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Joshua Tree House Brings Its Slow Living Lifestyle to the Sonoran Desert

Design Trends

“We do this work because we believe that our lives run in cycles — taking the time to reflect and reset is integral to finding the energy and inspiration to create again,” said Sara Combs, who — along with her husband Rich — has created the Joshua Tree House, a desert living lifestyle brand.

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They have turned this philosophy into a mission of sorts: to design experiences that allow guests to pause and allow creativity to flow. Since 2015, they have been renovating historic properties in Joshua Tree, Calif., and transforming them into quiet retreats for the “always on” or for anyone looking to take a breath and reconnect with the natural world.

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It’s easier said than done, even for them. “We’ve found that creating relaxing spaces comes with a lot of very unrelaxing tasks!” It’s especially true for their latest venture, The Posada, a formerly abandoned inn
located just outside the Saguaro National Park in Tucson, Ariz.

“Back in 2014 we went on a road trip that ultimately changed our lives,” Sara said. “That was the first time we had visited Joshua Tree, and our next stop on that same trip was Tucson, Ariz. In 2015, we began renovating and creating spaces in Joshua Tree, with Saguaro National Park in the back of our minds as we worked. We knew it was a place that we would revisit at some point but didn’t know exactly in what capacity until we found a listing for an abandoned inn bordering Saguaro National Park.”

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The nearly 10,000-square-foot property sits on 40 acres of Sonoran Desert landscape surrounded by saguaro and prickly pear cactus, as well as palo verde and ironwood trees. After 10 years of neglect, the inn needed major renovations, but the Combs saw beyond its obvious flaws. “It had incredible bones: reclaimed wood and Saguaro rib ceilings, adobe walls and plaster details,” Sara said. “We were immediately in love!”

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After working on properties that averaged 1,000 square feet, The Posada presented unique challenges. “We tend to be detail-oriented and, at points throughout the process, we felt somewhat out of control designing at
such scale,” Sara said. “At times, our brains began to feel like mush and — knowing that we wanted to do justice to this incredible property — we were naturally nervous at times.” And what about the cost of a renovating a property of this size? “The number one challenge was renovating a space at this scale while
personally funding the project. We’ve had to get creative in budgeting.”

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When the Combs were thinking about a color palette for The Posada, they wanted to stay true to the region and its natural, picturesque landscape. “This property is so quintessentially Southwest, and we felt that — to
do the property justice — we wanted to work with Dunn-Edwards for the strongest Southwest palette out there,” she said. “We took a Dunn-Edwards fan deck marked with the Dunn-Edwards 2020 Trend colors out into the desert and laid it down in the sand next to the surrounding cacti. We loved the idea of creating this
palette that would be very similar to the palette we would end up with if we had built the structure from the sand itself.”

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The team at Dunn-Edwards consulted with the Combs on the color direction. The Combs immediately found inspiration in the 2020 Color and Design Trends story “Co-Habitants," which showcases desert hues and reveals a sophisticated earthiness and muted luminosity in its palette. “We felt particularly connected to the “Co-Habitants” story, which is all about being champions for the Earth; finding a certain luxury in stillness, quiet and the ordinary; and drawing influence from a series of experiences and places we’ve visited throughout our lives.”

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While the renovation of The Posada may be complete, the Combs look forward to building on their mission. “Our dream is to continue creating spaces connected to nature and to eventually have them connected by a
road trip much like the original one we took that shook us to our core.”

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The Posada will be open for guests later this summer. For more information about The Posada and The Joshua Tree House brand, visit The Joshua Tree House and follow them on Instagram at @thejoshuatreehouse.

All images with permission and courtesy of Bethany Nauert Photography