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Sand and Stone II

In the September issue we feature three innovative homes in the Joshua Tree area. Here are three more

Rimrock House

The Rimrock House, located off a dirt road in Pioneertown, is a low-lying corrugated-steel living space sheltered by a large pitched steel shed. The project, says San Diego architect Lloyd Russell, was inspired partly by a modernist home in Zurich by Le Corbusier, partly by industrial shed buildings, and partly by nearby agricultural shade structures. Rimrock’s owner, Jim Austin, an old surfing buddy of Russell’s and one of the founders of surfwear company Redsand, likes to describe his home as “Cowboy Modern.” He rents four adjacent cabins and one Airstream trailer on the site, which he calls Rimrock Ranch cabins. While the house can let in the desert through sliders, its giant exostructure protects Austin from the heat and creates unique outdoor rooms. Austin has turned on the air-conditioning only three times, he says, “because the shade structure does all the work.”

Boulder House 

Although Benedict Canyon architect Garett Carlson’s Boulder House, just outside Joshua Tree, seems to emerge from a large granite outcropping, that’s merely a desert mirage. The boulders fronting the home’s entrance have been manufactured from steel mesh and hand-colored concrete. Desert plants sprout from 250,000 pounds of soil packed onto the roof, while the property is surrounded by more than 1,000 shrubs and 450 trees. The corrugated-tin exterior is treated with acid to give it a rusted look evocative of the soil. “I wanted it to feel like it was always there,” says Carlson, who was trained first as a landscape architect. A small watering hole attracts quail, rabbits, coyotes, and roadrunners and other birds. Carlson chalks up all this experimentation to the “interesting creative energy” of Joshua Tree. Doing something like this in Benedict Canyon, he says, would have been “a royal pain in the ass.”   

Tim Palen Studio at Shadow Mountain

This house, located north of Joshua Tree, is composed of six repurposed cargo containers (purchased from the Port of Long Beach) that were shipped to the site and stacked in a matter of minutes. Other industrial-grade elements include a corrugated-metal shed, steel framing, and a perforated metal shade canopy. “Most prefab modular systems take one idea and mass-produce it ad nauseam,” says L.A. architect Walter Scott Perry, who designed the Studio. “We didn’t want to take one simplistic idea and ram it down everybody’s throat.” With shading, a misting system, a combination of evaporative cooling and traditional air-conditioning, and hundreds of pounds of insulated metal, the house doesn’t get too hot for its owner, an executive at Lionsgate films. The containers themselves, refitted with huge windows and skylights, are less claustrophobic than one might imagine. “When you maximize the spaces and put in a lot of daylight,” says Perry, “it’s amazing to discover how open these containers can be.”

ALSO: See more photos of these desert homes
Read Sand and Stone from the September issue 

Photographs, from top to bottom: David Harrison, Andrew Breeze, Jack Parsons Photography