From the Frey House to the historic Tennis Club and the E Stewart Williams building that houses the Palm Springs Art Museum Architecture and Design Center, there are countless examples of sublime modernist design in Palm Springs. But before any of these mid-century gems were built, the desert city had already become a popular destination. The oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs, Casa Cody, was opened in the 1920s by Harriett Dowie-Cody (a cousin of William Frederick Cody, known as Buffalo Bill) and her architect husband Harold Bryant Cody. First, the duo built one-story Spanish Colonial buildings that faced the San Jacinto Mountains, but that was just the beginning of Casa Cody. Over the years more structures were added, and it’s now a collection of buildings from the early 1900s through to the 1950s that functions almost like its own tiny village.
During the ’20s, celebrities—from AnaÏs Nin to Charlie Chaplin and opera singer and actor Lawrence Tibbett—flocked to the desert to soak up the sun and unwind, with the aforementioned spending time at Casa Cody’s Adobe House, sharing meals, conversations and even private performances. Today that adobe is one of the suites at Casa Cody, which was recently restored and renovated by the women-led hospitality company Casetta Group. The Class 1 historic preservation honors the past while adding luxurious interior design and amenities, and the team worked closely with the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board to ensure the refurb would pay homage to the entire property.
Carolyn Schneider, Casetta Group president, tells us, “We approached this renovation as a refresh, focusing on the interiors, unifying the exteriors and highlighting the existing beauty of the property. The refresh helped to breathe new life into Casa Cody, but the magic and bones of the property were kept intact.”
The hotel’s entrance leads directly into the lobby and cozy marketplace featuring items the team imagined Harriet Cody might have collected for her own home. “Casa Cody has an innately homey and residential feel. We wanted the marketplace to reflect that, to be cozy and inviting with many personal handmade touches,” Schneider says. “We envisioned our marketplace to be her kitchen, where she would entertain on the weekends and host friends and visitors.”
The menu offers light and refreshing bites including chia pudding and guac and chips as well as soft drinks, cocktails and low-intervention wines. There’s also a retail element offering everything from clothes to postcards, hand sanitizer (made by CH favorite AMASS), candles and books.
We stayed in the original two-bedroom Adobe House when the renovation was almost complete. (The team was still working on the entrance, marketplace and edible gardens.) Along with two bedrooms, this original adobe structure features two patios, an outdoor shower, living room and a kitchen that’s been preserved and carefully updated with a white enamel stove. LA’s Now Serving curates the cookbook selection. In addition to the adobe suite, there are three other free-standing homes: the Olympic Cottage, originally built for athletes for the 1932 Summer Olympics; the Winter’s House, a 1930s ranch house that was moved to the property in 2004; and Harriet’s Cottage, named after the founder, which has an outdoor soaking tub.
The interiors of the 30 guest rooms and suites were updated in collaboration with Electric Bowery and the result is a warm and elegant amalgam of tradition and modernity. Each room features richly colored zellige tiles and dark blue millwork in the bathrooms and bar areas. Electric Bowery designed custom cabinetry and upholstery to give the accommodations a residential feel.
“Dark wood tones and vintage elements—which are historic to the property—are balanced with the new rich pops of color, creating a classic yet modern aesthetic that’s as unique as the vibrant history of the property,” explains Lucia Bartholomew, principal at Electric Bowery. “We composed a rich palette of color and texture to complement the existing historical character of Casa Cody.” All rooms and suites face the mountains, and the beds are dressed with Parachute linens and otomi-patterned pillows. Corals, blues and greens abound, as do the various textures—from velvet to stone and timber.
Outside, the paths wind between citrus trees, cacti, palms and bougainvillea. Two swimming pools are surrounded by the one-story structures and lush foliage. LA-based landscape architects of TERREMOTO were careful to remove invasive plants while introducing more natives.
“Casa Cody exists between so many eras—the edges were beginning to fray, but its bones were still very much intact. Our goal was to reduce the amount of grass when appropriate, add native species, and make the garden feel more purposeful,” David Godshall (principal and owner of TERREMOTO) says. “I’m hopeful that our garden renovation elongates on [the property’s] intangible, mysterious quality. We’re pleased to have been able to shepherd its legacy into a new era.”
Urban Farms LA built raised boxes set in a u-shape to create an inviting outdoor space for guests. The edible garden currently includes lettuce, herbs and root vegetables, many of which are used in dishes at the marketplace.
Visiting Casa Cody is akin to staying at somebody’s home, a resort and a truly rare architectural site all at once—with a window into why preserving these spaces remains so important.
Hero image courtesy of Josh Cho