One Night In Joshua Tree’s Multicolored, Cubist Monument House

One Night In Joshua Tree’s Multicolored, Cubist Monument House

The Instagram-famous desert home designed by SoCal starchitect Josh Schweitzer recently became available to book as a vacation rental, and my partner and I jumped at the chance to visit.

Welcome to One Night In, a series about staying in the most unparalleled places available to rest your head.

Half hidden near the entrance to Joshua Tree National Park amid the rocky hills and yucca of the Mojave Desert, the Monument House sits like a welcome visitor from outer space—its three Cubist pavilions in mossy green, sapphire blue, and pinkish-red; all vivid but still nature-bound hues evoking sage, sky, and hardy desert flowers. Completed in 1990, the 950-square-foot home by architect Josh Schweitzer (who briefly worked for Frank Gehry before starting his own firm) has elegantly sliced trapezoidal openings that bring the dramatic landscape into the jagged volumes surrounded by enormous boulders.

Originally designed as a private retreat for the owner’s family and friends, the Monument House figures into a long tradition of experimental architecture in the high desert. As someone who lives in Los Angeles and makes regular trips to Joshua Tree, I’d seen photos of the property and thought of it as one of the many wonderfully weird roadside attractions the area is known for, like the nearby Integratron (built in 1959 by a ufologist who claimed it could provide mystical anti-aging properties to its visitors) or the Noah Purifoy Desert Art Museum, a sprawling outdoor gallery built entirely of found materials. Until this year, however, outsiders could only look from the property’s edges. So when the house recently became available for private bookings via luxury vacation rental company Homestead Modern, I jumped at the chance to finally see inside, traveling there for a quick winter trip with my partner (and this story’s photographer), Tod.

Architect Joshua Schweitzer’s The Monument House figures into a long tradition of experimental and radical architecture in the California high desert, along with the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Institute of Mentalphysics.

Architect Joshua Schweitzer designed the Monument House in Joshua Tree, California, as a private retreat for the owner’s family and friends. It was completed in 1990.

Photo by Tod Seelie

Monday 

6 p.m.: We arrive just after dark, a crescent moon slung low in the sky illuminating the alien-like silhouettes of Joshua trees as we travel down the narrow dirt driveway. We park just above the house and stumble out of the car, transported from the chaos of L.A. into the calm, spare elegance of the high desert at night. Coyotes yip faintly in the distance as we unload our bags.

We enter through the kitchen, a tidy, modern-looking nook painted a warm yellow with much lower ceilings than the rest of the house. Beyond it, there’s a cozy dining area, then the heart of the residence: a striking living room with soaring 20-foot ceilings and tons of asymmetrical windows. A polished wood coffee table that looks like a tree trunk sits between an oatmeal-colored couch and two midcentury-modern reading chairs. The night sky greets us through the windows; we flip on the gas fireplace and make a quick dinner with groceries from home.

9 p.m.: I’m sprawled in one of the reading chairs pursuing something I brought from home: Desert Oracle, my personal Mojave bible (the magazine and radio show is commonly known by its tagline: "The Voice of the Desert"). There’s a thoughtfully placed stack of books on a shelf above me about vacation topics—seashells, spices, French paintings—and a ’60s-style radio that looks like an adorably retro robot. A small sign with a QR code invites us to listen to music from "a previous occupant of the house"—the legendary avant-garde composer and poet Harold Budd, who lived in and took inspiration from the house from 2004 until his death in 2020. There is, by design, no TV in the residence. (There is, however, an inviting stack of board games.)

Throughout the residence, trapezoidal windows and doors frame the dramatic desert landscape.

Trapezoidal windows and doors frame the dramatic desert landscape throughout the residence.

Photo by Tod Seelie

11 p.m.: After a few pleasurable hours of listening to Harold Budd and taking in Desert Oracle tales about ghost stags and desert cults, it’s time for bed. The bedroom is a compact space with a low entryway that opens to a high ceiling. There’s a large trapezoidal glass door and window, both covered with blackout curtains. The king-size bed is obscenely comfortable. We’re instantly asleep.

Tuesday

6 a.m.: It’s almost chilly enough to see our breath as we head out to scramble on the boulders above the house, taking in the dawn and our first proper view of the property. In the daylight, I can see that the green and blue cubes are connected; the former contains the kitchen and living room, while the latter houses the bedroom and bath. The salmon-pink volume is a freestanding gazebo with a long wooden table for outdoor dining.

The property comprises three monolithic volumes: a green structure with the kitchen and living/dining room, a connected blue building with the bedroom and bath, and a freestanding pink gazebo that holds a long wooden table for covered outdoor dining.

The property comprises three monolithic volumes: a green structure with the kitchen, living, and dining room, a connected blue building with the bedroom and bath, and a freestanding pink gazebo with a long wooden table for covered outdoor dining. 

Photo by Tod Seelie

See the full story on Dwell.com: One Night In Joshua Tree’s Multicolored, Cubist Monument House
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