Thomas, a commercials director (and serial renovator), and Ahumada, a cinematographer, had been looking at real estate for six months in the California desert when they discovered a 1980s ranch house on five acres of wildlife-filled land near Joshua Tree National Park. Though the property had no clear architectural influences, it had solid bones, which meant the pair could focus on giving the place a festive remodel peppered with travel mementos from their 15-year friendship.
“Every room has its own theme and there are two reasons for that,” says Thomas. “One, I’m kitschy as hell and no one can really take that out of me. Two, it’s really great having different looks all in one location.” Here’s how she and Ahumada crafted a spirited holiday retreat with clever DIY projects and plenty of punchy paint colors.
Constructing an Oaxacan Kitchen
Thomas and Ahumada were set on recreating the beloved kitchen from their favorite Airbnb in Oaxaca, so they asked their contractor to build micro-cement boxes, which they filled with IKEA cabinet bases to save costs. “At my core, I am a budget Betty. I’m very aspirational and optimistically ambitious, but I’m very budget-conscious,” says Thomas. She finished the look with warm, textured Semihandmade Impression Tahoe fronts and simple Rejuvenation brass pulls.
“At my core, I am a budget Betty. I’m very aspirational and optimistically ambitious, but I’m very budget-conscious.”
Instead of the easily-stained plaster countertops typically found in classic Finca kitchens, Thomas opted for a durable slab of polished concrete in a blonde hue so she and Ahumada wouldn’t have to worry about guests spilling. That practical decision is balanced out with a sentimental one—a copper sink and faucet are a nod to Ahumada’s mother’s birthplace, where the mineral is abundant.
Designing Memorable Moments
The nearby dining area is centered around a recessed arch painted in Dunn Edwards’ Warm Hearth, which doubles as a bar thanks to a reclaimed, live-edge wood shelf Thomas uses to display a curated selection of bottles. Above, Ahumada fashioned a wall sconce from a traditional tortilla-making tool backlit by an LED strip that casts a warm glow at night.
In the living room, another eye-catching moment in the form of a vintage, U.F.O-like fireplace is raised on a terrazzo platform that also serves as a cacti planter. “It’s so powerful to have greenery as part of the architecture,” Thomas says. “It completely changes the dynamic.”
Painting the Rainbow
The three bedrooms are a departure from the airy, white-washed great room. Each sleeping quarter is outfitted around a dedicated hue: the green room references Agave plants and the origins of mezcal, while the vibrant, Luis Barragán pink one honors the famous architect and actualizes Thomas’s teenage I Dream of Jeannie fantasies. The main bedroom, inspired by Thomas’s knack for foraging, is covered in shades of golden yellow and features a showstopping, circular window nook that frames the arid landscape.
Dramatic Dunn Edwards’ Arabian Red paint cloaks the converted garage, which is now dedicated to playing games and screening films (by way of a drop-down projector), while Rose de Mai, a playful, sunset tone, coats the exterior of the house, giving the backyard a Marrakech vibe. The whimsical pergola is complete with an ocotillo roof and a checkerboard patio base made of sorbet-colored clay tiles.
“There’s this moment that happens at night when you can see the stars of the Milky Way through the ocotillo,” Ahumada describes. “It’s the ultimate glamping.”