The Wheelhouse is an artistic high-desert retreat formerly owned by TV personality Huell Howser. A rare example of mid-century modern architecture deep in the California desert, the 2,221 square-foot ranch sits on 12 acres of untouched desert near both entrances of Joshua Tree National Park, offering a feeling of total seclusion less than an hour from Palm Springs with 360-degree mountain and desert views. Find adventure or respite from this creative, yet tranquil desert retreat.
Built in 1952, the home features the indoor/outdoor layout that became popular in Palm Springs. When Howser bought the home in the 1990s, he sought to create a communal, creative environment that has endured through every element. The Wheelhouse is an ideal setting for weddings, private events and creative retreats, with multiple seating areas for catering, receptions or small-group conversation.
An avid collector of found materials and repurposed objects, Howser turned quarry stones into yard sculptures and industrial elements into lighting fixtures. Five large millstones, each more than 100 years old, surround the full-length backyard pool, giving the home its name. In the early 2000s, Howser added a sunroom extension with a separate living room and dining area in the same industrial style, making the home further suited to large gatherings.
Now owned by an artist, The Wheelhouse has preserved the industrial qualities that Howser introduced, while incorporating personally created pieces that mirror his style. The light-filled living room, a homage to the high desert features three owner-created pieces, including a triptych on plywood, a unique wood-based tripod lamp, and a sunset-hued tree light — the red adding contrast to the room’s desert tones. A sunroom, created by panels of etched glass, evokes a feeling of zen with concrete floors and cream walls. A comfy sofa and four club chairs allow up to 8 guests to comfortably relax.
The gourmet kitchen, suitable for catering, features a four-seat breakfast nook, stainless steel appliances, the original 50’s stove and plenty of counter space, with a door leading directly outside for easy al fresco dinners. A mid-century dining area features a mod oval marble top table with six Eames shell chairs and sliding glass doors that open onto the zero-scaped patio.
Two spacious bedrooms create an indoor/outdoor feeling with big picture windows, sliding glass doors and minimalist decor. The master suite features a king-sized bed and chaise-style daybed, which comfortably sleeps one additional person. An en-suite bath features a unique glass sink made of an old street lamp glass. The second bedroom, features a queen bed with picture windows and a shared bath, still the original 50’s green tile and fixtures. A den, featuring a large-screen TV and writing desk, provides additional accommodations with a queen sleeper sofa, allowing the home to comfortably sleep up to 7 guests.
Outside are the elements that truly set the home apart. Howser’s industrial accents remain decades after installation, creating the feeling of a modern sculpture garden. An architect designed paneled steel fence surrounds the perimeter, each piece thoughtfully laid in the ground at the same angle as the mountains beyond. The back patio opens to a full-length swimming pool with baja tanning shelf and outdoor spa surrounded by chaise lounge chairs. A vintage two-seat swing, nestled just off the living area, offers the perfect place to take in the views. Also outside is a four-seat sitting area and 12-seat al fresco dining area, which converts into a professional ping-pong table. A gas BBQ grill and indoor/outdoor stereo system complete the ultimate desert entertaining experience.
In honoring the communal spirit encouraged by Howser, The Wheelhouse has become a place for celebrations, gatherings, and creative retreats. Artists have used the home to write, draw, meditate or practice yoga. Photographers have used the space for creative shoots. And couples have made the retreat their own, taking their vows against the rocky cliffs and desert brush that surround The Wheelhouse.. Between indoor and outdoor spaces, The Wheelhouse can comfortably host up to 120 guests for a standing cocktail reception and 75 for a seated dinner.