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Stylish stays – desert edition

Staying home is the order of the day, but it doesn’t hurt to daydream a little about all the adventures I hope to have, and the places I’d like to stay, in the future.

Armchair escapism has certainly become one of my favourite pastimes the past few weeks. It begun as I was leafing though the pages of an old copy of Drift magazine, and intensified as I re-read a few pages from Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays. And all my reminiscing about our trip to Marrakech as I wrote my recent city guide just brought it all to a head. Luis and I have been talking about a big West Coast road trip for a while now, and while it’s unlikely that this will happen this year, it certainly doesn’t mean I’m any less excited about the prospect of it happening next year, or indeed, any time in the future. That’s the beauty of daydreaming about travel, it doesn’t really matter when you think it will happen, you just know it will happen. Does that make sense?

Didion’s evocative descriptions of the barren Mojave wastelands has manifested into me trawling the internet at all hours of the day (and night) looking for beautiful places to imagine us staying in the desert when we do eventually visit, which in turn has evolved into a new mini-series here on the blog. Or perhaps not-so-mini, we will see. So, today I’m sharing five beautiful vacation homes in the North American desert, all with glorious style-to-steal ‘desert decor’ ideas for getting a tiny hit of escapism in your own home, should you be that way inclined. Enjoy! 

Posada by Joshua Tree House

Tucson, AZ

I’ve long been drawn to the boho desert aesthetic of Sara and Rich Combs, founders of The Joshua Tree House, and was delighted to see them unveil their recent restoration and renovation of an old abandoned inn on the border of the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Arizona. Situated on 38 acres of land, Posada has five impeccably decorated suites, each with their own personality and vibe, and cocooning earthy colour palette inspired by the desertscape outside. The zen-like decor mixes clean lines and contemporary finishes with rustic woods, exposed overhead beams and Moroccan-inspired tiling to create a space that feels homely and inviting, and connected to the earth. I love the adobe textured walls and quirky fireplaces in each of the suites, as well as the relaxed family-style vibe in the communal areas. I can certainly imagine earnest conversation with fellow travellers in these spaces, and expansive fire-lit storytelling out on the terrace, long into the wee hours of the starlit night. 

Desert decor style to steal: a full length shelf ledge above the bed, perfect for storing books and display decoration // wall alcoves beside the bed in lieu of bedside tables // Moroccan-inspired star & cross floor tiles (from Fireclay), layered with vintage Moroccan Beni Ourain rugs // a boxy cognac-hued leather sofa with arms wide enough to rest your drink, phone and book (theirs is from Sixpenny) // ceiling-hung baskets above the kitchen counter to keep useful knickknacks close to hand // large domed rattan ceiling shades, for atmospheric shadow play once night falls.

Posada photography by Margaret Austin

villa kuro

Joshua Tree, CA

Describing itself as a ‘serene + minimal desert hideaway’, Villa Kuro has been designed with tranquillity and relaxation in mind. I know I definitely feel instantly soothed looking at these images! Nestled on an unfenced 3.6 acres in the shadow of an ancient boulder mountain in Joshua Tree, the property goes all the way up to the peak of the mountain, and lies adjacent to thousands of acres of national park land, just begging to be explored. Originally built in the 1960’s, this mid-century ranch style house has been lovingly transformed into a unique desert hideaway, inspired the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi (finding beauty in imperfection). The use of natural and reclaimed materials bring out the subtleties in texture and light, while large sliding glass doors provide a connection to the outdoors at every turn. I just love the creamy expanse of the interior,  juxtaposed with warm tactile wood accents and rustic organic lighting fixtures to add character and delight. It definitely feels like the perfect setting to relax and recharge in, and with multiple outdoor living areas there are plenty of spaces for simply lounging, taking in the abundance of flora and fauna in the surroundings, spotting some of the local wildlife passing by (including jackrabbits, quails and roadrunners!), or staring up at the expansive night sky from the salt water hot tub. Bliss! 

Desert decor style to steal: handwoven baskets as wall art // floating timber kitchen shelving // counter-top wooden trays used for housing kitchen essentials // seamless blending of floor and walls, using the same material finishes and colour hue // built-in L-shaped banquette seating under the window // raw tactile lighting features to soften the decor scheme.

Villa Kuro photography by Stanley Yang

the Joshua Tree house – Hacienda

Joshua Tree, CA

Having already mentioned the Joshua Tree House, it seems foolish to leave one of their original stunning properties off my dream stays list! Sara and Rich have three vacation homes in Joshua Tree available the rent via Airbnb: the House, Casita and Hacienda. The latter is the space I’d love to stay for a few days, although as it is Sara and Rich’s personal home it is only available to rent when they’re off travelling. It’s a remote 2-bed original homestead built in 1958, located 20 minutes from the west entrance of the park, with sweeping views across Joshua Tree. The house is surrounded by over 900 acres of protected land, that serve as a wildlife corridor in which you’re likely to spot many kinds of birds, antelope squirrels, lizards, cottontail rabbits, jack rabbits – and maybe even a desert tortoise or a coyote! As life in the desert is slow, the hacienda has been designed as a place for dreamers to reset, reflect, and create. Similar to the Posada inn, you’ll find Moroccan-inspired tiling, vintage Beni Ourains adding soft texture to the brickwork underfoot, along with creamy soft leather sofas and tactile handmade ceramics in the kitchen. Since this is the Combs’ main residence though, there are also other more personal touches that make this property feel cosier and more inviting than the House or Casita (which are both still gorgeous place I’d very happily stay!), with more artwork, knickknacks and textiles to feast your eyes upon.

Desert decor style to steal: a cosy built-in dining nook strewn with an abundance of raw-edged cushions // a built-in floating vinyl bench, for sitting leisurely listening to records for hours // a blonde wood framed triptych of stylish black and white desert photography // a chunky organic shaped coffee table, showcasing the natural beauty of the wood // star and cross kitchen wall tiles, with a colour pop border meeting the counter-top (from Fireclay) // hanging Moroccan lanterns and macrame plant holders to add interest from the ceiling beams.

Casa Mami

Pioneertown, CA

Sitting on 5 acres of sprawling desert in Pioneertown, Casa Mami is a 2-bed eco-friendly design retreat on five acres of sprawling desert where everything from linens and kitchenware, to furniture and art is available for purchase. Created by Carlos Naude and Whitney Brown, the pueblo-style home is painted in sharp black and white and surrounded by complementary grey gravel, offering a refreshingly modern take on desert style still feels sympathetic to the landscape thanks to the neutral palette and smart use of organic textures. I love how calm and light-filled the space is, and how the stark graphic lines of high-end design pieces have been softened with blonde plywood cabinetry and the bulbous shaped Cloud sofa by Marcel Wanders, that echoes the curvature of the fireplace. Out-swing french doors open onto a gravelled yard, where you can lounge in the evening just gazing up at the enormous expanse of twinkly stars above. The house is also fully sustainable, run with solar power and equipped with a water and septic tank.

Desert decor style to steal: a large graphic throw quilt hung above the bed (theirs is by Louise Gray) // floating half moon shelves as bedside tables, to cut down on physical furniture pieces in the bedroom (theirs are Menu’s Gridy Fungi // a round terrazzo coffee table (theirs is from Studio Fish and Pink) // a vintage firedrum as the focal point of the living room (Urban Americana) // vertical tiling behind your fireplace (I love the sandcast bricks they’ve used from clé).

Casa Mami photography by Cándida Wohlgemuth

Merchant House

Morongo Valley, CA

In the Morongo Valley, en route to Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll find Merchant House — a creative space brought to life by stylist and visual artist Denise Portmans and her artist daughter Sara Marlowe Hall. The British mother-daughter team, who own side-by-side shop and gallery Merchant on LA’s Lincoln Boulevard, created Merchant House as a desert escape for themselves and guests, filled with their favourite contemporary art works and vintage pieces gathered on their travels. I was immediately drawn by the vibrant yellow doors that beckon you in to the warm tones of the interior, layered with soft pastel hues and plenty of tactile textiles. The space has a real lovingly-worn-in feel to it, and I can imagine settling down on the sofa with a good book and just feeling safe and warm and cosy here. The outside space is just as inviting, with plenty of seating areas and a large dining table for entertaining.

Desert decor style to steal: mango wood Moroccan-style screens for sectioning off spaces (interior or exterior) and creating privacy // long wooden benches to provide ample seating at the dining table // cosy sheepskins layered on sofa seats and draped over footstools // sheer white throws with tasselled ends used to diffuse daylight through the window // scattered floor baskets to hold anything and everything! // vibrant yellow colour pops to imbue interiors with a sunny disposition.


All imagery © respective vacation homes. 

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