Meet the SF Designers Behind The Joshua Tree House, the Desert Getaway of Our Dreams
(Photo by Renata Amazonas)

Meet the SF Designers Behind The Joshua Tree House, the Desert Getaway of Our Dreams


Nestled in the stark desert landscape, amid jagged rock formations and sculptural cacti, are the highly sought after Airbnb havens known as the Joshua Tree House, a 1949 hacienda, and the Joshua Tree Casita, a two-bedroom home built in 1958. Both near the west entrance of Joshua Tree National Park, these homes offer artistic decor, vast desert views, and hot tub stargazing. The owners, San Francisco-based husband-and-wife designers Sara and Rich Combs, who moved to San Francisco in 2008 without ever having set foot in California, have transformed these spaces into stylish getaways.

The Joshua Tree House came to be after a one-night stay on a cross-country road trip in 2014. Sara and Rich fell in love with the area and decided they wanted to have a place to retreat, so they bought their first home there the following year. After putting it up on Airbnb and creating an Instagram account, it became wildly successful with a growing list of influencers who have stayed overnight, including New Darlings and Rocky Barnes. In 2016, they decided to buy their second home, the Joshua Tree Casita, which can also be rented on Airbnb.

"Everything we've curated for the House and the Casita is meant to encourage being present, from grinding and pouring your own slow-drip coffee to listening to an entire record on vinyl," says Sara. "Our goal is to have our guests appreciate the process rather than instant satisfaction. It's a place to reflect, reset, and create."

What was it about Joshua Tree that made you want to buy not just one, but two homes?

SC: We fell in love with the endless possibilities that the desert holds. As a small town nestled up against a surreal national park, it's a place that inspires us. Our ideas and dreams feel very possible here with its open space and affordable real estate. We've also found a very creative and welcoming community in Joshua Tree. Everyone here is working on their dream projects and pushing each other forward. That honest energy and passion gives us the creative energy to experiment and do our best work.

Why do you think people are so drawn to the Joshua Tree House and Casita?

SC: Honestly, we didn't have any expectations for the Joshua Tree House. We just wanted to make a creative space that we could retreat to from San Francisco. When we put it up on Airbnb for the first time, our only goal was to try to make the mortgage back.

How did you come up with the décor for the Joshua Tree House and Casita?

SC: We got very up close and personal with each space. Once we had a relationship with the house, we let it dictate its own aesthetic. Designing the rooms came down to factors like its location in the house, the room's relationship to the sun, the room's existing bones, et cetera. We love keeping as much of a space's existing character as possible, but we also love to bring older spaces into the present day with a few modern touches.

Most importantly, we put function over form, though we do believe you can almost always have both. We love making our spaces extra relaxing with hammocks, hanging chairs, day beds, lots of pillows. These elements automatically add a relaxed, bohemian touch.

What elements are most important when designing a space?

SC: It all comes down to the experience. We think about what experience we want someone to have when walking through a space we've designed, or scrolling through one of our websites. We get excited about awakening all of the senses, even through design on the web.

What's it like working with your significant other?

SC: It's our favorite way of working, which is why we have chosen to do so time and time again. We love that we can be completely honest and push each other forward. Even though we're both designers, we each have different perspectives and approaches. This allows us to constantly learn from each other.

We don't feel the need to separate our personal lives and work, because we love what we're working on and we're excited to be able to share that with each other.

Favorite places in Joshua Tree?

SC: Noah Purifoy's outdoor museum is definitely high up on our list, but so are many hikes in the national park. We've recently started to hike North View Trail which was recommended to us by a friend. BKB has our favorite local ceramics. We also love heading to La Copine for brunch and Pappy & Harriet's for dinner.Best places to shop for home décor in SF?

RC: Our favorite spot for home decor in San Francisco would have to be STUFF on Valencia. We love vintage, and that place is full of amazing finds. We're also always going to flea markets.

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