Hillary Flur and Malek Alqadi have created an oasis in Joshua Tree that blends nature with everyday comforts, and off-grid living with sustainably-minded modern technology. Their Joshua Tree Folly is an open-air set of steel-wrapped cabins built on the site of a neglected homestead. The space invites visitors to combine a desire to unplug and the wonders of innovative design in a way that is comforting rather than combative.
We talked with Flur about how this project came to life, what it feels like to be inside the Joshua Tree Folly, and debunking expectations of what off-grid experiences need to be.
Grab a cup of coffee and get ready to star gaze.
What is your background and how did you come to create Folly?
Malek (the architect) and I grew up dreaming of building a business together. He pursued architecture, and I went after customer experience and operations. Gathering tenure in our respective fields we combined funds and skills to create something that wasn’t obviously in the marketplace, distinctive experiences focused on curated client deliverables.
Why did this spot in Joshua Tree feel like the place for the Joshua Tree Folly? How did you come upon the original cabin?
We spent a year screening for locations throughout Southern California, however, we kept returning to Joshua Tree as it is incomparable for value and natural beauty, with amenities to support client needs. Folly is an off-grid wonder, but it is still off-grid! We spent many hours, both day and night (day views and lights at night), going off grid became second nature, ultimately discovering a long-since neglected homestead needing to be remembered.
What does the name “Folly” refer to?
I like the provocative nature of the word that is commonly understood today, however, the centuries old definition in Architecture, is a whimsical structure with views to trigger conversations and enjoyment. So we readily bought into the word as a reflection of our brand.
What can a guest staying at the Joshua Tree Folly expect to experience and feel during their stay?
It is an overused statement to “expect the unexpected.” We like to ‘reveal’ unexpected shock, delights, and engagement, all under the low-key, relaxed invitation to step forward and enjoy what Folly has to offer. Views, technology, design, comfort, and most importantly, a venue to hit the reset button.
What have been some of the most memorable guest experiences or events at the Joshua Tree Folly?
The creative engagement by the athletic community, the artistic community, photographers, dancers, [and] world travelers. It has been more than we could have ever imagined! We have curated many weddings, family gatherings, commercial shoots, and music videos all with Folly at the center of their experience.
How does Folly introduce guests to the concept of off-grid living in a way that is accessible and relatable?
It was important for us to integrate technology with the off-grid experience. There are a lot of off-grid cabins, but they lack technology, and design. We wanted guests to have a new sense of what an off-grid experience could be. Everyone in the 21st century has a strong level of digital understanding. We leveraged that from the moment you approach the front door, our automatic locks, iPads, and smart home technology responds to a touch or a spoken command. The technology is visual and welcomes the guests with a very easily digestible approach.
What does it feel like to be inside the Joshua Tree Folly space?
Simply put; excited engagement! I believe the half-mile drive off-road as one approaches these unusual structures that look like possibly ‘rusted barns’, with wide open expanses behind them. As the (air lock) opens the front door, one is confronted by high vaulted ceilings, and stunning views with modern yet comfortable decor. Then the exploring begins. I’ve witnessed it countless times, bags thrown down, and climbing into the loft. Or, stepping into the modern shower with panoramic floor to ceiling views. Stepping through to the outdoor deck, and cold plunge with views of the fire circle, and Joshua Tree mountains as they then climb up to the stargazing suite!
What special considerations did you have to take when creating an off-grid space?
Views, water sources and off-grid power, ease of use, comfort, technological integration, and providing dozens of opportunities for an individual to have flexibility and freedom to create their own experience.
Do you have a favorite part of the Joshua Tree Folly Cabin?
The star gazing suite. It is treated like a portal with no roof. Which, with almost year-round dry conditions, one can lay in bed and watch the constellations, shooting stars (and even the space station makes an occasional appearance), protected comfortably from the elements, yet staged to feel as if one is sleeping amongst the stars.
What is morning coffee like at the Joshua Tree Folly?
With the sun rise over Joshua Tree, it’s like cupping a coffee sitting in a spectacular IMAX. I’ve heard from guests that it stages their day and energizes them. Coffee with a view…
Daytime photos by Sam Frost, and nighttime photos by Nick Pacione. Video by the Rolling Van.