Joshua Tree, California

Desert Retreat

A stripped back, solar-powered sanctuary

Our urban-dwelling clients dreamt of a tranquil retreat away from the city, where they could create art in peace. We built them a unique creative escape northeast of Palm Springs, hidden deep within the vast expanses of the California desert.

During our many collaborative discussions, it became clear that the stark beauty of the desert terrain should be a prime consideration for the build. As a result, concrete, steel, and glass are constructed to frame the endless mountain views. These materials also screen inhabitants from the harsh desert elements of sun, sand, and wind. What’s more, the retreat is completely off-grid, powered by a photovoltaic array and back-up battery packs that harvest and store potent solar energy. Meanwhile, the thermal array heats domestic water and maintains a constant temperature for the extended lap pool. Within the retreat, the owners’ passions are realized in a music studio at one end, and a writer’s studio at the other. Both spaces are used to express creativity, duly inspired by the serenity of the desert surroundings.

Together with the client, a design concept was formed that reflects the striking minimalist landscape of nearby Joshua Tree National Park. Accordingly, the retreat follows a simple layout shaped by modest forms and clean materials.

Individual volumes – dedicated to each room of the home – are connected by airy, open halls and walkways. Meanwhile, sparse interiors provide moments of calm and comfort, whilst paintings, drawings, and sculptures by local artists heighten the experience of an artist’s retreat. The result is a special architectural ambience that alternates between quietness and confidence.

Video Image


Artfully blending the concept of a home, a studio, a retreat, and a gallery into one harmonious space, the building also finds success in exhibiting the wild beauty of its own natural setting. Time passes slowly here, following the arc of the sun as it warms the building’s interiors and terraces. Long shadows linger at day’s end.

It’s a beautiful machine for living.

- Owner

Desert Retreat Office Space


Continuing the artistic theme of the design, artwork was carefully chosen with the scenery in mind. Surrounding the home is a stark landscape of desert shrubs and Joshua trees, emphasized by striking creative pieces, such as a sculpture of automobile fenders, or a collection of large ocean buoys marooned forever in the arid earth.


Full service architecture and interior design




B.A.B. ContractingGeneral Contractor

Ty ColePhotography

Cate ReaganPhotography Stylist

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