joshua tree retreat center

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New homes away from home envelop visitors with atmosphere and spectacular design.

Jessica Ritz Current Digital, Home & Design, Real Estate

joshua tree retreat center

The Bungalows at Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Joshua Tree.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY YOSHIHIRO MAKINO

The confluence of ecological magic and man-made wonder makes the Coachella Valley a singular destination. Distinct hotels are among the desert cities’ jewels, as are standout home rentals and properties that straddle and blur the lines of hospitality genres. Whether associated with established hotel brands, vacation rental operations, or individual owners, three newly available properties make for an exceptional staycation or getaway experience — complete with plenty of design inspiration to bring back home.
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The Bungalows

@ Joshua Tree Retreat Center, Joshua Tree

Visiting the Joshua Tree Retreat Center on Twentynine Palms Highway means embarking on an architectural and a spiritual pilgrimage. And now The Bungalows, situated within the historic campus, gives design-focused travelers a particularly compelling new reason to visit.

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“The bungalows are a completely different experience. These are very light and open, and very Palm Springs in style.”

“As long-term residents of the Joshua Tree area, we believed there was room for a special destination here that would truly do justice to its natural surroundings and inspire thoughtful care of the area’s history and unique allure,” says David McAdam, founder of Homestead Modern, the High Desert–based premium home rental operation and development group behind the effort.

“I’ve always been fascinated with the entire complex,” says design consultant for the project Brad Dunning about the center, which serves as the headquarters for the Institute of Mentalphysics. Founder Edward John Dingle, known as Ding Le Mei, tapped Lloyd Wright in the early 1940s to design what would evolve into the largest collection of the architect’s work. At The Bungalows, Dunning’s historic restoration expertise helped guide the revitalization of the 14 guest rooms and suites housed within three post-and-beam-style buildings originally designed by Pasadena architect Harold B. Zook in 1960. (Both Wright and Zook were sons of esteemed figures in the profession, too.)

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Brad Dunning, known for his sensitive approach to historic, midcentury buildings, brought new life to the 14 guest rooms and suites.
“The Bungalows are a completely different experience,” Dunning explains. “These are very light and open, and very Palm Springs in style” in contrast to some of Wright’s adjacent experimental structures. Dunning’s masterfully delicate touch honors the historic integrity of the physical spaces while meeting contemporary guests’ needs and expectations. (That said, there are no TVs.)
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Steve Hermann’s latest project elevates desert deluxe to a new level. The Richard Neutra-inspired structures feature bespoke details throughout 24 rooms and suites, with mountain views juxtaposed against the stunning zero-edge pool.
Hermann Bungalows

@ l’horizon hotel, palm springs

Designer and hotelier Steve Hermann continues to expand his footprint in the wake of his reimagining of the Colony Palms Hotel and Bungalows. Loyal fans of L’Horizon Resort and Spa can retreat to the beloved property yet opt to sample an alternative experience offered at the adjoining Hermann Bungalows. These newly built, low-slung guest accommodations are a desert design fever dream come to life, with each room and suite sleekly appointed in all the ways one has come to expect of Hermann’s properties — and then some.

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PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY HERMANN BUGALOWS
“I created my dream property — where would I want to stay, unmatched anywhere in the world.”
Rock walls, floor-to-ceiling glass, and flat roofs echo the classic local architectural language that blends indoor and outdoor living. Inside the 20 junior suites, two studio suites, and two one-bedroom suites, considered custom details such as Venetian marble floors, fluted walnut wall treatments, and Italian closet systems embody luxury design and European craftsmanship balanced with nods to midcentury aesthetic touchstones.
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Guests can relax around the 85-foot-long, zero-edge pool, then step into the maximum privacy of an outdoor rain shower. “Having the luxury to build this property from the ground up, I really got to explore creating my design fantasy with my hotels for the first time,” Hermann says. “I created my dream property — where I would want to stay, unmatched anywhere in the world, with unique design elements I have sourced from all over the world.”
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The new owners, who work in the design industry, have updated the Morse House by blending new and midcentury details without going overboard.
The Morse House

Palm Springs

Even in Palm Springs, a vintage home boasting a sunken living room and a swim-up bar among its serious midcentury bona fides can stand out as an unrivalled opportunity. Such is the case in Vista Las Palmas at the Morse House designed in 1961 by Hal Levitt, the creative force behind many homes in Beverly Hills’s Trousdale Estates neighborhood.

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PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY NATURAL RETREATS
“The way the outside integrates with the architecture is truly special.”
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“I started casually looking in Palm Springs, and I fell in love with the Morse House immediately,” says Chris DeWitt, who with his partner, Oscar Yague, owns the home and makes it available as a choice rental for MCM devotees. “The way the outside integrates with the architecture is truly special.” It’s also essentially impossible to imagine a home better suited for entertaining.

Adding to the couple’s appreciation is the fact that they’re design industry pros, so work and life merge perfectly here. “We wanted to create an environment that wasn’t a kitschy homage to the era the home was built in but enhanced its underlying characteristics,” DeWitt explains. Notable vintage features include breeze block screens, terrazzo surfaces, and a Malm fireplace. Collected vintage pieces are layered with new products from their retail and direct-to-the-trade companies that include Made Goods and Pigeon & Poodle. “So, the feeling is relaxed, refined, playful, and most importantly, beautiful.”

• READ NEXT: Landscape Architects Design to Please the Senses in Greater Palm Springs.