Views of the desert

Views of the desert

Carlos Naude and Whitney Brown form the creative couple that founded Working Holiday Studio, which custom designed “Casa Mami”, their (ecological) design shelter in the middle of the desert, in Pioneertown, California.

Both Carlos and Whitney are people who appreciate design, architecture, and traveling. They lived in New York for five years, but always imagined they’d have a second home near nature. Before becoming parents, they decided to move to Los Angeles, thinking precisely about this proximity and it was during a trip to Joshua Tree that they fell in love with the natural surroundings of the National Park and began searching for the perfect home.

The surroundings of this park are dotted with adobe-made houses in earthy and neutral tones, which are the absolute protagonists in this area, where housing is anchored. There has only been one different element for a time: Casa Mami ecological house (available on Airbnb), 7.5 kilometers away from Pioneertown, a small village built in the 40’s decade, as if representing the setting of a Wild West movie.

Before standing out amidst the desert, this was just another house, a home in a village, which became a design and ecological house on a two-hectare land. And it is ecological because it is fully sustainable, powered by solar energy, featuring septic and water tanks. And, even though this poses challenges when it comes to installation, everything is done for the environment. According to them, this makes you become more aware of your consumption.

Instead of terracotta, they chose to paint it black and white, adding gravel in gray hues to some spaces and exterior areas. The house, with just two bedrooms, is modern, and yet pays homage to the desert where it is located, thanks to its neutral palette and organic textures.

Also, they borrowed Luis Barragán’s use of color, with a special nod to Mexico, Brown’s native country, thus choosing the name in Spanish: Casa Mami.

Painted brown, with antique furniture, a terrible kitchen, they admit that the surroundings did most of the hard work, since the house is surrounded by rocks, thorny plants, buttresses, and miles of protected steep mountains.

Although it was far from being what they had imagined, most of the transformations they had to do were merely aesthetic, like turning the kitchen into a simple and modern wall (inspired by their New York apartment) and optimizing the area as dining room, so guests could be more comfortable.

Another important thing was integrating the beauty of the surroundings into the house; they replaced the patio’s sliding doors so guests can sit comfortably at the living room by the chimney, while enjoying the beautiful desert views.

On the other hand, they put a lot of attention to details, since they firmly believe that they are more important than we think. Hinges, door fittings, light switches make the difference. 

As for style, they define it as simple, clean, and modern with a vintage inspiration. There is a light Mediterranean vibe that counteracts with the dry, rough, desert landscape. Most things around blend in, but they wanted to stand out.

And another piece of information: almost everything found in the house, from bedding and utensils, to furniture and works of art are for sale.

Their idea, from the beginning, was to carefully curate the house along with some of their favorite designers, brands, and products, so it served as an exhibition room for guests, because, who hasn’t, more than once, wanted to take whatever they find inside a hotel room? This is why they decided that most things inside the house can be purchased. This turns this Airbnb into a fully livable exhibition room.

All photos by Carlos Naude

Although Casa Mami can be a holiday house, it was designed with the hope that guests feel at home, like the couple does, while staying there.