Nestled in the hi-desert you will find an oasis like no other: Starship Landing. An eclectic, bold, and totally groovy retro escape. Starship Landing is truly an out-of-this-world retreat. Beam us up!
Matt and Kristi Kautz’s high desert story began with a shared obsession with Joshua Tree. They explored it together often until they finally decided to buy a place nearby of their own. When they came across two mid-century houses on ten pristine acres bordering protected land as far as the eye can see, they fell in love.
Local legends of alien encounters and vortex fields on the property inspired them to transform the ’50’s houses into their amazingly unique Airbnbs: Aurora and Luna
Starship Landing: A place to go when you need space, whether it’s physical, mental, or cosmic.Matt and Kristi Kautz
Outside under a million stars, you’ll find a stargazers dream: a six-person hammock circle, a fire pit, and the amazing “Starship Stargate”. These inspiring hosts share today such valuable advice on hosting and how they designed their out-of-this world Airbnbs!
All photos are copyrighted from Starship Landing’s Instagram page.
Starship Landing Interview
Firstly, tell us about yourselves!
Hi there, we’re Matt and Kristi Kautz! Matt was born and raised in San Francisco, California, and I (Kristi) was born and raised in southern Louisiana. So we like to think we’re a good representation of America! Or, at least the Southwestern part. We met in Los Angeles, and after our first weekend getaway to the Joshua Tree area, we knew we’d be spending A LOT more time together in the high-desert. We actually began searching for a vacation home here before we were even engaged!
When we found two old houses sitting side-by-side on a 10-acre property in the Flamingo Heights area of Yucca Valley, it was just too magical to pass up—we had to make it ours. And the rest is history!
What was your vision when creating The Starship Landing?
First and foremost, we wanted to create a space where we ourselves would love to spend weekends entertaining friends. The idea was to make the property feel like a destination in itself, with so many fun amenities and different areas to explore, one weekend there just wouldn’t be enough.
We knew we needed to set ourselves apart from other Airbnbs in the area, and we’re both suckers for a fun theme. So since our property is located only five minutes from Landers (a town known for its UFO and alien lore), and we have the most amazing stargazing, we felt that an outer-space theme would be appealing to visitors and really fun to explore design-wise.
Also, since Matt proposed shortly after we bought Starship, part of our vision was to create our perfect wedding venue there. And it really was perfect—the bridal party got ready in one house and the groomsmen in the other, and then we were married in the middle of the two houses against the beautiful open desert views out the backside of the property. Plus, the night sky in the desert is pretty breathtaking, so it made for a great reception.
What was your favorite part of the design process?
The process of integrating an outer-space theme into my interior design was an absolute blast! And it was so much fun dreaming up spaces and places throughout the property that would allow guests to connect with each other and get the most out of the desert landscape. But I have to say, my favorite part of the design process was giving each house its own unique identity and personality, and then bringing it to life! I wanted guests who had stayed at one house to be excited to come back and stay at the other, so I made sure that they each offered an individualized experience to guests, while still feeling connected within the overall brand.
Your Airbnbs have such fun and unique decor that ties in with the areas alien and vortex legends. What elements did you add to enhance the feel of the area and desert?
Thank you! The houses were named after goddess sisters—Luna (goddess of the moon) and Aurora (goddess of the sunrise). So going with the moon theme, I gave Luna a mystical and mysterious vibe, with a monochromatic color palette of blacks, whites, grays, and various shades of blues, and teal-stained concrete floors. I gave Aurora a more cheery and playful personality, with retro space-age decor and a sunrise-inspired color palette of oranges, reds, yellows, and pinks, with gold accents and metallic orange epoxy floors.
And we assumed our target guests would love to party as much as we do, so we hard-wired disco balls in various locations to provide spinning lights for their dance parties with the flip of a switch!
Crop circles were also a big inspiration for the design—we placed round stepping stones in a circular pattern leading to the different outdoor areas of the property such as the hot tub and hammock circles, and I added round rugs and space-themed surrealist wall art to almost every room, as well as sci-fi-esque orb lamps on all bedroom nightstands.
Other little touches include wall murals in Luna’s yoga room, a giant moon painted over the bed in Luna’s master bedroom, and an alien-themed croquet court in Aurora’s backyard. The cherry on top is a life-size alien statue I found in a local thrift shop, who stands guard over Luna’s vintage record player.
In love with the Starship landing sculpture! What’s the story behind that?
We have to give credit to Shig (@s.shigleysteelworks) for that! We needed a wedding arch for the center space between the houses, and we thought – why not make something more permanent, like an art installation? So we reached out to Shig, a local artist known for his metal sculptures, and asked him to build us a steel wedding arch.
He took one look at the Starship Landing logo and was inspired to create the “Starship Stargate”. It’s pretty special—all of our guests love taking photos in front of it… sometimes jumping in the air as if they’re being abducted!
You offer your rentals as accommodation and as a photoshoot location/Yoga retreats etc. How do you find hosting photoshoots/retreats?
We LOVE our retreat hosts. They’re usually very professional, organized, and take great care of our property. But if I’m being honest, retreats do require more time and energy because there’s quite a bit of coordination involved and a lot of questions that need to be answered. So I’ve been working with my property manager (The Cohost Company) on a plan to streamline this process with future retreat hosts, so that it’s easy and seamless.
When it comes to photoshoots, we’re usually able to make a deal with photographers where we give them a shot list and they grab a few photos for us to use on our Airbnb listing, website, and Instagram… so that’s always a win-win in our book!
What extra amenities do you provide that guests have appreciated the most?
We have a huge list of amenities that guests rave about, but some of their favs are the ones that keep them entertained – pool table, alien croquet, hot tubs and cowboy soaking tubs, corn hole, giant Jenga, giant Connect-4, video projector, tons of games, tarot cards, old school Nintendo, yoga mats (with homemade mat cleaning spray), a crystal quartz sound bowl, record players and vinyl collection, portable bluetooth speakers, disco lights, and of course, our Mortal Kombat 3 arcade.
We also provide dog baskets (full of extras a dog owner might need), a coffee/tea/snack station in the kitchen, flashlights, lanterns, oil diffusers with a collection of essential oils, Echo Dots/Alexas, sunglasses, and umbrellas (for the rare chance it rains in the desert).
And while all of these extras contribute to the experience, I’d say the feature that people enjoy most are the 6-person hammock circles. There’s nothing better than watching the sunset or a meteor shower with friends in a hammock.
What does your ideal weekend spent in the Yucca Valley/ Joshua Tree look like?
This is such a fun question! Our favorite way to spend the weekend is with friends, so we’d invite all of our friends from both L.A. and the desert to come hang with us at Starship for the weekend. We’d kick off Friday evening with a sunset hike out of the back of the property, spotting wildlife (bunnies, quails, roadrunners, etc.) in their natural habitat. We’d follow that up with a backyard barbecue, a soak in the hot tub, and stargazing from the hammocks. Then we’d head inside for an all-night space disco dance party (costumes encouraged)!
On Saturday, we’d start the day with a big brunch, play a few rounds of corn hole, and then spend the day relaxing in the “cowboy tub” soaking pool.
In the evening, we’d pop over to Pioneertown to check out the newly opened Red Dog Saloon and visit with some other local friends. Then we’d head back to Starship for a little more hot tub stargazing, and then dry off by the fire pit.
After a few cocktails, some good tunes, and a few games of pool, we’d cap off the night with a movie on the basement projector. Early Sunday morning, we’d visit The Integratron for a sound bath (a famous local attraction that we highly recommend) and then grab lunch at Pappy & Harriet’s to complete the weekend!
What advice can you give to new hosts looking to decorate an Airbnb in niche and fun way?
In my opinion, choosing a unique design theme that sets you apart from competitors is crucial, especially if your location is over-saturated with high-end vacation rentals. The best way to do this is to look at competitive listings on Airbnb and try to find a niche that no one else is doing (or doing well).
Find your why—your hook. What sort of novel experience would make your target guests choose your property over others, even if it means they have to splurge or book months in advance?
I’d encourage hosts not to shy away from making bold design choices that will surprise, delight, and deliver the unexpected to their guests. Believe it or not, a themed property doesn’t have to be tacky. There are lots of ways to bring a theme to life in a minimalist and tasteful way.
I also recommend designing photo-worthy backdrops in various spaces throughout the property. Stage each different area as if you’re setting up a movie set, using items such as stand-out furniture pieces (for example, a swing chair), eccentric wall art, dramatic fixtures, walls painted with art murals, or other fun props that tie to your theme.
By making your vacation rental more “Instagrammable”, you’ll attract the type of guest who is likely to take photos at your property and share them on their own social media accounts—which means free promotion and user-generated content!
Your Instagram account has a wonderful mix of interior photos and the local landscape; do you find having a solid social media presence has increased your bookings? Any advice on creating a Social media experience for guests?
Yes, definitely! While it’s difficult to measure the value we get from social media (it’s impossible to track Airbnb bookings back to social media posts), I truly believe it’s a big driver for brand awareness and word-of-mouth marketing. And it’s so much fun to see all of the pictures and videos our guests post while visiting the property—we’re constantly inspired by their experiences.
In addition, our Instagram presence has captured the attention of social influencers who have reached out to us to do collaborations, so that’s been really helpful in building a robust library of lifestyle content that features the property.
And usually they’ll post photos and stories promoting Starship to their own Instagram audience, so that added exposure is just icing on the cake!
And as I mentioned before, a great way to build an engaged social media audience is to make every part of the property share-worthy. For example, our Starship Stargate (the metal sculpture between the properties) has paid for itself many times over in the free advertising our guests have given us by posting pictures of themselves in front if it and tagging the property in their Instagram posts. All their friends then have to stay there to experience it for themselves.
Any advice for new Airbnb hosts just starting out with their vision?
When first starting out, Pinterest was my BFF. I created a board for the house, organized it with different sections for each room, and would pin anything and everything that inspired me. Then I’d refer back to my boards as I narrowed down my vision and worked to craft mood boards with specific decor items. I also locked down a colors and materials palette early on and allowed that to guide my decor decisions.
I also found it extremely helpful to create a clear profile of my target guest, including demographics, personality, profession(s), hobbies, interests, and where they consume their info, and then design everything with that person in mind. When picking out furniture or deciding which amenities to buy, I would ask myself “would this make my target guest happy?”
Oh, and make sure to take lots of “before” photos from every angle so you can show everyone your amazing side-by-side “before and afters”!
Thank you Matt and Kristi for sharing your hosting story with our community! It was such an amazing experience interviewing you both. My dream is to be abducted by aliens and wake up at Starship Landing!
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