John & Sophie’s Modern Desert Home

published Apr 14, 2011
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Name: John Schoenfeld & Sophie Schoenfeld
Location: Joshua Tree, California
Size: 1,450 square feet
Years lived in: 7

Desert living is quite different than living in the city. Many Angelenos make the trip to Joshua Tree to relax and bask in the hot and dry climate. John and Sophie wanted to create the best of both worlds when designing their home. They wanted the local desert environment reflected in their decor, but with modern elements incorporated.

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The saber tooth tiger bone clone found on their bar in the kitchen is a replica of a saber tooth tiger found in the La Brea Tar Pits many ages ago. It is John’s tie-in to his love for Los Angeles and its history. Many of the accessories found in their home were purchased from local flea markets. Of course, one of the best features about the home is its location and view of the mountains.

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Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Modern meets high desert homestead cabin

Inspiration: A feeling of adventure, a sense of getting away, road trips, friends and family, seasons, and creating quality time.

Favorite Element: The bar — this is what used to be a wall that separated the kitchen from the living room and now is a great intersection for socializing and participating in our family and social gatherings. From the bar you feel like you are connecting in the whole space.

Biggest Challenge: Merging the original 1954 structure with the new addition in a harmonious way, that didn’t feel like “oh this is where the old house ends and the addition begins.” Thank you O2 Architecture!

What Friends Say: “Oh My God!” I think this is a result of a somewhat understated entry and the overall surroundings. There are two abandoned shacks in the area and you have to drive a mile on a pretty washed out dirt road to get there, so there is a pretty strong contrast.

Biggest Embarrassment: Not knowing the extreme effect of the heat and dryness of the high desert. While installing some of the wood elements we ran into a lot of warping issues. The zebra wood basically had to be purchased twice. So many of the pieces twisted into shapes that wouldn’t work for the bath structure.

Proudest DIY: I’ve done a lot of stuff in the house, but building some of the rock walls around the house has got to be the most rewarding. I literally moved tons of rocks, so during that time there was no need for the gym.

Biggest Indulgence: Hiring O2 Architecture for the remodel. And all the custom stuff in the house — bar, bathtub enclosure, and custom record storage.

Best Advice: Take some time to be in the space before you start making decisions on how to change the layout of rooms, windows, etc.

Dream Source: Everywhere and anywhere. Part of the fun is keeping your eyes open for stuff whether it be traveling the world or walking through the local thrift stores. The dream is to stay inspired.

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Resources of Note:


  • BoConcept
  • Plycraft Eames Knock-off: Swap Meet
  • Design Within Reach
  • Steel Case/JT Junk Store
  • Custom Outdoor Table (steel and Jarrah wood): I designed it
  • Some of the furniture was left by the original owners i.e. Danish chair w/ brown vinyl cushion


  • Vintage Collective in Long Beach, CA
  • Our favorite vintage/junk shop on 4th street, Long Beach (can’t remember the name and it’s gone now)
  • Hedge, Palm Springs
  • Raven Used Books in Twentynine Palms
  • Collections from our travels
  • Bone Clone of Saber Tooth Tiger


  • Frigidaire


  • Cow Hide from that weird corner Craftsman house in Hollywood that only sells these hides
  • Woven Rug from Republic of Georgia


  • Salvaged Slate Tiles that were sitting in the back of a tile store in Redondo Beach
  • Solistone




  • Smith+Noble: Honeycomb blinds to help with the thermal changes in the high desert


  • Behr
  • Ralph Lauren


  • Personal Photography: John Schoenfeld
  • Golden West Swap Meet
  • Tiki Jay Stencil Art: Galleries in San Pedro, California
  • My Dad’s Painting of the Cowgirl in the Bathroom from the 60’s
  • 50’s School Map from a Local Garage Sale


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Thanks John & Sophie!

Images: Anja Schaefer and John Schoenfeld

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