Designer & Owner
Could you tell us a bit more about your professional background?
I started my first company when I was 22. It was software-based and aimed at helping teams in design and construction build large-scale developments. We would build structures in 3D, 4D and 5D, so those involved could merge their work in real-time, experience what each was creating and mitigate any problems. We also doubled up as a 3D creative studio for architects and advertising agencies.
Eventually, I realised I wanted to do something a bit more hands-on, so I created another company in the organic food tech industry. And then came Le Chacuel!
I met Jøna in December 2019 at Shop on the Mesa in Yucca Valley (which is now permanently closed). Jøna designs and welds furniture—she learnt welding at Arcosanti in Arizona. She used to have a shop in Marfa where she and her boyfriend at the time would source and redo Eames chairs.
When we met, it was good timing, as I needed to make a particular table I had in mind for Le Chacuel.
What was the inspiration behind Le Chacuel?
I wanted to build something with modern, clean lines while implementing worn-in, old-world objects. Everything has a story and a history, which you can feel—and it feels good. I wanted an earthy space. But above all, I wanted to make it fundamentally special. I didn't look anywhere in particular for inspiration; I just created what felt right to me. It was pretty much all from intuition, and it was the first time I'd converted a design in my head into a physical structure.
How did the name 'Le Chacuel' come about?
It's pretty silly. Jøna and I were eating pizza and drinking wine when I asked her to pass the hot sauce. The label said 'shake well', which I said aloud in a French accent. I was like, "Oh, I like how that sounds! Haha. Let's name the house 'le shakewell' but with an accent."
How did you decide upon Joshua Tree location wise?
Initially, I was looking to buy 20 acres of land in Nevada City for a much larger scale project. I love the river there, and I wanted to build a riverfront house. But I gave up after a year of looking. At the same time, I was looking in Joshua Tree because my dear friend Leslie Satterfield's Desert Sage House was built there.
I ended up finding a place that was right on the cliff's edge, which I bought, site-unseen. Once that was finalised, I moved to Joshua Tree to start working on the project. While I was there, I lived with Leslie for the most part until I could move into my garage.
The conception was easy, only taking a couple months. But structurally building it with little help in the desert really prolonged the entire process. I learned so much along the way, so it was 110% worth the time and effort.
What did the initial stages of the project look like?
We first had to look at what walls needed moving or taking down, so we carefully drew up a new floor plan. Next, it was about choosing how to make the most out of every inch we had—literally every inch, from a wall outlet, to a material for the wall itself, to behind the wall with all the plumbing and water filters. It was a scary little structure that essentially needed to be torn down.
I took it down to the studs, levelling a larger side yard complete with a pool and lounge area. We changed the entire layout and every surface. All in all, it was so much fun!
How do you hope your guests feel when they stay at Le Chacuel?
We want them to feel relaxed and special.
We understand that sustainability plays a key role at Le Chacuel. What were some of your considerations regarding ecological restoration, especially in a place like Joshua Tree?
I used recycled scrap marble for the bathroom in the master bedroom, and I made sure to use breathable materials for the walls. The insulation is entirely eco, and we avoided any use of plastic.
When remodelling a place, it's already a lost cause since there's so much waste involved. I prefer ground-up construction these days because I've learnt how to build with almost no waste.
How long did the project end up taking from start to finish?
It took about two years. I started designing the architecture and interiors in October 2018. Demolition took place in December 2018. All the house framing was done in March 2019. And the windows, cabinets and countertops in October 2019. I met Jøna in December of that year, and I also designed a couple of built-in beds for the rooms around that time, which my woodworkers brought to life.
Before the pandemic, we installed and finished all the surfaces in February 2020. And then, when the world came to a halt, our construction was delayed. But by the time it started up again, I had drawn up an idea for a pool, bench and a wall that would surround the property, which was all done by July 2020.
Jøna built us beautiful bar stools and a couple sling chairs and day beds out by the pool. She's extremely talented and has a great eye, so she helped me decide on various objects for the house. She was my helper when it came to shopping—such a great person to have for second opinions when there are all these micro-decisions to be made. Plus, I hate shopping, so it was definitely nice to have her with me for that.
What are some of your favourite design elements at Le Chacuel?
I'd say the arch in the master bedroom's bathroom. And then the exterior of my tiny home.
How did the pandemic shape your goals, if at all?
I think overall, it helped me relax a little. Everything didn't seem so rushed, and I appreciated taking time and not being in such haste.
What are some of your recommendations for things to do nearby?
Check out Wine & Rock Shop! And La Copine for New American cuisine. For something active, hiking Giant Rock and maybe do a little off-roading around there.
Where can we expect to find you and Jona when you're not in Joshua Tree?
Jøna is probably in her shop making some cool furniture. I'm either designing spaces or browsing on my computer to find things for the house. Or I'll be on a construction site. And if it's not any of those, we're probably out on a hike!