Book a Private Home for an Off-the-Grid Retreat

Escape to one of these carefully curated residences, far from urban centers



Whether you’re still wary of staying at hotels or just looking to get a break from the bustle of the city, these stand-alone homes have all been lovingly created to host guests in out-of-the-way settings. Be sure to pack light — a good book and a toothbrush are all you need for a weekend that will seem a world away.


The views of the mountains from the plunge pool mesmerize until the stars appear


MERCHANT HOUSE HIGH DESERT’s bright interior (left) and deck and plunge pool. Photos by Kate Berry.

Morongo Valley
There’s no downtown, no pool parties, and the homes are decidedly more rustic than midcentury, but that’s exactly the point. Bypass the southeast turn for the 111 that leads to Palm Springs from the 10 in favor of the 62 and head north. Bohemian, undeveloped and quirky, this charming corner of the Mojave Desert is famed for the striking yucca that dominate its arid landscape, only competing with monolithic boulders and the occasional roadside artist cottage for your Instagram real estate.

Without an abundance of hotel options, your best bet for experiencing this Zen setting is posting up in one of the region’s carefully crafted homes for rent. Here, interior designer Denise Portmans and her artist daughter Sara Marlowe Hall (who also co-own Santa Monica’s Merchant Modern design shop) have lovingly restored this 1950s Spanish-style ranch house, complete with its original striking yellow doors. Now, the Merchant House High Desert features raw wood beams, cool concrete floors, and a neutral color palette that combines everything from Danish oddities to handmade, Japanese-inspired beds to vintage Moroccan accessories. Outside, the views of the mountains from the deck and plunge pool mesmerize until the stars appear. From $395/night.


Native American art hangs on the walls of the CABIN IN THE SKY.

Idyllwild-Pine Cove 
Just south of Palm Springs, the mountaintop setting of Idyllwild feels a world away from the nearby desert. Towering pines, rocky outcrops, snow-sprinkled cedars and charming cabins are the landmarks here, and days are spent mountain biking, rock climbing, hiking, photographing landscapes or simply cozying up in one of the area’s reclusive cabins.

Here, this three-bedroom house — dubbed Cabin in the Sky — from the owners of Silver Lake’s Mohawk General Store boutique features interiors with an eclectic history: Native American art decorates the walls and bookshelves, while Moroccan rugs adorn the floors. Plush leather sofas surround the fireplace for evenings spent listening to records (there’s quite a collection of classics) on the vintage Denon turntable, while a modern kitchen and bathrooms provide contemporary comforts. Use the wraparound deck to watch the sunset over the Strawberry Valley and Tahquitz Rock. From $250/night.


Left: At historic HOLMAN RANCH, the olive trees date back to the 1920s. Right: The property’s sprawling 750 acres in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Photos by Scott Campbell.

Carmel Valley
Nestled on 750 acres filled with vineyards, rolling hills and nature trails, this two-bedroom cottage on the historic Holman Ranch estate feels like its own private resort. The traditional California ranch-style home with Spanish hacienda influences offers an ideal retreat for an intimate getaway spent exploring the property’s own gardens and grounds, which date back to 1928 and include a private winery and olive groves.

While the meandering property offers enough to entertain even stir-crazy travelers, those who do wish to venture beyond the gates will enjoy the neighboring wineries, as well as the stunning coastline of Carmel-by-the-Sea, just 20 minutes away. From $595/night.


Feature image: The striking yellow doors of MERCHANT HOUSE HIGH DESERT.


This story originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2020 issue of C Magazine.

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