Globetrotter Natalie Saunders has styled this Airbnb with warm tones and eclectic décor.
A Tranquil Desert Home That Blends in with the Joshua Tree Landscape
Globetrotter Natalie Saunders has styled this Airbnb with warm tones and eclectic décor.
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans, and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we tour Natalie Saunder's eclectic desert home in Joshua Tree Home, 'Desert Wild'.
Joshua Tree's breathtaking scenery and proximity to Los Angles have made it one of the most sought-after destinations for travellers looking to relax, seek spiritual connection, and find creative inspiration. For creative and globetrotter Natalie Saunders, it was here that she chose to build her dream escape.
The Australian-born travel lover's creative outlet started with photography which she used as a tool to document the places and people she met on her adventures. She later worked as a paralegal/legal secretary for several years to save money for travelling. "It was not the work I enjoyed but travel became my passion, and my job supported it," she shares with Bed Threads Journal. She studied interior design before moving to Joshua Tree with her partner Louis and used her passion and skills to create an ultra-stylish Airbnb.
The pair built their 'Desert Wild' home from the ground up. "I had already designed this home in my head before we had bought the land or even moved to Joshua Tree full-time," she says.
Immersed in the Joshua Tree desert, this stylish retreat establishes itself as the ideal refuge to relax and unwind. The home's design and styling mixes the local vernacular and aesthetic with Moroccan and Mediterranean accents. The interiors, complete with an assemblage of new and antique pieces, are cosy and inviting.
A warm and pared-back colour palette that echoes the surrounding landscape carries throughout the home from the Morrocan-style patterned rug in the living room to the Oatmeal linen in the second bedroom.
In the living room, the flooring, built-in seating, and fireplace have been swathed in hardwearing plaster which brings a subtle, textural finish to the space. Timber details bring tactility to the home and are found throughout including in the kitchen joinery, exposed ceiling beams, and dining table.
The cosy primary bedroom is clad in Turmeric and Terracotta linen and opens onto a stylish ensuite bathroom fitted with a luxurious bath.
Outside is equally as enticing. The patio features a unique saguaro ribbed ceiling and built-in plaster seating and a swing chair to relax and admire the surrounding rugged wilderness. The outdoor space is complete with a swimming pool for cooling down and a hot tub that's perfect to jump into for an evening of stargazing.
"People coming back time and time again is the best compliment I could have. It means all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears were worth it," she says.
We spoke to Natalie about the Desert Wild design process, how the act of “making” relates to her personality, and her upcoming projects.
Hi Natalie, This series is called “The Makers”. What is it you like to “make”?
My calling right now is to make unique spaces to welcome our guests and give them a tranquil experience away from home.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
I have always dreamt up crazy ideas since I was a child. My creative outlet started with photography when I was 18. I travelled the world documenting the beautiful places and people and animals I would meet. Along the way, my love for architecture and design grew and I knew one day I wanted to explore it further but didn’t really know where it would take me. I am very much a dreamer so creating is an outlet I need in life to feel fulfilled.
Tell us about your career to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I really did not! I grew up in Ulladulla, Australia and left school to work and study photography full-time. I quickly became impatient, and I wanted to be financially independent. To my parent's dismay, I took on a full-time job as a paralegal/legal secretary for a criminal defence solicitor in Sydney to save up my pennies for my dream of travelling the world. I worked in law for many years, and this supported all my travels abroad. What started off as “only” a year-round-the-world ticket ended with me living overseas for about 8 years.
It was not the work I enjoyed but travel became my passion, and my job supported it. While living in London I fell in love with volunteering at rescues and opened my own pet sitting and dog walking company and I would photograph my clients’ animals on the side. I also went back to school for photography.
About 6 years ago I bit the bullet and enrolled in an interior design course having no idea whether I would enjoy it or even be good at it. (I guess my passion was either zoology or interior design!) I chose design and by the end of the course I realised I had made the right choice…. For now. From there my husband and I took a huge risk and moved to the Desert of Joshua Tree California, bought a piece of land we fell in love with and started creating my dream retreat.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
Openness to trying new things and jumping in headfirst. For this business, I connected and shared our building journey on Instagram from the get-go. People seemed to love following along and watching our scary journey. I feel it got our name out there and helps us reach the perfect visitors for our home.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
Self-doubt for sure. Trying not to listen to the naysayers or people telling you to change your design choices. It still gets to me, and I still have trouble with it but I truly believe if you follow your gut and put in the hard work things usually always work out. As a woman designing with all men, I need to have a thick skin.
What has been the best thing that has happened to you since you started your career?
Having guests appreciate all the details we poured into our home. The amazing feedback regarding the design and tranquillity people feel when they visit our home. People coming back time and time again is the best compliment I could have. It means all the hard work, blood, sweat, and tears were worth it.
Do you have a single piece of advice you would give your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
I really have no regrets or any advice for my younger self. I travelled, tried different career paths, and had no fears or anxieties back then. If anything, I think it’s advice for later in life if you are looking at a career change. This is when things seem more terrifying. My advice is it is never too late to change things up if you are not enjoying yourself and are stagnant. Take the leap and find your passion. Do what makes you happy and follow your gut.
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
We completed the build over 4 years ago now, but we have only lived in the home full time and that was for 5 months during COVID lockdown. We rent Desert Wild as a retreat for guests and have so since completion. We do block off days so we can enjoy it for ourselves and we are there every few days doing maintenance as we manage the whole property. We hope to be able to have it to ourselves in the future.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
We were originally looking for a cheap renovation to makeover but at the time (about 6 years ago) we didn’t find a home that felt right. Our realtor showed us a piece of land that we immediately fell in love with because of the Joshua Trees, lush natural landscape, mountain view to the back and sweeping sunset views in front. We knew right away this is where we would create our dream escape.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
Oh yes! We built the home from the ground up and were onsite and helping our contractor almost daily. I had already designed this home in my head before we had bought the land or even moved to Joshua Tree full-time.
- £328.00 GBP - £364.00 GBP
- Sale price
- £0.00 GBP
What was the thought process behind the way you styled the interior?
Seeing the diversity of design in my travels inspired me to incorporate those things into my home. I started photographing details of places I visited many years ago that gave me so much inspiration. I wanted a very free-flowing, tactile, tranquil environment that also seamlessly blended with the beauty of the desert landscape. We achieved this with a warm and pared-back colour palette, smooth plaster floors, custom built-ins, and my eclectic style to make it unique from any other home.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
Our Georgia O’Keefe inspired Adobe fireplace. Coming from Australia I had never seen one in real life. After travelling to New Mexico and touring her ranch I decided it would be the perfect focal point for our home. We custom-designed it and built bench seating on each side. I also love all the other custom-built ins we added including arched doorways and the bath entrance, a plastered in bed and plaster seating. I feel they make the home unique and uncluttered and add to the flow.
Do you have a décor piece you are looking to add?
We always keep our eye out for special pieces. We recently updated our outdoor daybed too and added two beautiful new wicker sun lounges. I love nothing more than laying out there under our cabana after a dip in the pool. We are on the lookout for a new outdoor dining table, but we will wait until we find the perfect piece. The one we built out of scrap wood will do for now.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
This answer changes each year for me. I love the front outdoor shaded patio with our built-in plaster seating and swing chair this summer. We have a unique saguaro ribbed ceiling, which shades you from the desert sun and feels like a piece of art. You really can’t beat a desert sundowner while watching the jackrabbits, chipmunks, and quails going about their day in that special spot.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
For me, it’s an uncluttered space, a calming colour palette, and luxurious bedding. Crawling into a plush, beautiful bed with gorgeous linens for a deep sleep after a big day of hiking in the desert is bliss. We have been using Bed Thread linens for both our bedrooms since we opened Desert Wild doors many years ago and our guests always comment on them and ask where they are from.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
I am an Aquarius with a busy mind so I have about 50 ideas brewing at a time but for right now I am starting a new business named Desert Wild Décor where I will sell curated and unique items sourced on my travels or antique items I upcycle. I am already an avid collector, which has been another dream of mine. We are also designing another home to open up to others in the near future so stay tuned…