of a living room and bath, centered around a large natural boulder.
Initially envisioned as the family’s weekend getaway, Rich and Rezeta decided to open up their home to guests just this past year. The response has been more than enthusiastic. "It's become that marquee destination for people coming to Joshua Tree," explains Rich. "Our guests get to be truly off the grid."
Book Your Stay
Designers: Rich Cook and Rezeta Veliu / @whisper_rock_ranch
General Contractor: Don Gulley, D&D Custom / (760) 831-6953
Cabinetry Design: Van Go Wood Works
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