As lifelong and self-professed city people, all it took was a cross country trip for Sara Combs and her partner Rich to fall madly in love with the desert. Soon after they packed up their San Francisco apartment and bought their first dream desert oasis called Joshua Tree House, which they’ve opened for guests to reflect, reset and create. They’ve since created another desert stay in Tucson Arizona and are in the process of opening their third in the enigmatic city of Marfa, Texas. We chatted to Sara about how life in the desert has afforded her more time to connect with nature and how being on the edge of boredom is the perfect environment for creativity to blossom.
We’d love to hear how the Marfa Ranch is coming along. Could you tell us a bit about the idea for the space and what you plan to do on the land?
We are in the very beginning stages of designing and planning for our Marfa ranch! Our dream is to create a road-trip of locations that are immersed in nature and allow our guests the time and space to reflect, reset and create. We currently have locations in Joshua Tree, CA & Tucson, AZ. Marfa, TX feels like a natural next stop (and is a magical place that we’ve been in love with for years)!
Back in 2014, we went on a cross-country road trip where we stopped at various national parks along the way (Joshua Tree, Tucson and Marfa all happened to be stops along that trip). That adventure rekindled our curiosity, love of nature and creativity. We realised we needed more time outside, to move more, to rest more… less distractions and more stars. That’s what we hope to recreate for our guests.
You mentioned in your Stories that you were drawn to create spaces in rural areas where people can slow down and reconnect with nature. How do you create your space in a way that encourages this slower change of pace?
We believe that design has the ability to guide us through each day. We intentionally include products that encourage us to enjoy process rather than instantly achieving: a record player, a Chemex vs a coffee machine, a stove with pots and pans instead of a microwave. The process of creating something even if it's as simple as turning on music or making food can (and should) be beautiful too.
We also add visual reminders of rest: hammocks or hanging chairs, stacks of blankets, yoga mats, and board games etc are found in all of our spaces. Though, probably the most important detail of all is that each location is immersed in wide open natural spaces where the sun or moon are always in sight.
Sara's Guide to Marfa:
If you were showing friends around in Marfa, where would you take them first?
On the way into Marfa we’d take them to Prada Marfa, then probably stop in for lunch at the Sentinel before heading to our ranch!
The ground in Marfa is covered in crystals and agates, do you believe it gives the place a unique energy?
As soon as we saw crystals and agates scattered on the ground of the ranch, we knew it was a special place. I’m not sure if it’s the crystals and agates or the expansiveness of the land, but it’s one of the most peaceful places we’ve experienced.
What’s the most interesting or quirky fact you know about Marfa?
The Marfa Mystery lights! Since the 19th century people have witnessed lights dancing above the horizon, and they’re still unexplained to this day. Some people think they’re aliens or ghosts, while others say they’re reflections of cars and campfires.
How would you start a typical Sunday morning?
We love Do Your Thing for coffee and toast (our favourites are their cinnamon sugar and their avocado toast!
Your favourite long weekend activity?
A visit to Big Bend national park, or tours of the Chinati & Judd Foundations.
I visited the Judd Foundation in New York and fell in love. What was your experience in the desert?
We’ve gotten to tour the Chinati Foundation to see some of the works that Judd installed in Marfa as well as his curation of other inspiring artists. It’s so surreal to see works that would otherwise be in major cities and museums out in the middle of the desert. We found the repetition of many of Judd’s pieces to be meditative which creates a beautiful conversation with the peacefulness of the surrounding open landscape. We haven’t yet toured Judd’s home and studio, but hope to make that happen soon!
And finally, we’d love to know your favourite spots for:
To look at art?
The Chinati Foundation
To watch the sunset?
To go for a hike?
Big Bend national park (we absolutely love Window Trail)
Sitting out in the wine garden at Al Campo is really special
To watch live music?
Sara and Rich have shared more of their favorite spots here. Sara's Hakea picks are the Jardin Bandeau top in Clay and Santiago High Bottom in Clay. Beautiful images via @thejoshuatreehouse.