Installation Stories: The Joshua Tree House Kitchen | Fireclay Tile
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Design & Inspiration

Installation Stories: The Joshua Tree House Kitchen

By Kali

Installation Stories: The Joshua Tree House Kitchen

Design + Images: Sara Combs and Rich Combs

The Joshua Tree House is a space that soothes and inspires. A hacienda located on the edge of Joshua Tree National Park, the house was renovated by Sara and Rich Combs. The Combs' Sara used our Mini Star & Cross pattern in Tusk and Antique to give their dreamy Joshua Tree House the modern hacienda treatment. We talked Sara and Rich about what brought them to the desert, their kitchen renovation and more below but if you want more, check out our Pinterest Board and head to their Story for more design tips! 

Can you tell me a bit about yourselves, what you do, along with a bit about The Joshua Tree House? 
We are Sara and Rich Combs, high school sweethearts and creators of the Joshua Tree House. We currently live in the Mojave desert of Joshua Tree, CA designing experiences both physical and digital.

At the end of 2013, we both left of our full-time jobs as web designers to pursue running our own design studio. As freelance designers, we began to test the boundaries of a typical work environment and took our work on the road. Throughout our travels, we explored many incredible places across the United States and Southeast Asia. Upon returning home, we followed a strong magnetic pull that led us to one very special 1949 hacienda in Joshua Tree, CA. 

We shared our renovation progress on social media and grew an engaged following even before putting our house up for rent on Airbnb. We were able to connect with those interested in a slow and deliberate desert lifestyle, with an appreciation for small details that celebrate everyday experiences. The Joshua Tree House now consists of the House, the Casita, and the Hacienda. The Hacienda is where we live, and the other two are available for rent via Airbnb! (The Hacienda will be available for rent as well when we go on vacation).

A bit about Sara and Rich: 
Our style can be described as...
Hand-crafted rustic modern with a side of bohemian.
Our design philosophy is...Design for experiences. A space is much more than how it looks, but how we interact with it.
We got our start...Designing homes as a career path in 2015 when we purchased the Joshua Tree House.
We find inspiration in...The sun, the desert, and natural materials.
We can't live without...Our two cats, and our garden.
Our best design advice would be...Deliberately choose objects and materials within your home that get better with age. A home should only get better with use.
We love tile because...It’s both functional and beautiful.

On to your kitchen...

Can you tell me about your home? Is there a story behind the project you'd like to share?
Our hacienda was originally built in 1958 as a homesteader (essentially a studio with no bathroom). Over the years, it’s been added onto little by little to eventually become a two bedroom, one bath home. Two owners back were a highly talented couple who were landscape designers. We truly fell in love with this home because of the mature cactus garden they created.

I know you just updated your kitchen, but was this apart of a bigger remodel or renovation project?
Yes, we’ve spent the last ten months renovating every room in the house! It’s been a major overhaul, and one of the hardest things we’ve ever done (especially since we were living in the house during renovations). At one point, both our bathroom and our kitchen were out of commission! Needless to say, there were lots of outdoor hose showers and grilled dinners during that time.

Design Tip from Sara and Rich: Always add plants (real ones): 

What did you change about the kitchen?
We started by insulating the walls surrounding the kitchen (pretty important here in the high desert with our extreme temps). Then, we put in all new cabinetry custom made for us by local studio, Fire on the Mesa. We thought through specific functionality for each cabinet to maximize our storage space. Though we have the same amount of square footage as we did previously, it feels like we have so much more space!

We kept some of our favorite existing elements like the rock sides to the kitchen island, but simplified and brightened the space surrounding it. Our finishing touch was adding a counter to ceiling wall of tile behind our kitchen sink. 

What type of aesthetic were you going for?
A sunny and neutral modern hacienda.

How did you come up with your color scheme/design?
Our home's location in the southwest had a huge influence. We wanted this space to be all about natural materials, and since we were highly inspired by the hacienda aesthetic this meant a lot of terra cotta, wood, plaster, and baskets. The colors of those materials became our warm and neutral palette.

In terms of tile, what sort of look were you going for?
We love a bright and sunny kitchen, so we wanted something that would brighten our space while also honoring the hacienda aesthetic. 

Tile Shown: Mini Star and Cross in Tusk 

Tile Shown: Mini Star and Cross in Antique 

What made you go for our Mini Star and Cross? 
The star and cross pattern immediately made us think hacienda!

How about the colors Antique and Tusk? How did you come up with the idea to do a single line of Antique?
We loved the idea of contrasting the more traditional hacienda aesthetic with a modern white glaze, which is how we decided on using Tusk. It had that warm white that we’ve included across the entire house. Since our countertops are also white, we wanted to add in some sort of contrast without darkening the kitchen. The antique glaze reminded us of terra cotta, and so we decided to introduce just one row of it at the bottom of the wall to break up all the white.

Design tip: Keep it Star and Cross subtle in a single color or highlight this classic pattern in two contrasting shades. 

How did the installation process go? Did you face any challenges?
We used 3/16” spacers for our grout lines, which worked really well since the tiles are non rectified. At first, we had chosen Antique white for our grout, and as soon as we started grouting we knew it was all wrong. We thought it would be a nice warm white, but it ended up looking beige and dirty. We quickly wiped it out, and ran back to the store for Snow White grout instead. The Snow White color worked perfectly, and allowed us to keep the wall of pattern from looking too busy.

Lastly, which of our colors/shapes/patterns are you hoping to use on any future projects?
We’ve been eyeing the whole casa de Frida collection. The colors and patterns are gorgeous!

Tile Shown: Our La Casa De Frida sample pack

Inspired by this desert oasis? Order your sample pack online now. Need some help? Simply call, chat or fill out our Design Assistance Form and one of our talented Design Consultants will get back to you shortly. 

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