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Casa Tierra: Creating The Perfect Vacation Rental With Designer Paula Oblen

Casa Tierra was Bobby’s most ambitious design project ever. And he wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without lots of help.  When it came to overseeing the day-to-day operations, Designer (and vacation home expert) Paula Oblen was the person who really made it all happen. So we sat down with Paula to get her take on Casa Tierra – and discover what it really takes to design a dream getaway!    

Paula & Casa Tierra

So how did Paula get included in this project? With Bobby and our design team in Los Angeles, it wasn’t feasible to handle this ambitious remodel remotely. He needed someone on-site in Palm Desert who could handle the many (and we do mean many) obligations of managing a design project. Enter Paula Oblen, a local interior designer specializing in vacation properties. With Paula’s keen eye and expertise in crafting stylish rental spaces, we found the perfect partner to bring Bobby’s vision to life. (In fact, the house Bobby stayed in when visiting Palm Desert was designed by Paula).

Keep scrolling for Paula’s full interview – including her tips for creating a successful vacation rental.

Q: What was the most challenging part of working on this project? 

A: As expected with any property built in the 1950s, I knew we had a ‘beast’ on our hands and needed to prepare ourselves for what was behind the walls. The retrofitting of electrical alone over the years uncovered significant safety issues and challenges.  Decision-making was in a constant state of flux requiring extensive hours on a daily basis to project manage construction delays, supply issues, and high desert temps – all while working through a global pandemic.


Q: Were there any design surprises you weren’t expecting?

A: I knew it was important to embrace the imperfections (there were many) and ‘quirkiness’ of this property from day one!  We all wanted the property to feel new and modern, but also stay true to the original architecture and history. I was both surprised and ecstatic at how well we were able to infuse old and new to choreograph an eclectic mix that adds both interest and character to all the spaces -both inside and outside.  The pool structure, Casita Agua, continues to surprise me as this was a monster of a renovation with challenge after challenge. Oh, if those ‘new’ walls could talk!






Q: What are the moments in Casa Tierra that elevates the rental?

A: Upon entering the secluded property, guests are greeted by an oversized steel ‘Casa Tierra’ gate that sets the tone for a unique experience around every corner.  With the stunning desert landscape as our backdrop, it was important to seamlessly blend the interior and exterior spaces to create a relaxing ‘escape’ for guests. The selection of neutral tones combined with curated and collected organic objects adds a sense of ‘place and discovery’ to the overall experience.  The rich, ebony-stained wood ceilings (switched from dark brown), were a bold contrast to the white, textural walls, and the original Saltillo tile floors anchor the design while also exuding an effortless, yet sophisticated vibe.


“Guests want immersive experiences — and will be drawn to properties that weave local culture with bold design.”

Q: What are the most important things to keep in mind when designing for a rental property?

A: It’s imperative to balance high design with operational efficiency when designing a rental property.  While it may be the bold, creative design that draws guests in, it’s crucial to view the experience through the lens of a guest to ensure that daily ‘guest’ conveniences are met and easily accessible. Today’s savvy travelers crave experiences – they want to feel a sense of adventure.  Whether traveling for remote work or vacation, creating a space that fills both needs is critical.  With safety always the top priority, other essential items are:

  • Brand your property by giving it an identity (ie: Casa Tierra), so guests can feel immersed in the story.  Sharing subtle touch-points such as signage, history, and behind-the-scenes on social platforms will forge connection and engagement.


  • Create instagrammable design moments (like hand-painted murals), as this sparks engagement, encouraging guests (sometimes influencers), to share experiences in real-time – your best advertisement of the property.


  • Invest in high-quality video and photography to showcase all of the special ‘artful’, unique details -this can make or break your listing.


  • Hire a high-quality property management company.


Q: What is different about designing for a vacation rental vs. a residential project? 

When designing a rental property the overarching goal and decision-making should always revolve around maximizing profit. Unlike residential design, where we live on a daily basis, vacation homes are purchased as an investment with the purpose of creating a revenue stream for the owner/investor. Whether booking for vacation or remote work, guests want immersive experiences — and will be drawn to properties that weave local culture with bold design.  Unlike our permanent homes, a guest stay is ‘temporary’ so large furniture items with storage are unnecessary.  For example, we opt for stand-alone or wall-mounted valets in bedrooms (vs. a large dresser or chest) which provide ample storage while also minimizing clutter, creating a more relaxing and tranquil vibe.


Q: What’s your favorite piece in the house? 

A: There are many, but my favorite is the custom-designed Tunisian lighting installation in the living room.  And not only because of the ‘wow’ design moment, but the story behind the design adds ‘soul’ to the house. The 15 large-scale date palm pendants (also indigenous to Palm Desert) immediately evoke emotion, ignite curiosity and tell a story.  Hand woven by Berber artisans living in a small African village, our custom Casa Tierra order not only ensures the sustainability of their art but also continues to support and increase the quality of life for the talented artisans of Tunisia!

Q: Tell me about the first time you stayed at Casa Tierra as a guest

A: Funny story. It happened to be my 25th wedding anniversary and we were knee-deep in installation prepping for our initial photo shoot and the first guests. Almost pulling an all-nighter, I slept in the bedroom closest to the living room and was mesmerized by how the dimmed pendant lights reflected against the night desert sky.  Emotions (and exhaustion) were setting in, but at this moment, I realized how much heart and soul I had put into this project. After six months of working tirelessly, I could feel the finish line fast approaching and was overwhelmed with excitement to share the experience of Casa Tierra.