Artistic Landmark

Decades of hard work and artistry make the Kellogg Doolittle house a destination near Joshua Tree National Park that can never be replicated.

By Moe Godat

Photography courtesy of the Kellogg Doolittle House


When famed artist couple Jay and Beverly “Bev” Doolittle commissioned their home to be built in 1988, they sought for its construction to become a liveable work of art unbound by time or cost constraints; enter renowned architect Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, a key innovator of Organic Architecture and co-worker of the great Frank Lloyd Wright.

Constructed over a 26-year period, what’s now known as the Kellogg Doolittle house stands as a testament to art, architecture and craftsmanship. Located just outside of Joshua Tree National Park in Joshua Tree, California, this high-end residence does more than blend in with the desert surroundings. It enhances it, acting as a luxury oasis to those who visit without detracting from the astounding natural experience the area provides.

Set atop granite boulders, the home features no traditional walls or framing; instead, it uses 26 cantilevered concrete columns and massive boulders to create a space that was surprisingly warm and inviting despite the hard, striking materials.

This warmth must also be attributed to master craftsman, John Vugrin, Kellogg’s protégé who worked on the home’s interior craftsmanship from 1994 until 2014 when the Doolittles sold the house. He rejoined the home in 2021 when ownership changed hands for a second time.

The perfect clients, an excellent architect, one interior master craftsman, no time pressure or formalized budget and a stunning building site came together to create a one-of-a-kind living experience that many say can never be done as expertly again.

The main house sits elevated among the rocks while a street-level garage with living space within rests below, separated by a 550-foot paved golf cart/walking path. The home is constructed of 26 columns sunk into bedrock as well as existing boulders to form parts of its exterior. Windowpanes and custom metal and glass doors fill the spaces between; Kellogg explained that he intentionally engineered the home to be earthquake-proof.

John Vugrin personally fabricated each interior element by hand into twisting, curvilinear forms; his work transformed the Kellogg Doolittle space. He designed and built all the home’s furniture, built-in items, light fixtures, doors, windows and much more. His over 25 years of work on the interior elevated the home to its current state of near perfection.

Set beside the  astonishing view of Joshua Tree National Park, the home lives up to its location both inside and out, making this home a perfect marriage between artistic expression, organic architecture and top-of-the-line craftsmanship.