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This spectacular home is at peace with the California desert

Architecture as art

The Desert House is simply a stunning example of architecture as art. Located in picturesque Joshua Tree — right in Southern California's High Desert — the home is at a comfortable equilibrium with its barren desert environment. The structure is dominated by soaring concrete ribs, but the overall effect is similar to the Native American adobe pueblos that were once scattered across the American southwest. The concrete is understated, despite its impressive form, making it a perfect match for the muted palette of the desert landscape.

But it's the location that makes this a spectacular structure. Owners Bev and Jay Doolittle wooed organic architect Ken Kellogg to the project simply by showing him their striking 10-acre plot of land in Joshua Tree. In the late ’80s, when the couple began the project, they sent Kellogg a letter asking him to visit the site. They also sent some photos of the land. "Boy that was a good hook, that got him out here," Bev Doolittle tells The Desert Sun (via Curbed LA). "He was jumping all over the rocks like a mountain goat. He had been looking for rocks to build on."



The site alone doesn't explain the fantastic results, however. It turns out the owners gave Kellogg the freedom to run wild with the property. "If you like their work, you let them do it," explains Bev. "I didn't want to hire someone and look over their shoulder." That freedom is readily visible in the final product, which — despite its wild form — achieves harmony with both itself and its surroundings. It's clearly the work of an architect's imagination unleashed. As Kellogg explains, "The real work of art is when you put the plans aside and it comes from your gut; that's what you do on a good piece of art."

The main structure was completed in 1993, but interior design work by John Vugrin continued for a number of years afterwards. Vugrin did his best to design an interior to match the building. Tables and shelves sweep across rooms, from the ceiling to the floor and back again. Custom-designed light fixtures incorporate some of the ribbing prevalent in the house's exterior.

When it was all said and done, the Doolittles, who are now 66 and 71 years old, didn't move into the home until the 2000s. After 10 years, the couple decided downsize, and they put the property up for sale earlier this year at a price of $3 million. While the Doolittles have moved on, the sale has produced some spectacular photos of the property for us to gawk at — be sure to take a look below.

Photos used with permission of photographer Lance Gerber.


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