If you’ve ever been to Joshua Tree National Park, you know how magical it feels. The landscape is filled with surreal boulder formations. Sentient-seeming Joshua trees outstretch their spiky arms toward a night sky filled with stars.
After exploring the surrounds of Joshua Tree, Bob Bogard and Michael von Wittenau were hooked on the tranquility of the High Desert. They were looking for a retreat that was near their primary residence in Palm Springs. When they came across this 5-acre ranch in Pioneertown—with historic structures, sweeping views of natural rock and an intriguing pedigree—they knew it was the perfect fit.
Bob and Michael are married and have been a couple for 26 years. Michael is in the hospitality industry, and Bob is the director of public relations at O’Bayley Communications. The company handles the marketing for Modernism Week—a favorite destination among Atomic Ranch readers. After purchasing the property in 2019, the couple named it Mod West Ranch and set about a careful makeover. They wanted to preserve the historic roots and also better highlight its mid century legacy.
The Joshua Tree property has three main structures. The first is a 1965-built two-bedroom, one-bath home that they call The Cottage. The second is an original 1946 homestead cabin, which they renamed The Bunny Lounge and redid with a groovy ski-lodge vibe. And the third is The Studio, a large, open-air art studio that is ideal for indoor/outdoor recreation.
“A female doctor originally owned the ranch in the 1940s. Then a Hollywood script writer owned it, and most recently, a guitarist from a famous 1980s rock band,” says Bob. Going back even further in time, indigenous peoples used the land, and they left signs such as grinding holes in the stone they used to prepare food.
Mid Century Makeover
As the Joshua Tree ranch’s new stewards, Bob and Michael carted out seven truckloads of debris from various eras. “We could see the potential,” Bob says. “It wasn’t so much construction as editing.” The property’s makeover took just about a year. “We wanted to respect the original architecture as much as possible,” Michael explains. “The buildings had such nice bones.” They also sourced mid century vintage furnishings, mainly found in Palm Springs and Long Beach, California.
The couple loves visiting the Joshua Tree home for their own retreats, and also rents it out for others to enjoy. “There’s a solemnness, a sacredness here,” says Bob. “There’s a deep stillness.”
“It’s so peaceful and quiet that it actually took me awhile to adapt to that,” says Michael. “Now, once I’m here, I immediately relax and appreciate the natural beauty. We sit in the hot tub and look at the rock formations. They look different every time of day, due to the light changing. I think that’s why a lot of musicians and creative types live in the High Desert. There’s just so much inspiration.”
To see more of Mod West ranch, see Get the Look: MCM Decor for Your Backyard Conversation Space.