These Actors Have Crafted a Colorful, Creative Oasis in the Desert

published Jun 8, 2022

These Actors Have Crafted a Colorful, Creative Oasis in the Desert

published Jun 8, 2022
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Name: Kit Williamson, John Halbach and Albee
Location: Yucca Valley, California
Size: 1,000 square feet
Years lived in: 1 year and 6 months, owned

Kit Williamson and John Halbach are one seriously creative couple. Kit is an actor and filmmaker (he played Ed Gifford on the final two seasons of “Mad Men”) and he created the Emmy-winning queer series “EastSiders” on Netflix, which John also produced and acted in. But their creative collaborations aren’t just on screen ⁠— this beautiful house in Yucca Valley, which is a mix of desert-inspired hues and hip and colorful decor elements ⁠— is an amazing example of the couple’s design skills.

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“We’ve been together fifteen years, and have been coming out to the high desert regularly for the last decade. We actually got married in Joshua Tree National Park at Keys View, so it’s a really special place for us,” writes Kit. “I did the design but the home really is both of our baby. John works in advertising, and I’m mostly writing these days, so we both work from home which made us realize we could live out here. After spending the pandemic sharing a one bedroom apartment in Silver Lake we needed wide open spaces!”

Kit describes this house ⁠— which is about 1000 square feet ⁠— as a “1958 homestead cabin off a dirt road on 5 acres filled with Joshua Trees.” The desert landscape surrounding the house plays a huge role in the home’s atmosphere. “We’re up on the Mesa, and the sunsets are unbelievable. Our favorite thing about the house is that there are stunning desert views in every room. We’re just over 10 minutes from town and 20 minutes from the entrance to the park, so we go there as often as we can,” writes Kit.

Beyond the design delights inside the home⁠— incredible patterned tiles, a gorgeous wood burning fireplace, some colorful murals, and more ⁠— there are fun elements outside, too. There’s a refreshing pool, a hot tub, an outdoor lounge area and dining area, an open-air bathtub, a firepit, and even a 1950s vintage Shasta camper trailer named Dolly. The couple named the house El Dorado Oasis, “because it feels like a sanctuary in the desert.” 

Apartment Therapy Survey:

My Style: Palm Springs Mid-Century Modern meets Boho Cowboy Chic

Inspiration: Another house we shot “UNCONVENTIONAL” at out here was Oeste House in Morongo, which was designed by Claire Thomas. I fell in love with a tile accent wall she designed working with Concrete Collaborative, and was inspired to create my own. Concrete Collaborative let us dig through the back stock at their factory, which was insanely fun. It took me forever to nail the layout but I really love how it came out. 

I also love the creativity of their SSS X Strands Collection, which we featured in the kitchen in pink and gold. I created an Art Deco layout that at first glance looks random, but is actually symmetrical. 

Favorite Element: Kit – I’m obsessed with the bathrooms, which is amazing because they started out as the worst rooms in the house. I’ve never had a windowless bathroom before, so I was a little unsure of how to design them, but we took a big swing with bold cement floor tiles and Moroccan Zellige showers from Villa Lagoon Tile and it feels like stepping into a magical stone cave. And I’m in love with the bronze exposed pipe showers from Signature Hardware.  

John – I love how much you can enjoy the beautiful scenery outdoors, even from inside the house. Each room has a view of the Joshua Trees that fill our land, and the mountains that are in the distance, and the bedrooms have French doors that open right onto the patio lounge area. 

Biggest Challenge: Finding reliable contractors. We had several contractors ghost on us over the year we were working on the house. There aren’t a lot of contractors that are willing to come up to the high desert, and the good ones are usually booked solid. We ended up finishing the house by finding local handymen and subcontractors. I now know more about tile installation than I ever wanted to! 

What Friends Say: Kit – We love hosting our friends out here, and everyone has been super enthusiastic about it. Everyone specifically calls out the beds as the most comfortable mattresses they’ve ever slept on — I can’t recommend Tuft & Needle’s Hybrid mattresses enough, and their linen bedding is beyond hotel quality. 

John – We’ve had friends say it’s so beautiful it’s like being in a simulation up here. There is something so special about the sunrise, sunset, and everything in between up here on the Yucca Valley Mesa. 

Biggest Embarrassment: Kit – We installed an outdoor shower and gorgeous copper bathtub from Signature Hardware by the guest studio in the fall, and the pipes burst in the winter. We had asked our contractor to weatherize them, but now we know to shut off the water supply too. 

John – We definitely underestimated how long this transformation would take. We hoped we’d be enjoying our desert dream home within six months, and it took about a year longer than that with all the stops, starts, and struggles along the way. 

Proudest DIY: Our first contractor (who shall remain nameless) grossly misrepresented their ability to do tile work, and was trying to apply our tile accent wall outside using thinset on stucco. Without spacers. I saw what was happening and started frantically googling “how to install cement tile” and had to finish putting it up myself.  

Navigating the permit process was also a big learning process for us. We had a handyman friend help us install a wood-burning stove and were super detail oriented about doing things by the books so we would pass the permit inspection. It was nerve wracking. 

I also replaced the legs on our butcher block with hairpin legs!

Biggest Indulgence: The water features! In addition to installing a hot tub, we worked with a super cool company called H2O Tank Avenue to install a 10-foot cowboy tub painted the same color as our 1950s camper trailer, and built a sun deck around it. We also installed an outdoor shower and black copper bathtub from Signature Hardware, with custom terrazzo tile from Villa Lagoon Tile. 

I’m also in love with our rugs from Momeni, McGee and Company, and The Citizenry. They really make the house feel comfortable and inviting. 

Best Advice: Be prepared to assemble a lot of furniture. We ordered a lot of stuff that was hell to put together, but the furniture we got from Burrow was by far the easiest thing we’ve ever assembled. 













Thanks, Kit and John!

This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.