Vision in the Desert: High Design Meets Exceptional Natural Beauty

There is something about the desert that makes you want to spend time relaxing, observing and exploring. The colors and smells of the landscape, and the harsh yet beautiful environment where life surprisingly exists, among rocks and cacti, all contribute to this fascination. The architecture and interior design of these hospitality and residential projects perfectly capture the unique character of deserts across the West and Southwest.

Dancing Light—A Sculptural Gem by Kendle Design Collaborative

In Paradise Valley, Arizona, this 5,600-square-foot house, aptly named Dancing Light, celebrates nature through its striking contemporary architecture. This property, which comprises a dwelling and a guesthouse, perfectly embodies this philosophy. The bold geometry of the eye-catching structure, including the floating roof canopy, mirror the surrounding mountains and pays homage to the desert landscape. 

“The homes we design are in harmony with nature; they celebrate their context and reflect the unique values of the individuals we design for.” This is what architect Brent Kendle—at the helm of Kendle Design Collaborative—calls “regional modernism.”

“Tectonic-like shapes reference both the local geology and monsoon cloud formations,” says Brent Kendle. Layered rammed-earth walls, concrete, metal, and glass create the ideal balance with the organic forms while visually articulating the different areas of the house depending on their functions. 

Designed by David Michael Miller, the cozy interior spaces provide 180-degree views through the large windows. The rooms are organized around a central courtyard-like space, the natural light transforming them throughout the day.

The GBtwo Landscape Architecture team made the most of the exterior areas where the pool is a peaceful haven. Passionate about Frank Lloyd Wright’s work and convinced that designing homes connected to nature brings well-being to inhabitants and enhances daily living, Brent Kendle successfully translated the uniqueness of this place.

Kendle Design Collaborative |

Photographs: Alexander Vertikoff

The Lautner Compound—A Legend Lives Again by Tracy Beckmann & Ryan Trowbridge

Near Palm Springs, the Lautner Compound, consisting of a cluster of four attached homes, pays tribute to the original architect. A 20-minute drive from Palm Springs, in the small city of Desert Hot Springs, this modernist compound was originally designed by mid-century architect John Lautner in 1947 as the prototype for a master-planned community that for unknown reasons was never brought to life yet was commissioned by Hollywood producer and screenwriter Lucien Hubbard.

Completed in the late 1940s, the four living units were the winter retreat of Lucien Hubbard’s actors and friends. When the current owners, business partners Tracy Beckmann (an interior designer) and Ryan Trowbridge (a furniture designer and builder), discovered the structures by accident in 2007, they were in a state of disrepair, requiring a four-year renovation—mostly done by Beckmann and Trowbridge.

The main objective was to honor John Lautner’s original design, characterized by concrete walls, ceilings, and floors; roof and steel supporting beams; redwood paneling; and wood-frame windows, which were all still intact and have been preserved. Inside each of the four 700-square-foot units—surprisingly, with no right angles—adorned with mid-century furniture, the combined living and bedroom area (including the kitchen), opens onto the desert garden and private terrace. Available for short-term vacation rentals, the Lautner Compound transports visitors to another era.

The Lautner Compound |

Photographs: Courtesy of Lautner Compound

Willow House—A Contemplative Retreat by Lauren Werner

In Terlingua, Texas, Willow House was created to stand the test of time. “There are no words that can tell the hidden spirit of the wilderness, that can reveal its mystery, its melancholy, its charm.”

This sentence, by Theodore Roosevelt, immediately resonated with California native Lauren Werner who, as soon as she moved to Texas a few years ago, fell in love with the beauty of Big Bend National Park and realized her dream of having a piece of land only 6 miles from it. Werner is now the owner of Willow House, a boutique hotel of 12 single-story stand-alone casitas and a main house with a gourmet kitchen, all built on 250 acres. 

Designed to highlight Chisos Mountain range views while protected from the strong winds and sun, the property combines community and privacy. Lauren Werner—who is an admirer of Georgia O’Keeffe’s work—chose colors, textures, and materials based on what naturally exists on her land, such as the rocks for walls and pathways, and ocotillo branches for the shade structures.

“We have used high-quality materials that are durable in a climate that can be dramatic,” says Lauren Werner. The art showcased throughout the buildings are works by regional artists, deceased family members, and artists who have attended the Willow House residency program.

The Willow House |

Photographs: Casey Dunn and Claire Schaper

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