Rhianon Jones's search for a Joshua Tree property began in something of a haze. "I saw this faded photo online of two little round shacks built by a ship maker in the 1950s and fell in love," the L.A.-based filmmaker says. The issue was figuring what — and where — they were. "It took me several tries to find them, though. They were literally off the map."
It was worth the hunt, because what she found was intriguing: A hilltop structure that was kind of, well, half-boat? Ultimately, though, the house needed a total overhaul. "My initial hope had been to salvage the original structures, but, alas, we weren't able to do that," Jones explains. But, she could at least stay true to the house's original inspiration. "I worked with an architect, Fritz Haeg, and we referenced the original 'upside down ships' in the new design. Basically, we had to build a house from scratch, which took a while."
Haeg and Jones took a thoughtful yet humble approach to the renovation. Materials are basic (concrete, metal, plywood) and the design is practical. Says Jones: "Fritz was also careful to make sure the design of the house was positioned in a way to keep it as cool as possible in the summer heat, and having the entrance tucked inside the patio is meant to create a specific experience of entering an intimate space."
For the decor, Jones's agenda was environment-first. She explains, "Almost all of the furniture in the house is eco-friendly or secondhand. Having as little impact on the environment was not only a part of the actual design of the house, but also everything that we put into it. The outdoor table and chairs are made out of recycled plastic, the kitchen chairs are made out of recycled aluminum, and even the couch is made from FSC certified sustainable wood and natural latex."
Jones now uses the place as a creative retreat and she actually shot an entire horror film on the property last year, which, we must say, sounds creepy — but in a way that makes you want to feel more of the house's mystery. Titled Wonder Valley, the movie is about "four young women," who "watch their dreams become nightmares as a weekend getaway in the desert turns deadly."
But, of course, most of the people who stay at Jones's place experience something much more relaxing (it's available as an Airbnb rental), referencing a sense of quiet and solitude that's heightened by the home's inspiring architecture.
Leonora Epstein is Hunker's Senior Director of Content. She has previously served as Executive Editor at HelloGiggles and as BuzzFeed's Deputy Editorial Director. She is the co-author of "X vs. Y: A Culture War, a Love Story" (Abrams, 2014). Feel free to reach out at email@example.com.