The Riemans / Yucca Valley

In 1977 Steve and Ruth Rieman purchased a plot of land in Yucca Valley, California. They fell in love with the landscape while camping and riding motorcycles (now reformed off roaders). The plan was to build a small habitat structure for a weekend retreat. At the time, they were living in Costa Mesa where Steve was running his design business and Ruth was working in the insurance industry.

Stepping back a bit to 1976, Steve had graduated from Art Center and was working as an industrial designer. He submitted two chair designs for inclusion in the Pasadena Museum of Art's exhibition, California Design 76. Steve said he was initially rejected but asked curator Eudorah Moore to take another look because the photos he submitted didn't do the chairs justice. After seeing the chairs in person, Eudorah decided to include them. A photo of his low rocker was also included in the catalogue. 

Rieman made twelve of the rockers by hand. This one still sits in their living room and he has tinkered with it over the years. It now has woven aluminum straps. 

Many of Steve's designs include a story about where he or Ruth sourced the material. The teak used on this chair, one of his earliest projects, came from wood that was used to transport boats from Asia.

Another one of his chair designs from the 1970's. 

It's unbelievably comfortable. 

An earlier prototype with a wood base.

A model from industrial design class at Art Center.

A pair of paintings, also from his days at Art Center.

In 1979 they made the permanent move to the habitat structure, which is now known as their guest cabin. 

With a front yard like this, it's no wonder why they have never left.

The next project was the construction of a workshop and home.

During the original design phase we further constrained our choices by setting the following guidelines and calling our design “nature’s modern”.
  • Sweat equity: We would fully participate in the building process.
  • Low maintenance: We would finish to the degree we were willing to maintain.
  • Use materials honestly: Let function play the heavy role in the design, the nuts and bolts would show if it served no purpose to cover them.
  • Age gracefully: Surfaces and spaces should get better with time.

Steve designed and built all the structures. Passive solar was incorporated using the trombe-wall principles. The concept involves the indirect-gain where sunlight first strikes a solar energy collection surface, thermal mass, which is located between the sun and the space. His design uses glass walls on the south. 

The space between the buildings is filled with sculptures by Steve. 

Steve and Ruth designed every aspect of their home, including the ceramic door handles. 

The kitchen is Art Center orange.

The wood was salvaged from a bowling alley that was being demolished.

There's Steve

And the view of the cabin from the house. 

The wall of maquettes in his studio. Steve mainly does sculpture these days. This includes many large-scale public art projects. He says, "In my work I'm asking questions about the balance between advancing technology and the preservation of the natural environment."  

This is where Steve makes his sculpture. That's Bob with him.

Steve is pointing to a maquette for a wall sculpture he created for a yacht club in Point Loma.

The Riemans are also on the board of an artist in residency program. One of the artists they hosted created this work, which is installed near the bottom of the basin below the cabin. Eventually the landscape will consume the spa. 

Ruth and Steve are an inspiring example of people who have done things right. Ruth told me that Steve makes the art and she makes it happen. What a great team.

Learn more about them at