A Joshua Tree Ranch Tests the Limits of Off-Grid Luxury

A Joshua Tree Ranch Tests the Limits of Off-Grid Luxury

By Veronica Maldonado
For $650 a night, this Airbnb mixes sustainable desert living with hotel-worthy amenities.

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.

Initially a broken down home, the property caught the attention of Rich and Rezeta thanks to its sprawling views and acres of untouched, uninhabited land. 

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." 

While once not much of a looker, the redone property now boasts a sauna, among other luxurious amenities. 

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.

"Since we're completely off grid we operate off of hauled water, so we have three 1,800 gallon tanks that get filled up every other week. But for those same reasons, people off the grid don't really have pools because they're hard to maintain, but we did it anyway."

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?" 

"We went for as many windows as we could," notes Rich, "because the surroundings are so beautiful. And what we did was try to maximize the amount of light and glass; we pushed it basically as far as we could push it without allowing the house to fall down."

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. 

"The lights have to be turned off by 9:30," says Rich. "It's naturally pitch black out there, it's stunning. During a full moon the whole desert is lit up and it's just incredible."

Shop the Look
Nikari Arte Culture Sauna Stool
Nikari’s Arte Culture Sauna stool was created for the Culture Sauna, a contemporary public sauna in Helsinki that opened its doors in 2013. Aamu Song and Johan Olin have designed a beautiful stool, crafted from alder and treated with natural wood oil mixture.
Lulu & Georgia Moroccan Flatweave Rug in Black & White
Inspired by traditional beni ourain designs, the neutral-hued Moroccan Flatweave Rug features a simple, sketched pattern in a flatweave construction, making it both a versatile and durable choice.
Avocado Natural Wood Bed Frame
Made from 100% reclaimed wood, our Natural Wood Bed Frame is handmade to order in Los Angeles, finished in your choice of zero-VOC finishes. It assembles without tools. In-home delivery and setup is included.

"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. 

The Juniper room's centerpiece boulder sits just behind the open shower. "We built this little elevated bathroom that allows you to get the full effect of the views while in the shower," notes Rich.

 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." 

The Juniper Room. As for the name, Rich explains, "there's a big Juniper plant I initially wanted to get rid of to make this room happen, but my contractor told me I couldn't do that because it was a 500 year old Juniper and that we had to build around it. So we did."

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Related Reading: 

11 Homes That Capture the Spirit of Joshua Tree

A Writer’s Prefab Retreat Sits Lightly Upon the Land in Joshua Tree

Construction Diary: A Couple Build a Moroccan-Inspired Retreat in Joshua Tree

Project Credits

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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