The Singular Beauty of the High Desert Drew These Friends to This Property

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Who: Roadrunner Collective
Where: Pioneertown, California
Style: Desert Modern


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Located 2 miles off a rural highway on an unpaved dirt lane in the shadow of the Black Lava Butte National Monument, there are 47 unspoiled acres of high desert that a trio who call themselves the Roadrunner Collective call home — when they can. (When they can't, they have the space available on Airbnb.)

"It was the singular beauty of the high desert that drew us here," says Bryan Crawford — one-third of the collective. Crawford along with Kirstin Johnson-Birkmeyer and Jeffrey Birkmeyer, who run the design/build firm, The Bird & The Bear, share a passion for woodworking, handmade furniture, and design. And they've taken their taste and talents two-and-a-half hours east of Los Angeles.

"The desert has always had a special draw," says Crawford. "It's calming to experience the expansiveness. The first time we drove up the long dirt road up into the rocks, we knew that this was a special property."

From the exterior, the home, a straw-bale construction, appears deceptively simple. It's off-grid, powered by the sun, and built on green design principles. The many windows and doors allow desert winds to flow freely throughout the house, says Crawford. But the inside is what makes this property so special. "We wanted the interior to feel articulated and thoughtful but also light and playful," he says.

Using painter Georgia O'Keefe's famed Ghost Ranch in northern New Mexico as inspiration, Crawford and the Birkmeyers reimagined and renovated nearly every inch of the house — and they did so with help from a menagerie of talented friends and family. Johnson-Birkmeyer's father, Jim Johnson, helped design and build the cabinetry and much of the furniture — and much of the art is also by a family friend. "I've had the great fortune of being surrounded by many master craftsmen and iconic artists throughout my existence," says Johnson-Birkmeyer.


"It's cliché, but it takes a village — even in the middle of the desert," says Crawford.

"Every surface of the interior has been touched," says Crawford — and it shows.

The trio renovated the kitchen with pop-ups and tastings in mind. Per Crawford, they completely reimagined the space and how it functions "allowing for a long bar that people can relax around." The open chef's kitchen features a Bertazzoni range, wine fridge, and farm sink, as well as bar seating.

The fully-stocked kitchen includes settings for 16 — again, with entertaining in mind.

The cacti, agave, and other plants throughout the home were sourced from friends in Los Angeles, as well as the surrounding desert. The large graphite art pieces are by Rush White, a professor at the Otis School of Design in Los Angeles, and a family friend of Johnson-Birkmeyer.


"We spent a lot of time thinking about the sleeping experience, since the rest we get out here is so restorative," says Crawford. There is a master bedroom with a king-size bed, plus a queen bed and sofa in the living area. The sheets are from Coyuchi and Matteo, and the weighted blankets are from Sheltered Co. The bed is by Los Angeles-based designer/builder Taidgh O'Neill.

They opened up the bathroom to the take advantage of the high ceiling and added a skylight. The result is bright, airy, and elegant. The shower itself features custom brass fixtures and travertine tiles.

a long terra cotta-tiled, shaded porch with a hammock runs the length of the house

Wrap-around porches with hammocks offer plenty of spaces to relax, nap, or stargaze.

It's a restorative place — remote and yet so well-appointed one feels at home. "We are all out here as often as practical," says Crawford.


Laura Lambert is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor who covers lifestyle, design, and women's health.