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THIS DESERT RENTAL REFINES TRADITIONAL ADOBE DESIGN

Located near Joshua Tree National Park, the Bust'n B Ranch is a tranquil high desert escape with sophisticated Southwestern charm.



A one-story adobe house in the desert.

The interiors of this one-story adobe house near California's Pioneertown were renovated to capture the beauty of the surrounding landscape and honor the history of adobe haciendas.


Everyone’s familiar with Palm Springs—once a playground for the Hollywood elite, the California desert town is now the epicenter of midcentury modern design—but fewer know about Pioneertown, the Old West-themed enclave about 30 miles north of its more glamorous cousin. Developed in the 1940s as a shooting location for actors working on Western films and TV series, Pioneertown was the backdrop for more than 50 movies and serials. A bit off the beaten path, it still attracts tourists, film buffs, and those looking for quiet lodging near Joshua Tree National Park. This setting—the endless skies, the low mountains, an open desert landscape—attracted real estate developer Wendy Langman and her son Edgar to buy property nearby.

 

“We had worked on some projects near Pioneertown in the past, and had always loved the area,” says Edgar, who runs Wedgar Properties with Wendy. Looking to add something to their stable of rentals, the duo acquired a single-story adobe-style house nestled into a high desert landscape similar to that of Joshua Tree National Park and located just 10 minutes outside Pioneertown. From outside, the house looked great: Its low profile and warm-brown adobe walls fit seamlessly in with the surroundings. Inside, however, were the remnants of an early-2000s build.



An open kitchen with dark counters, dark wood cabinetry and colorful tile backsplash.

In the kitchen, designer Sydney Ballesteros opted for a super-dark charcoal plaster for the cabinet frames and hood—a modern twist on the traditional. The kitchen hardware was hand-forged in iron by a regional craftsperson.



A light plaster and and wood kitchen with a large fireplace over which hangs a cow skull.

Despite its dark wood palette, the kitchen feels warm and inviting—especially when the desert sun comes through the windows. Two copper pendants hang over the island, adding subtle glamorous and traditional woven baskets hang on the wall, bringing an authentic touch.

 

“It was a Santa Fe style, but inside, it felt very kitschy, and like a lot of homes you see around California that people call ‘Santa Fakes,’” says Edgar of the home that would become the Bust'n B Ranch. “When you have a situation where the house has a good foundation, you can tap into it and make it feel more authentic, or you can start from scratch and paint the walls white. The house was well built, so we tried to tap into that to move forward.”

 

The Langmans worked with Tucson-based architecture firm Studio Caban, through which they met stylist and designer Sydney Ballesteros, a Tucson native whose work is deeply inspired by her multi-generational Sonoran desert roots and Mexican-American heritage.

 

“Edgar and Wendy wanted to redo the interiors based on the regional style of the adobe home,” she says. “Being born and raised in Tucson gives me a unique perspective to approach it authentically.”



A living room in an adobe home with a built-in plaster bench seating area.

The traditional kiva fireplace and banco seating are a new addition in the living room. Here, Ballesteros opted for a carved-stone coffee table as a play on the distant rock formations seen through the windows. Vintage chairs provide additional seating, and the custom-designed, hand-woven wool rug is from a small, family-run business in Oaxaca, Mexico.


When she first saw the house, Ballesteros’ impressions were that “the interior was an early 2000s, cookie-cutter style with granite countertop and acid-washed floors. A lot of things were left out that would be in an original adobe: the kiva fireplace, banco seating, these special elements you would usually see carved into a home like that. We wanted to bring back that essence, making some tweaks so it would feel updated and have a fresh, modern perspective while paying homage to an original adobe.”

 

The design team opted to gut the house, moving some walls to improve the interior flow and replacing a large closet in one of the bedrooms with an en suite bathroom. At 2,700 square feet, the project is sizable but cozy. One of the first things Ballesteros did was add the traditional built-in elements seen in an adobe home: the bench seating and the kiva fireplace in the corner of the living room. From there, she built out warm, refined interiors layered with vintage and contemporary furniture and art sourced from craftspeople in Mexico and the Southwest.



Closet-up shot of a dining room with a long wooden table and ornate chandelier.

The rustic 10-foot dining table was commissioned. Its rough-hewn look gives the feeling as though it's been in the house for decades. The equipale chairs are an important design in Mexican history—they date back five centuries and remain a popular style today. The piece hanging on the wall is made from recycled cotton fibers by Caralarga, a textile studio located in Queretaro, Mexico. The iron chandelier was custom-made in Mexico.

 

“The great room and kitchen are connected,” Ballesteros says. “We wanted a space where people could congregate. There’s a big 10-foot dining table—having that sense of community where everyone can gather, have conversation, and share a meal was important.”

 

A mix of materials—wood, plaster, hand-painted tiles from Mexico—creates warmth in the public spaces and reflects the tones of the desert outside. “The kitchen makes a bold statement by using the darkest charcoal plaster color that could be safely mixed,” the designer notes, “It’s a rebellious choice opposite of the usual creamy white plaster typically used.”

                                                                        

“All of the cabinets are made from California pine,” Edgar adds, “and the hardware in the kitchen is forged from iron by a craftsperson who lives just an hour away.”



A bedroom with a large four-poster bed.

The star of the primary bedroom—a custom-fabricated stainless-steel four poster platform bed—was made by blacksmith, artist, and designer Zach Lihatsh. The ceiling pendant was made by Carolina Del Dago of La Yuma Taller, and the black-and-white photograph above the bed was shot by Puspa Lohmeyer.



A bathroom looking out onto the desert with a red-tiled tub, tiled floors, and tiled wall.

In the primary bathroom, hand-crafted tile brings color and pattern, leaning into the traditional Southwestern aesthetic while embracing practicality.

 

This dedication to local sourcing and choosing items that nod to Mexican culture is seen throughout the project. The 10-foot dining table was custom made;  Ballesteros chose a set of equipale chairs (the design dates back at least 500 years to artisans in central Mexico) around it, updating the leather upholstery to black instead of the traditional brown. In the living room, a carved stone coffee table pays homage to the rock formations seen in the distance through the windows. Near the banco, the designer placed a pair of wood and patinated-leather 1940s Mexican butaque chairs (in the style of the late, Cuban-born designer Clara Porset) for extra seating and added visual interest. Hanging on the wall above the dining table is a large-format piece made of recycled cotton fibers by textile studio Caralarga, located in Queretaro, Mexico.



Close-up of a red red against a light blue wall.

In the blue guest room, an oxblood-velvet Regency-style bed brings elegance to the minimal space. Above the headboard hangs a vintage wood alter piece found at a flea market in Mexico City, and a saffron-yellow Nordic Knots rugs bring adds another rich earthy shade to the palette.



A green-painted room with a bed and tall-backed chair.

The green bedroom features a Spanish hall chair reupholstered in a sagey green velvet. The snake-themed textile art above the bed is by Mexico City artist Mely Avila of Studio M.A.

 

Each of the three guest rooms takes on its own personality through carefully curated color and décor. In the primary, which is dark and moody, Ballesteros says she “wanted to include hints of the Old World; things you would see in a hacienda.”  To anchor the space, she commissioned a stainless-steel four-poster platform bed (“the material makes it modern,” she says) and a custom-fabricated mesquite wood light pendant in the shape of an X. Plush rugs and deep-red textiles add color and texture, and the en suite bathroom includes a mix of patterned and deeply colored tile—all handmade in Mexico.

The other two bedrooms—one painted in a soft, mint-green color, the other a very light blue—are full of reupholstered furniture and antique art and décor found at flea markets, antique stores, and contemporary boutiques.

 

“Each bedroom is a different experience,” Ballesteros says, “but they are all connected by that quintessential, traditional desert look. Being out here, you look out the window and feel connected to nature and history. I’m always trying to build upon that through my designs.”

 

 

 

 

Images by Yoshihiro Makino

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