Nestled on a plot of land that spands 3.6 acres with rugged rock and expansive views of the clear skies of Joshua Tree National Park is a new guest house called Villa Kuro. Designed, conceived and owned by the real estate renovation and redevelopment firm MINI INNO, it’s a place to take in nature, meditate, and unwind. This 1960s midcentury home was given a complete wabi-sabi transformation to merge the indoors with the outdoors.
“We fell in love with Joshua Tree after moving to LA about 4 years ago and we’d find ourselves escaping there every chance we could find,” shared Elaine Chao who co-owns the firm MINI INNO with her partner Stanley Yang. “We really wanted to find a little place for ourselves where we can stay when we visit, but we were also noticing a huge demand in the area for Airbnbs and that was something we’ve been very curious about trying out.” Without wanting to create a structure completely from scratch, where they would have to install power and water hookups, they found a charming midcentury ranch that was built in 1966. “It had very muddled upgrades done to it by previous owners throughout the years that didn’t enhance the home in any way,” she said. They stripped the home entirely, giving it not just a new look but updated plumbing and amenities to create a place that had everything running smoothly.
As for the design, their concept was to honor its natural setting and embrace the Japanese concept of wabi-sabi – where imperfection was celebrated not fretted over. “We could’ve done a fast and straightforward renovation, but we wanted to create a space that was unique and not just a normal day-to-day home,” Elaine explained. “Many aspects of the renovation were all done by hand, for example, the tadelakt that we used for the bathroom walls and floors is a very laborious multi-step process that cannot be rushed.” Elaine and Stanley had to work through a couple of issues that came along the renovation process: “One mistake by a bad plumber that my contractor had hired set us back months because we had to redo all the bathrooms in tadelakt all over again. After completion, we are thrilled with the results and don’t think using another material could have achieved the same look.”
For the rest of the home, they used similar earthy and patinaed textures such as a limewash for the walls by Portola Paints. “Limewash paint creates subtle texture and movement on the wall and gives it even more depth, which is beautiful because it’s always changing throughout the day under different lighting,” she said. Exposed beams and clean-lined furniture were selected to emphasize the natural surroundings. “It’s a very tonal house, which we find soothing. We wanted to maximize the outdoor desert views so our intention was to keep the interior neutral, focusing on texture and subtleties in design.”
The guest house is a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house that has plenty of space to gather or to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. “Converting the garage to the tea room had a really big impact on the overall serene feeling of the home,” the designer said. “We installed two 16-foot sliders on both sides of the room, one facing our rock and cactus garden courtyard, the other opens up facing west towards the expansive desert views. It’s a room in the home that could be used for meditation and relaxing while opening up to nature.” Villa Kuro is the perfect place to get away from the city, have a glass of wine with friends around the outdoor fire pit or take in the magnificent dark skies, ideal for stargazing.