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Design Comb Spruces Up the Desert

Talk about a killer design duo. Husband and wife, Rich and Sara Combs, have collaborated on everything from websites and apps for their own design studio, Hexagon, to killer weekend homes in the desert. It turns out Sara also owned a jewelry line and has a way with the paintbrush. So basically, there isn’t anything they touch that won’t turn to gold. (See more of Sara’s work at Design Comb, her current home on the web.)

Recently, the couple is probably best known for The Joshua Tree House (a 1949 hacienda) and Joshua Tree Casita (a two-bedroom home built in 1958) that they renovated and now rent out on AirBnB. Yup, they’re the ones you were drooling over last week in our Sexiest Places to Stay guide. They purchased the first home after a fateful night’s stay in the desert on a cross-country road trip. The modern boho vibes were designed with the intent of allowing guests to stay in the present as “a place to reflect, reset and create.”

They’ve since fully embraced life in the slow lane, making the official move from San Francisco to Joshua Tree and are now working on their own dream home in the High Desert. Sara chatted with us about their design inspiration and the dynamics of working with your significant other. She also created an adorable custom cactus print you can purchase on AOS very soon!

 

Bedroom designed by Rich and Sarah Combs.
Living room of Joshua Tree House.
Sunset view from the backyard.
Rich and Sarah Combs posing together in the desert.

So you two are obviously #relationshipgoals. Please dish on how you guys met and what your first impressions were of each other.

We first met freshman year of high school. We went to different schools, but had mutual friends and initially got to know each other by chatting online. The first time we met in person, Rich had heard I would be at the movie theater and ‘accidentally’ bumped into me there. He just so happened to be there to see the same movie as me, which at the time I whole heartily believed was a coincidence.

He sat behind me and put his feet on my seat, and purposely gave me wrong directions when I left the theater. My first impression was that he was a little bit of a jerk (but a cute one). We started dating the following year!

 

 

How is it working together, and what lessons have you learned along the way? Do you each take on distinct roles, or is it a very loose process?

We really love working together, which is why we continually choose to do so. Though we are both designers, we have very different approaches and are always learning from each other’s processes. Rich is very structured, and I’m constantly learning from his methodical approach to design. I would like to think that the reverse is also true, and that he learns from my love of finding design direction and inspiration mid-process. Particularly with our interior design projects, I always feel my best ideas come while I’m working on a mindless but related task (such as painting a wall).

 

Sarah and Rich together in the backyard.
Living room of the Joshua Tree Casita.

How would you describe the typical creative process when you begin remodeling a space? Do you start with a specific room or a general theme, etc.?

We always start by spending time in and using the space. Function and flow are first, and aesthetics are decided around that. The experience of a space is most important to us, not just how it comes across in a photo. In a way, the experience is the ‘theme’, and the experience that we have focused in on with our Joshua Tree places is slow and process driven. It’s a step away from immediate satisfaction, and toward being present in each moment. For example, listening through an entire record, or watching your coffee drip.

Do you have any design muses — people or places you look to?

Charles and Ray Eames, Agnes Martin, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, and our time spent living in Brooklyn all have had an influence on us and our design sense.

Framed photos above shelf.

What are you most proud of when it comes to designing the two Joshua Tree homes?

We’re proud that these spaces have provided people with a place to reflect, reset, and create. It’s definitely something special to know that our spaces have provided lasting memories, much needed creative time, and even have been the location for many engagements!

What’s next for you two? Any other creative projects up your sleeve?

Through all of this, we’ve really fallen in love with hospitality. I think you can see more from us in that area in the next few years. We’ve also been thinking a bit about offering products to enhance our guests’ desert experience even more so.

Sarah and Rich together in the kitchen.
Blue Candle Cactus print for sale on AOS.

You mentioned you’re currently working on remodeling your own home now. Any hints as to what you guys have in mind? Will it be similar to your other Joshua Tree houses?

In some ways it will be similar, since we’re always drawn to a certain aesthetic. Architecturally, there’s a lot of emphasis on the windows and views at the Hacienda (our house) which has influenced us to design a light and airy space that simply frames the view.

Sara, your Blue Candle Cactus prints are a result of #the100dayproject and #100daysofcacti. Can you tell us more about that?

When we moved to the Hacienda a year ago, I was completely blown away by the variety of cacti in the garden and felt an urge to be able to call them by name. During the project, I studied the common names and painted each cactus that I discovered for 100 days.

 

The experience of a space is most important to us, not just how it comes across in a photo.

Sarah sitting in a swinging chair in the living room of the Joshua Tree House.
Favorite places to find cool shit:

The Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley, STUFF in San Francisco, & estate sales

I can never have too many: 

Blankets

Right now I’m obsessed with:

Turmeric tea

Currently on my playlist:

California by Joni Mitchell, On the Other Side by Chase McBride, and Talk Me Down by Willy Mason

My best travel souvenir was:

A brass Buddha sculpture from Laos

I’m dying to visit:

Japan and Morocco

 

 

 

 

Sarah sitting on the front porch.