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Style Schifter: Hair Guru Jamal Hammadi's Desert Retreat

In her web column, Lucky contributor Helen Schifter reveals what's she's wearing, watching and of course, buying.

“It’s the right amount of organic, kitsch, zen, chic, and a touch of hippie…really,” says Linda Evangelista, referring to her BFF and go-to stylist Jamal Hammadi’s line of hair products, Hamadi Organics. But she could just as easily be talking about this hair guru’s bed and breakfast retreat, Joshua Tree Pines. As it happens, I am seated at table next to Jamal, and he tells me more about this blissful desert inn, where scenesters from Heather Graham to Lizzy Jagger escape. Please eavesdrop on our conversation…Love, Helen

Where is Joshua Tree?

Joshua Tree is located in the Mojave High Desert, North East of Palm Springs. It is always 10 degrees cooler than the lower deserts, like Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Rancho Mirage and the Coachella Valley.

Is this your home, or a weekend spot for you?

My place is where I can get away from the chaos of life in our fast paced modern world. I do not live there full time. It's a retreat for the creative to unwind and just be still.

How often do you travel for work as a stylist, and where?

Work this year has taken me to Thailand, India, Turkey, New York City as well as upstate New York, and I constantly work all around LA County... and it's only August! We are a global community, so globetrotting is part of my life now and I enjoy it. I was just in Greece and the Turkish Islands on holiday, which is another story! I love traveling the world... I am ready for the moon!

Where did the name Joshua Tree come from?

Joshua Tree is named after the cactus tree that is a distinctive plant that only grows in two places on the planet, in Africa and in the Mojave Desert in California. They are beautiful, hold energy and have mystic qualities. The American Indians were especially keyed into the mystic energies of the plant, which is part of what drew me to Joshua Tree. And while my travels take me all over the world, there is still no place like Joshua Tree National Park, it is a spiritual oasis, it is a wonder to behold... and respect. Ecologists are researching how climate change is effecting the Joshua Trees and how the shifting climate is affecting their future. The real question is: will the Joshua Tree still be here in the future? Their average lifespan is thought to be 100 to 200 years with some trees living as long as 300 years or more. They can be as tall as 50 feet.

What drew you to this area?

I needed a place to escape. When I was very young, I always drove to the beach or the desert to unwind. So it was like the wind calling me as I grew older. I just found myself wandering through the park. And I keep going back. Or sleeping on a friend's rooftop to stare at the moon and the stars, the desert sky is amazing at night, desert nights are dreamy. And the howling of the wolves just complete the desert experience.

The openness of the low, fast sky... it's so colorful and powerful and ever-changing. It is so well known as a spiritual center, Joshua Tree centers me. I just found myself going to the National Park. It is like another planet. Something I identify with grounding me... to touch the earth there...

Joshua Tree is a place that I can just be and rediscover myself by being creative without limiting myself. I can experiment there. I like the mix of people from retired former military families to young hot current military men! To the naturalists that travel from around the world to rock climb on the gi-normous boulders in Joshua Tree National Park. You also have the art culture with the likes of Jack Pierson and Andrea Zittel and all the avant-garde cool kids from LA or the real locals like the little old lady who has been making miniatures for years and is amazing! The mix is bizarre and I can tell stories for days, I find it so fascinating. The best thrifting, too. Somehow it all works.

But most of all, just being still or watching an ant farm work or listening to the many different kinds of birds or how fast the wind blows, the desert is like the dance of the wind... dramatic and always changing.

The desert sky is constantly changing, too, with low clouds that cut across the entire desert. All the while it can be 100 degrees in the day and rain in the evening the temperature can drop to 50 to 30 degrees.

The vastness and openness of the desert (especially the flowers during springtime) is magical. I am drawn there... It is instinctual for me.

What are the best times to visit?

Spring is amazing, the desert flowers are spectacular. You can not imagine how colorful the desert gets. It's magic! And the sunsets and sunrises are out of this world.

Describe the retreat you have created. Size, shape, colors, materials.

I strongly believe that each and every one of us has a human and natural obligation to respect our planet. We don't have choices anymore. We are in serious trouble with pollution, air, food, water and soil... this is no joke. I want to live in harmony with nature and I want to share what I have been fortunate enough to experience, so here you are... My place was an artist retreat for many years, I am the second owner since the 1940s, and I want to bring that spirit back. It's a natural experience and I want to make nature cool. I believe in using organic and natural materials as much as possible, as well as recycled material. Everything I buy is usually used. That being said, that does not mean I compromise on style, quite the opposite in fact. Instead, this makes it affordable to create something amazing. Someone else's junk truly is another person's treasure. Part of this process is all about discovering. For instance, someone near by was getting rid of old railroad ties. I purchased all one thousand pieces or more and used them as beautiful walkways and walls, really used them in different ways.

It was such an organic process. I like to play with dimensions with space and embracing the natural elements, it's architecture in harmony with nature. All of my landscaping walls and paths I designed to be built without using any cement. Instead I used a sort of adobe material inlaid with dirt and rocks, like the American Indians from the area used. I like to use the most harmonious materials. What better than nature? So the property is heaven... I wanted to keep the feeling it posed without making it too modern. Instead of going in and redoing everything, I let the natural landscape dictate how I should incorporate fresh landscaping. So I started by adding dimension by creating different tiers though out the property. Lending itself to that, I wanted the pool a few feet above ground level so the little critters wouldn't fall in and as a design element I like the feeling of swimming among the rocks.

To book, visit Joshuatreeinn.com. And cick through for images of Joshua Tree and Jamal's retreat.

Images by Jamal Hammadi.

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