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For a Getaway That's Off the Grid, This Desert Abode is It

Photos by Art Gray

When you book a stay at Off-grid itHouse, an act of surrender is required. And not just the one that involves forking over the nightly rate of $350. We’re talking waving the white flag to the conveniences of modern-day civilization and then retreating to a desolate desert abode in Pioneertown, about 45 minutes north of Palm Springs and an easy route to Joshua Tree National Park. By relinquishing your attachment to a cell-phone signal, a 4G data network, and a television, you’re supplied with the sine qua nons of a sublime getaway: profound stillness and beauty.

“If you can get over the 24-hour hump, you’ll actually stop jonesing for email and Facebook,” says architect Linda Taalman, who designed the itHouse with Alan Koch in 2006 as a prototype for an aluminum, glass, and concrete prefab home that could be assembled by two people using simple hand tools. The distinct lack of heavy machinery required is testament to the itHouse’s minimal impact on the land. “It’s like a spaceship that delicately landed on the planet,” says Taalman.

Since it was first listed in April 2010 on Airbnb—the SoMa-based matchmaking site for travelers seeking non-
hotel accommodations—dozens from as far away as Austria have signed up for this high-style form of solitary confinement. Solar panels supply 100 percent of the electricity for the 1,200-square-foot self-contained habitat (take heed, a cloudy daytime forecast could translate into candlelit nights). And a water tank stores just enough to accommodate a few weeks’ worth of visitors.

Arguably, the home’s chic tableau—curated with modern seating by Moooi and Kenneth Cobonpue, a sculptural floating fire orb by Doug Garofalo, and top-of-the-line Miele, Bulthaup, and Gaggenau kitchen appliances—is like a soothing balm for the initial sting of such a simple, energy-efficient existence. Taking in the otherworldly desert terrain from the home’s bare, full-height windows may induce relaxation. Full-moon nights are especially captivating. “That’s when the landscape glows gloriously blue,” says Taalman. “Sleep may not be an option.”

This article was published in 7x7's May issue. Click here to subscribe.