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Project Spotlight: The Joshua Tree House Cabin

By Kali

Project Spotlight: The Joshua Tree House Cabin

When Rich and Sara Combs started remodeling their 400-square-foot homestead cabin in Joshua Tree, it had a lot of potential but was missing one crucial component–a bathroom. With the help of custom Handpainted Jardin Fretwork (available in our Quick Ship Shop!) and Hexagon Tile, they remedied that issue and transformed the cabin into a peaceful retreat.

We caught up with Rich and Sara to chat about the process and inspiration behind this remodel, what drew them to their tile choices, and why working on such a small scale was surprisingly delightful.

Meet Sara Combs and Rich Combs (and their daughter Flora too):

Sara, Rich and their daughter Flora Combs at their property in Joshua Tree.

First, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and how you two started The Joshua Tree House?
Over the past seven years, as we’ve created our brand, The Joshua Tree House (JTH), we’ve fallen in love with creating spaces for people to reflect, reset, and create in. It began with individual homes in Joshua Tree, California, and has now grown to also include a five-suite inn called Posada in Tucson, Arizona. Our goal is to provide well-designed spaces for people to stay in that are immersed in nature and nearby national parks.

Handpainted tile transformed The Joshua Tree House's bathroom into a modern desert oasis. Jardin Fretwork Tile in a custom colorway of Tumbleweed and Red Rock creates an opulent pattern across the floor and baseboards that grounds this light and airy space in a one-of-a-kind way.

Tile Shown: Jardin Fretwork in Red Rock and Tumbleweed

Let’s talk about this cabin! Which of your properties is this on?
The cabin is on its own 2.5-acre parcel of land in Joshua Tree, CA surrounded by open desert views and trails through boulder formations. It’s such a fun location, located rurally yet only 15 minutes from downtown Joshua Tree.

The Joshua Tree House took this homestead cabin from dreary to dreamy with the help of handmade hexagons.

Tile Shown: 8" Hexagons in Tumbleweed

How much work did the cabin need? Was it a remodel or renovation?
This was a remodel! We took the cabin down to the studs in order to get it properly insulated and added a bathroom (the original 1958 homestead only had an outhouse). We kept the original footprint and features like the original stone fireplace as a focal point of the cabin, but it got a serious makeover both functionally and aesthetically.

The Joshua Tree House took this homestead cabin from dreary to dreamy with the help of handmade hexagons.

Even though the cabin is only 400 sq. ft, the kitchen storage is even better than our personal home!

Even though the cabin is only 400 sq. ft, the kitchen storage is even better than our personal home!

Can you tell me about your design process? What is your favorite part?
For this particular project, we had so much fun working on such a small scale. It made us really hone in on every inch and think creatively in terms of storage and multi-functional spaces. For example, we chose to make the bed and couch built-in so that they could have storage hidden within (the bed drawer pulls out to create a dresser drawer, and the couch opens up to create a hidden closet). We also added lots of niches for built-in shelving with wood we found scattered out on the property—I think these details and nods to the past help in making the cabin not just feel like a brand new remodel.

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Tile Shown: 8" Hexagons in Tumbleweed

Where did you draw inspiration for this space?
Nature is our main source of inspiration. Throughout the design process, we thought a lot about how connected original residents of homestead cabins like this must have been to the land. We laid tile samples out in the sand, covered the walls in plaster, chose a stone backsplash that mimics the surrounding mountains, and hung a painting of the moon in the same direction that the full moon rises. We also freshened up the original stone fireplace made with rock from the surrounding landscape by overgrowing it.

What were the goals for this space? What sort of look were you going for?
We wanted the cabin to feel rustic and connected to nature, but with all of the modern amenities (like a shower!) haha. We turned to a lot of friends in the area for some local touches, like the wall hanging and Moroccan rugs and pillows from our friend Taib over at Soukie Modern in Palm Springs. Our goal was to create a relaxing space connected to and inspired by nature and the local community.

Handpainted tile transformed The Joshua Tree House's bathroom into a modern desert oasis

Tile Shown: Jardin Fretwork in Red Rock and Tumbleweed

What made you choose the Tumbleweed hexagon for the floor of the cabin?
We were SO excited when Fireclay came out with the desert collection. As soon as we got samples in our hands we immediately brought them outside to see which colors we could find in our surroundings. We found Tumbleweed in the highlights of the sand and knew it would make great flooring for the space (especially when imagining sand getting tracked in, and subtly blending in rather than standing out).

The Joshua Tree House took this homestead cabin from dreary to dreamy with the help of handmade hexagons. Across the floor, 8” Ceramic Hexagon Tile in Tumbleweed subtly echoes the look of the original stone fireplace while providing a cool base to walk on in the desert heat.

Tile Shown: 8" Hexagons in Tumbleweed

How about the Jardin Fretwork for the bathroom?
Here we also pulled in the color ‘Red Rock’—a nod to the color the surrounding boulders light up to at sunset. The bathroom has a picture window looking out to the mountains themselves, so it felt really appropriate here. We also just thought it would be fun to pull a pattern into this space and let the floor steal the show since we chose to use a waterproof plaster (Tadelakt) for the shower walls which is much simpler than a tiled shower wall.

Handpainted tile transformed The Joshua Tree House's bathroom into a modern desert oasis

You’ve worked with us on several projects with us, what do you love most about our tile?
Yes! We love your connection to the earth and your choice to recycle material to create the tile. It’s also just such high quality with so many options for customization (we’ve spent many many hours playing around with custom colorways on the handpainted tiles in particular). It makes each project so much more special and thoughtful.

If you had to choose, do have a favorite tile moment in your spaces?
Oh gosh, can we choose a few? It would have to be the cabin’s bathroom floor, our tiled staircase, and the dining room floor at our inn in Tucson.

Handpainted Jardin Fretwork tiles in Red Rock and Tumbleweed.

The staircase at The Posada Inn:

Every step is a work of art as you enter this dreamy desert hotel, featuring custom handpainted tile stair risers.

Tile Shown: Custom Avila and Vigo

The Dining Room floor at The Posada Inn:

Applied with a warm custom colorway, this dining room's handpainted floor tile grounds every gathering with its down-to-earth half moons.

Tile Shown: Custom Fallow

Lastly, what’s next for The Joshua Tree House? Are any new projects on the horizon?
We have completely fallen in love with creating inns near national parks for our guests to enjoy some time out in nature. We all need time to slow down and get some peace and quiet to be our best selves. We’ve been enjoying some downtime with our new daughter, Flora the past few months but at some point, you can expect some more hospitality projects from us!

Handpainted tile transformed The Joshua Tree House's bathroom into a modern desert oasis.

Tile Shown: Jardin Fretwork in Red Rock and Tumbleweed

Want to emulate Joshua Tree House’s modern desert look? Shop the showstopping custom Jardin Fretwork from their bathroom floor in our Quick Ship Shop for a limited time, or bring home up to 5 free color samples to find your own peaceful desert palette.

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