Casetta is winning acclaim as a boutique hotel brand that renovates and runs old hotels and lodges with stories to tell. But will its "barely there branding" pay off for its investors?
When guests drive up to Marina Riviera, a boutique hotel in Big Bear, California that opened in the autumn of 2022, they won’t see a big sign for Casetta, the parent company that founded the hotel portfolio in 2019. Nor will they see its Casetta floral logo splashed on every corner of the lobby (look closely on the bath products and robes, though, and you’ll find it).
Unlike some other boutique hotel groups, whether that’s Roseate or Pillows, that want to make their brand known immediately, Casetta, which focuses on adaptive reuse projects, takes a deliberately lighter touch.
“That’s what sets us apart,” said Carolyn Schneider, co-founder of Casetta. “We of course want our guests to love all our hotels, but we don’t want them to have the same feeling like they’re going to a Starbucks every time.”
Schneider instead is hoping that guests appreciate each of their properties’ individual character, whether it’s Casa Cody in Palm Springs, California; The Pearl in the Point Loma neighborhood of San Diego; Marina Riviera in Big Bear, as well as their two new properties opening at the end of summer 2023: Hotel Lucile in Silver Lake and Hotel Willa in Taos, New Mexico. The brand will also open another Casetta hotel in Hudson, New York in 2024. Future projects might be in countries like Spain and Portugal.
So far, the Casetta hotels have been resonating — Casa Cody was just named one of Fodor’s best hotels in the U.S. in 2023 . Schneider has won Boutique Design’s Up-and-Coming Hotelier of the Year in 2021, and she is now hoping to open a dozen hotels under the Casetta name.
Whether guests will develop a loyalty to the Casetta brand as a whole, though, remains to be seen.
Casetta means little house or lodge in Italian, and the brand, at its core, renovates small hotels, motels and lodges.
“We’re looking for special buildings that have history or great bones and have been underutilized and that are in great locations,” said Schneider. “We want charm and intrigue.”
The Pearl, for example, was used as a mid-century sportsman’s lodge, while Hotel Lucile is housed in an old church built in 1931.
Casetta looks for structures with a story to tell, considering storytelling is currently a key driving force behind bookings, especially with millennials and Gen Z.
Casa Cody, as another example, was originally founded by a pioneer woman named Harriet Cody in the 1920s, and is the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs. The property’s store sells vintage Casa Cody postcards.
It’s not that the Casetta brand is non-existent. You’ll see its floral logo on things like reusable water bottles (in partnership with Ocean Bottle), and guests are encouraged to check out the brand’s other properties. But right now its approach is to let each property tell its own story.
“We recently hired a full time social media manager, considering what we do is so visual,” said Schneider.
A 360-Degree Art Immersion
The Casetta brand believes that a stay at a boutique hotel should be like a “360-degree art experience.”
“It’s the scent you smell, the feel of the linens, and everything that creates the sensory experience,” Schneider said.
She started as a cocktail server at the Ace Hotel in New York, and worked her way up with sales, marketing and director roles, all while crafting her business model, and meeting real estate brokers and auditing industry classes on the side.
While helping to open the NoMad in Los Angeles she met her investors: Montecito Venture Partners.
which owned the first three hotels of the portfolio that also happened to align with Schneider’s plan. Then, the renovations and branding began.
In the new Taos property, she commissioned art from local artists, and for Casa Cody she partnered with a Southern Californian artist to make handmade citrus juicers for purchase (inspired by the citrus trees that have grown on the property for decades).
Guests might not pick up on details like custom-made, up-right horseshoes in each room for good luck in Casa Cody (Harriot Cody started a stable) or organic bath products in reusable glass bottles (in partnership with MoonCloth Designs) in all the properties, but she’s hoping enough do.
“Some guests notice and some don’t,” Schneider said. “But the guests who do are the right fit for us.”
Photo credit: Inside one of the rooms at the boutique hotel Casa Cody in Palm Springs, California. Photo by Josh Cho Photography. Source: Casetta.