Villas of Distinction
A rare example of mid-century modern architecture deep in the California desert, the 2,221 square-foot ranch sits on 12 acres of untouched desert near both entrances of Joshua Tree National Park, offering a feeling of total seclusion less than an hour from Palm Springs with 360-degree mountain and desert views.
Built in 1952, the home features an indoor/outdoor layout that provides an ideal setting for weddings, private events and creative retreats, with multiple seating areas for catering, receptions or small-groups. When Howser, an icon of California history and culture, bought the home in the 1990's, he sought to create a communal, creative environment that has endured through every element.
An avid collector of found materials and re-purposed objects, Howser turned quarry stones into yard sculptures and industrial elements into lighting fixtures. Five large millstones, each more than 100 years old, surround the full-length backyard pool, giving the home its name. In the early 2000s, Howser added a sunroom extension, created by panels of etched glass, and a separate living room and dining area in the same industrial style, making the home further suited to large gatherings.
Now owned by an artist, The Wheelhouse has preserved the industrial qualities that Howser introduced, while incorporating personally created pieces that mirror his style. The light-filled living room, features three owner-created pieces, including a triptych on plywood, a unique wood-based tripod lamp, and a sunset-hued tree light.
The gourmet kitchen features a four-seat breakfast nook, stainless steel appliances, the original 50’s stove and plenty of counter space, with a door leading directly outside for easy al fresco dinners. A mid-century dining area features a marble top table with six Eames shell chairs and sliding glass doors that open onto the zero-scaped patio.
Outside are the elements that truly set the home apart. Howser’s industrial accents remain decades after installation, creating the feeling of a modern sculpture garden. An architect designed paneled steel fence surrounds the perimeter, each piece thoughtfully laid in the ground at the same angle as the mountains beyond. The back patio opens to a full-length swimming pool with baja tanning shelf and outdoor spa surrounded by chaise lounge chairs. Please note the pool is not heated; however, the spa is heated. A vintage two-seat swing, nestled just off the living area, offers the perfect place to take in the views. Also outside is a 12-seat al fresco dining area, which converts into a ping-pong table. A gas BBQ grill and indoor/outdoor stereo system complete the ultimate desert entertaining experience.
Honoring the communal spirit encouraged by Howser, The Wheelhouse has become a place for celebrations, gatherings, and creative retreats. Artists have used the home to write, draw, meditate or practice yoga. Photographers have used the space for creative shoots. And couples have made the retreat their own, taking their vows against the rocky cliffs and desert brush that surround the home. Between indoor and outdoor spaces, The Wheelhouse can comfortably host up to 120 guests for a cocktail reception and 75 for a seated dinner.