Pack Your Bags and Head to Joshua Tree ASAP
Written By: Nicole Hakim Dome in the Desert
Photographed By: George Duchannes Dome in the Desert
Expert: Kathrin and Brian Smirke
Credentials: Owners of We Are In Our Element
Q: What is the Dome in the Desert?
Katherine Smirke: The Dome is a secluded house in Joshua Tree. It is a place of solace and solitude that can be rented through Airbnb.
Q: What inspires you to create these spaces?
Brian Smirke: Before we had the Dome, we were in LA buying properties and fixing them up in terms of how people were going to live in them. The Dome gave us the ability to create a space totally devoid of what other people wanted. Knowing that it wasn’t a full-time residence, we didn’t have to be totally practical. We could design the spaces in a more interesting way and do it purely to our likes and dislikes. That was what inspired us to continue; it’s such a creative process.
Q: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome with Dome in the Desert?
KS: The number one challenge was the fact that we were living in LA, and only had the weekends to come out and work on the Dome. It was a complete rehash project, and it was challenging trying to manage that. After six to eight months, it didn’t feel like it was ever going to get done. Other challenges were the depressing real estate market and finances. We had the money to buy the property and do the renovations, but we didn’t have a lot of flexibility. With the limitations, though, you are forced to be more creative. You have to think outside the box, and we continue to embrace that concept by trying to find interesting, creative ways to bring interior decorative items into the process.
Q: What makes you different from other homes on Airbnb?
BS: What makes us different is that we buy some of the most run-down properties and fix them up with budget restrictions. We can re-envision and create the way we like. We like creating an experience for our guests. It’s not a place where people just come to sleep; we try to create a mood and allow the guests to experience the desert in our eyes. Anyone can book a hotel, but we don’t think they would be able to feel as connected.
Q: What is your favorite part about the Airbnb business?
KS: Doing this stuff is great because it gives us opportunities to be creative. Once it’s done, we have time to pursue other things we’re interested in. Of course, we have to keep in touch and see if everything is flowing smoothly. We give our guests a lot of privacy, but we enjoy hearing about their experiences. Some people even get engaged at the Dome, or have other life altering experiences. Some people have even bought their own places in the desert because they loved it so much; it makes it so special.
Q: What upcoming projects are you working on?
BS: We’re going to be working on a 1957 homestead cabin in North Joshua Tree. It was abandoned since the ‘70s, and we cleaned it up and rebuilt it. A lot of people would’ve looked at it as a teardown, but we wanted to bring the home back to life. The space is special because it is an original Joshua Tree settlement homestead, and it is amazing being able to restore it. We are hoping to get it up and running on Airbnb in 60 days. We are also working on a cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains that we hope to have finished by 2018.
Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: Kathrin Smirke originally moved to Los Angeles in the hopes of becoming an actor, but now, in addition to her Airbnb projects, is a stained glass artist.
Jack of All Trades: Brian Smirke wanted to pursue a career in writing music. Now, in addition to working with his wife on Airbnb projects, he is a real estate developer, designer and part time musician.
Get to Know the Couple Reviving the Joshua Tree Scene