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A Desert House with Dreamy Views

This article was written by Victoria Hittner and was featured in our December issue of Home By Design magazine. Photography by Rocio Arrieta and June Choi. To visit the original Home By Design article and view more photos, click here.


Nestled among a cascade of boulders and yucca, just minutes from Joshua Tree National Park, this guest house is as striking as its unimpeded views of the Mojave Desert. Dubbed the Bolder House, its multitiered design and thoughtful amenities make it a destination all its own. When designers Wolfgang and Connie Pichler were hired to oversee its renovation into a three-bedroom rental, paying homage to the natural landscape was nonnegotiable.

From the pergola and fire pit to the pool and splash area, custom touches make resort-level amenities look right at home in the desert. “We played with what we’ve got and we built within the existing landscape,” says Wolfgang Pichler. The designers carried the earthy hues of the landscape inside where guests can gather or retreat for respite.

“[In the high desert], we have basically boulders, Joshua trees, and more of a bare, blunt landscape,” explains Connie. “And down there [in the valley], it’s more maintained and more country-club style. We work in both areas but it’s just a very different style.”

With a background in architecture and outdoor furniture and landscape design, the duo behind Wolfgang Pichler Design were committed to melding vacation home functionality with natural preservation.

“We leave everything as it is and then play with things that we have on site,” says Wolfgang. “And we are trying to save every single plant—especially here in the desert, where it has been a long time for every little tree or plant or bush to grow to that size. And we appreciate that and honor that with our design.”

Perhaps most notably, the designers worked with the natural elevation of the land to create the multitiered outdoor living areas perfect for any mood or time of the day. Even the soil displaced by the thirty-by-ten-foot pool and splash area—an undeniable favorite among guests—was retained and repurposed on the property.

Determining the path of the sun and gauging light and temperature is one of the first steps the designers take on any project. The couple intentionally created distinct areas for guests to move with the sun at their leisure, seeking shade and respite in the courtyard or soaking up the view under the pergola and custom fire pit. The home’s interior boasts both quiet spaces to retreat or work and ample space for large group dining and entertainment. Working primarily on investment properties, the husband-and-wife team are well versed in manipulating space to meet the needs of many.

“When you have a primary residence, you have a very clear picture of what the owner wants,” notes Wolfgang. “Our owners want to maximize a rental space . . . so you have to cover all your bases.”

Whenever possible, the Pichlers utilized colors and materials that complemented the home’s surroundings. With strong winds and sandy soil, the desert is too harsh an environment for high-tech gadgets and architectural elements. Time-tested materials like concrete, tiles, and plasters ensure a high level of craftmanship and harmony with the landscape. Natural wood and rattan accents inside continue to blur the lines between outside and in.

“You don’t see a difference between indoor and outdoor because we’re using the same materials,” says Connie. “If you’re trying to bring in certain [outside] materials, you don’t want to make it a disservice to the beauty of the landscape around you.”

The home’s cool, unobtrusive palette was pulled directly from the landscape—in some cases, literally. “At one point in the project,” notes Connie, “we took the sand from outside and mixed that in the paint to create a wall finish that has the same texture and color as the sand outside.”

Adding landscaping when appropriate, the designers were careful to curate intentional pathways and safe areas to explore. Enjoying the harsh beauty of the desert, they noted, should always come with a healthy dose of respect for its wildness. “We give them designated areas to be part of the desert while being safe in the desert,” explains Wolfgang.

Whether stargazing beside the pool or eating alfresco beside one of the fire pits, guests are treated to thoughtful design elements that subtly enhance their high-desert experience. The result? A veritable manmade oasis so in tune with the landscape, it looks like it belongs.

Interested in enjoying a piece of desert paradise yourself? Book a stay at the Bolder House with The Cohost Company. Just click “For Guests” in the navigation bar and choose your dates for pricing and availability – www.thecohostcompany.com