In a highly caffeinated world, Ally Walsh is as grounded as they come. On top of a successful modeling career, she launched LA’s cult favorite Canyon Coffee with her partner—musician and writer Casey Wojtalewicz—in 2016. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, as has the LA-based couple. Three years ago, they signed a lease on a café in the creative enclave of Echo Park and welcomed their son, Sonny. The end of 2023 saw the launch of their first roastery, a 12,000 sq ft factory in downtown LA that brings the whole production process together, from bean to bag.
Ally and Casey hope to open a second café soon, but before embarking on that journey, they recently indulged their other passion – travel – by taking a few days out to reset at The Desert Wave in the Coachella Valley. A mid-century home designed by Walter S. White in 1955 for eccentric sculptor Miles C. Bates, the house was a hub for artists but fell into disrepair until architect father and son, Gil and Christian Stayner brought it back to life. They launched it, to much acclaim, at Modernism Week in 2020.
In the process of booking their stay, Ally discovered that she already knew its host. The Canyon Coffee café is located a block from Christian’s restaurant Bacetti, which serves their coffee, and they’re regulars at each other’s establishments. “I'm excited to see him again now,” Ally laughed, when we caught up with her to find out how her desert adventure went. “From not knowing him super well, now I feel like we have some kind of bond!”
What was your first impression of the Desert Wave when you arrived?
We were in awe. It's so beautiful in person and just feels so well kept. And the energy in there was really nice, really calming. We arrived near sunset and were able to catch the last light of the day as we got settled. Then in the morning, waking up and opening the curtains to let the light in, we were treated to the full extent of how the light fills up the space.
How did your stay go?
For me and Casey lately, we have a two-year-old, Sonny, we have a business with a big team… we felt like we were able to relax, which is exactly what we needed. We didn't have to leave the house much. We made breakfast every morning, we made dinner, we went in the hot tub with Sonny, we all watched a movie in bed one night, we read, we walked to a few nearby parks, we went to the zoo, fed the giraffes. It was so nice. The house felt special, elevated, and yet everything we needed was there. So, it just felt easy — and trips don’t always go that way!
"I feel like you can pick up on the energy of the home. It feels well-kept, like the current owners are being intentional about continuing the legacy of the home and how special it is."
Canyon Coffee is so much more than a coffee brand. It’s a community, with a website full of intel. In your journal, you ask creatives about their morning rituals. So, we’re turning the tables on you – what’s yours?
It always starts with my two-year-old son waking me up anywhere between 5:30 and 6:30. Our alarm clock! And then either myself or my partner Casey will make a pot of coffee. Then, if we have time, enjoy it in bed together.
Do you take that ritual on the road?
Yes! We packed our Moccamaster and our grinder for this trip. We always make sure to bring a grinder for our coffee — either a hand grinder if we’re camping or our electric if staying at a home. When we got to the house, we were pleasantly surprised to find a Moccamaster already there! That was funny. But also fitting. Its design and the quality of coffee it brews felt perfectly in line with the Desert Wave.
Is that something you can fit in your hand luggage?
Just on road trips! When we fly, we take our Canyon instant coffee. All you need is hot water.
When you travel, do you look for great design? Are you going for the atmosphere? Or is it the location?
I would say definitely all three. And I always hope there's a bathtub, and that maybe it's close to a restaurant. But it's also nice to be a little secluded. It's important to have a kitchen and maybe a coffee machine there. It's one of the perks of renting a home, not to have to go out all the time.
Gil and Christian say part of the experience of staying at the Desert Wave is stepping back in time. Did you get that sense?
Yes, being in the kitchen, the living room, the yard — even the back deck with its wood hot tub — you can really get that sense and have that experience. I feel like you can pick up on the energy of the home. It feels well-kept, like the current owners are being intentional about continuing the legacy of the home and how special it is. There are a lot of small touches that connect it to the era of when it was built. At the same time, there are still modern amenities that build upon that sense of going back and time and enhance the stay. A great example is the Sonos system connecting to the record player, enabling the wonderful vintage record collection of the home to be played and heard throughout the house.
Were there any features that stood out to you?
I loved the rollercoaster roof and how it made each room feel unique. I loved the house phone on the wall because you don't see that anymore. Ever. My son was playing with it, and I was thinking… when else does he get to play with an actual house phone like this? I just loved that touch.
So who did you call?
Well, I think Sonny called his Grandma, Grandpa, my sister’s dog, and his nanny. I don’t think there was a dial tone, but that didn’t stop him — and for us, beside the point! I think it's more like art at this point.
Another feature of the house I loved was the hot tub, and in particular how small it is. It's right outside the door from the bedroom, and the placement of it is so perfect. I love how compact the house is, but it didn't feel too small. You're surrounded by glass so you don't feel like you're boxed in. I love how it's an open space so I could be cooking in the kitchen while Casey was reading in the living room, but it's kind of all one room.
When you travel, where do you like to go?
We have a tradition of taking a road trip to Northern California around the New Year. On the trip, we usually make it a point to visit Big Sur and Sea Ranch, which is three hours north of San Francisco. But we spend most of the trip in and around Point Reyes. We love being in nature, going on hikes every day. It's so peaceful and quiet, and we can reflect, envision, dream, and make our goals for the year — for ourselves and for our business.
The past couple of summers, we've also been fortunate enough to go to Europe. We went to Rome, Puglia and Paris last year, which was amazing. I'd say Northern California and Paris are two places I find myself wanting to return to year after year.
How has travel changed since you had Sonny?
It's a completely different experience. I used to look forward to a flight, bring a book, or sleep, or watch a movie. Now it's just making sure that this person on your lap doesn't run up and down the aisle. I’ve had moments of him sprinting down the aisle into first class. This one time, I was running to go get him and he was holding a man's arm. And I think it was Ethan Hawke. And we looked at each other, and I was so startled. Then I really wanted Sonny to do it again, so I could go and see if it really was him! That was really funny.
You write travel guides for the Canyon Coffee site. If you were to write a guide to this stay, what would it include?
Definitely the Living Desert Zoo. It's five minutes away. We loved going there. I think that was the highlight of the stay. Then we went to this vegan spot called Chef Tanya. We went there for dinner and lunch one day. It was just nice to eat there with my son. It felt very easy, family friendly and comfortable.
STAY: The Desert Wave