There’s nothing else quite like watching the stars on a clear desert night. Though they primarily live in Los Angeles, Kathrin and Brian Smirke spend a considerable amount of time in the High Desert, seeking out these breathtaking moments with nature. They revived their part-time cabin in Joshua Tree, CA from its previously shabby condition to a bohemian-modern home with rustic touches. Since the space is a vacation home, they didn’t need a lot of functional furniture and were able to select less practical and more aesthetic choices. This made decorating much more fun for the couple (and very beneficial to their Airbnb guests), who together formed We Are In Our Element, a design/build firm focusing on interior and exterior design, furnishings, and development. Kathrin is also the founder and creative director of Gypsan, a desert-inspired clothing line for women, and Brian is an active full-time real estate developer and designer (and part-time musician).
Upon moving in, the 850-square-foot structure built in 1946 had to be completely rewired, re-plumbed, and even needed new drain lines, which required DIY jackhammering out all of the existing ones. In addition, the Smirkes replaced all the windows and doors, installed a new roof, new siding, replaced more than half the interior drywall and fencing, did a bathroom and kitchen remodel, as well as landscaping. Once familiar with the bones, it appeared that the cabin had been pieced together over many years. The sunroom was once a covered porch and half the kitchen and bedroom may have comprised part of a rear porch. Kathrin and Brian designed and built a lot of pieces inside the home including the coffee table, kitchen shelving, wall and ceiling lamps, and large triangle shelf. Most of the reclaimed materials used came directly from the property – as either demolished interior wood or old fencing.
The task of personally creating a space on their own, and the combination of activity and creativity required for the process, makes the Smirkes feel most alive, especially in such a pristine setting. The stressful project days fade into the background once they see how a wide range of people – including writers, musicians, photographers, designers, and themselves — benefit from the transformation. —Annie