Follow the Interstate 10 out of Palm Springs — you know, the glitzy and glamorous vacation spot favored by crooners like Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin — and you'll discover a whole lot of nothing.
After 50 minutes or so of dusty, desert road, the slick architecture and thirsty golf course greens start to feel so very far away. The last Starbucks is but a dot in your rearview mirror. There's a confronting sense of stillness followed by the sobering realization that you're in the desert.
"My husband and I were looking to buy something in the desert. He was thinking Palm Springs and I was sold on the high desert — I guess he won," explains fashion and textile designer Corey Lynn Calter.
"We ended up buying a beautiful home in Palm Springs, it was built in 1957. Soon after we got the keys to the new house, I received an alert for The Dome House. I knew the timing wasn't right, but I kept my eye on it. A few years later, it was back on the market — I figured it was meant to be," she said.
Dotted on the dry and arid landscape in Joshua Tree National Park, deep in the Mojave desert, is where Calter and her family choose to escape the daily grind. Surrounded by spiky plants, mounds of dirt, and very little else, Calter seeks solace in the fact that they're just far away enough from it all.
Legend has it that the Joshua tree, the yucca plant native to the national park, received its name from a group of Mormon settlers during the mid-19th Century. Said to have mystical, even biblical properties, people gravitate to the trees — their outstretched branches likened to that of Joshua, his hands skyward, uplifted in prayer — in search of something.
While many of us might feel a sense of unease — or at the very least, a little lonely — out there in the desert for more than a few days of pre-arranged enlightenment or soul-searching, Calter has grown to love the sense of solitude.
"It seems remote but really it is very central to town, the markets, and the park," she explains. "Being a city kid, I do like that it feels remote. I grew up in Philadelphia and New York City, the desert landscape was so unfamiliar to me that it may as well have been Mars. Seeing the desert for the first time completely blew my mind, I just fell in love. It is such a powerful environment — it reminds you that you're just a visitor."
When it comes to the stark and unforgiving landscape, Calter's beloved dome house holds its own, its shackled roof withstanding the relentless desert sun, day after day. In the summer, temps can soar above 100, while in the dead of the night during the cooler months, the climate dips to near freezing.
"I've always been attracted to things that are out of the ordinary. Visually, I love it," explains Calter, her dome home sticking out like a sore thumb with its tomato red front door. "But in reality, it is very tricky. There are so many challenges that come with living out here, from the wall space to the furniture height. But I'm really enjoying getting to know the space, it has a very special energy — it’s a work in progress."
Beyond the threshold, Calter's dome is so much more than just a pretty shell. It's filled with flea market finds and repurposed vintage treasures. Worn animal hides and shaggy rugs dress the hardwood floors, while an Eames Lounge Chair and Ottoman serves as the epitome of Cali-cool style. Wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling, there's not a trace of the aforementioned city life Calter left behind.
"I hate to admit it, but I guess I’m a maximalist," the designer says. "The pieces in my home really do bring me joy. I like when I can tell that someone has loved something — a finger print in the pottery or a worn down handle, the telltale signs that these things have been loved in a previous life."
A vintage walnut media credenza — potentially from the '60s — leans along the dome's curvy wall, peppered with assorted bits and pieces — a vintage ceramic lamp, pre-loved vase, and oddballs that Calter has accrued overtime. "I enjoy mixing the vintage and the new," she says. "The word 'eclectic' is so overused but I would describe my approach to design as eclectic, with a sense of humor."
For most of us, the challenges associated with furnishing a home — four flat walls and all — can be trying at the best of times. For Calter, curves and unconventional dimensions have made it all the more difficult to fill the lone dome.
"This house has so many quirks," she laughs. "It’s almost like the house is a roommate that you need to get used to and learn to accept. It was build in the '80s, most likely by an amateur builder, so nothing is quite straight. Luckily, I expected this and have since learned to work around it. Since the walls are mostly curved and faceted, you have to choose furniture heights carefully. I found that lower pieces worked better, but that was frustrating since the space calls for height."
Throughout the living spaces, mid-century marvels seamlessly complement one another, showcasing Calter's penchant for the peculiar. Floor lamps à la Mad Max and a space-aged orange fireplace by Horne have you second guessing your dimension.
"I've always been attracted to handmade items, I feel they have a soul," Calter explains. "But to me, it’s always about mixing. Too much of one or the other would feel off, I think this is the most modern way to decorate."
Since acquiring the dome, Calter admits there's been more than a few learnings — "my neighbors take their time, and I like that," she admits, when asked about the sense of community.
For the designer, supporting local vendors and shopping small is key to adjusting to life out here. Her day typically starts with a hot cup of Joshua Tree Coffee — the much-lauded local bean — watching on as jack rabbits and quail run dusty circles around one another in the backyard.
"I'll head out for the day, perhaps visit friends, or hit up the local shops," Calter says of her daily routine. " I like to plan ahead for dinner, which usually consists of a fresh salad or a BBQ. In the early evening, we'll put a record on and watch the sunset — the sunsets are spectacular in Joshua Tree."
Cleverly carved out within the primary living space, Calter's dining area makes for ideal entertaining. A sleek, curved walnut dining table dressed with assorted candlesticks and brassy accents, is surrounded by AllModern dining chairs, sitting beneath a spider-legged chandelier by Barry Goralnick. A sunny yellow tapestry provides a welcome pop of color, complementing the marigold cabinetry in the family's kitchen. Calter decorates her oaky open shelving with stacks of ceramics and repurposed sugar jars in olive green.
Make your way up the spiral staircase, and it's hard to ignore the carved triangle skylights that stream with desert sun. Calter decorates the bedroom spaces with layered rugs and earthy textiles that best evoke her soulful-bohemian-in-the-desert aesthetic.
"For this space, I wanted to create an organic and spontaneous feeling," Calter explains of her approach to styling. "From plants to pottery, I wanted my home to feel alive and touched by hands. I tried to source exclusively vintage, and was drawn to pottery, fiber art, and different textiles. I was excited to work on something that didn't need to be so precious — I wanted to create a space to be lived in and ultimately loved."
With all its quirk and character, Calter's dome provides shelter from the surreal and the sublime. If going off-grid and unplugging is the primary objective, the dome house fits the bill, offering a blend of home comfort and pure escapism.
"This landscape demands to be respected, that's the thing," Calter explains. "I was surprised about just how windy it gets. It’s great when you can watch from inside — but try not to get caught in it."
As for the first piece of advice the designer offers friends who brave the dusty roads, set their GPS, and follow the Interstate 10?
"Keep an open mind, prepare to quiet yourself — and bring a good book," she smiles.