La Casa del Camino has maintained the old-world charm that drew Hollywood celebrities looking for a beachfront retreat in the 1930s.
The Spanish Mediterranean exterior, with cream-colored stucco walls and red tile roof, fronts South Coast Highway. Inside, the cozy fireplace, large wooden ceiling beams and old-fashioned chandeliers bring visitors back to 1929, when the hotel designed by city councilman and artist William W. Riddell opened.
The period ambiance makes the hotel’s Casa Surf rooms a bit of a hidden gem. Each of the 10 rooms has been individually styled by a designer who paired with a surf brand, such as Billabong, Quiksilver and Roxy. They’re modern and fun, with touches that make them uniquely suited to the beachside hotel.
“For us, being a little, small boutique hotel, to have these global brands at our properties was unbelievable,” said Chris Keller, one of the hotel’s three owners. The 10 rooms were redone as the Casa Surf rooms in 2010 and have been a hit ever since, he said.
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“The reactions from our customers were over the top. They love the rooms. They request the rooms.”
La Casa del Camino has a bit of a history. In its early years, Keller said, it was a central location in a coastal town that still had a lot of dirt roads. In the 1960s, when the city was a hot spot for hippies, the place was known as a party pad. Followers of guru and LSD advocate Timothy Leary stayed here. At the time, it was called Hotel Firenze and owned by a local Italian woman, Keller said. Another owner restored the original name. Keller and his two co-owners bought it in 2002.
“It’s been through a lot,” he said. “It was worn. It needed some attention and some TLC. … We turned on the fireplace, and we never turned it off and added some ambiance and music.”
The Casa Surf rooms differ from the rest of the hotel, but they work in this setting, Keller said. “Even though the original architecture is really different … the whole vibe in Laguna Beach is all about art, surfing, nature.”
Each room is a unique creation. The Lost Room, designed in conjunction with San Clemente surf and skate company Lost, has a Moroccan theme, with hanging colored-glass lanterns, white walls accented with green tile and a curving archway in one wall. L*Space was responsible for the very feminine and glitzy room bearing the swimwear company’s name, with chic pendant lamps of gold rings, a white tufted headboard of faux leather and metallic wallpaper.
But three rooms in particular really capture the beach, with one-of-a-kind fixtures. Walking into the Billabong Men’s Room, the first thing visitors might be drawn to is the ocean view directly ahead. But turn around and there seems to be no end to the creative elements that add up to a beach house effect.
Wood furniture, including the platform bed and a coffee table made from the natural-edge cross-section of a tree, recall driftwood found on the shore. The room’s neutral grays and browns make a perfect setting for warm accents such as amber-colored glass pendant lamps hanging on either side of the bed and orange-red toss pillows.
The centerpiece of the room is the collage of overlapping framed art above the bed: images of surfers, a wood cutout of palm trees and patterns using Billabong’s wave logo. The cool part: That middle image of a strapping young surfer is actually a light fixture. So is the surfboard on an adjacent wall and another beautiful piece, of overlapping rectangles making up a powerful, blue wave.
The walls are finished to look like gray cement, and the stone effect continues in the bathroom. The cement sink and stone-tiled shower are complemented by light fixtures above the mirror that add a little sparkle in the form of glass cubes. It’s a masculine room, but with sophistication.
Upstairs, the Glaceau Room, designed in conjunction with the beverage brand, makes the most of its small corner. Light fills the space and puts the best feature on display. Behind the bed is a wall of iridescent glass circles, which change color depending on one’s view. Their hues are like the variations found in abalone shells, but their shapes remind one of bubbles floating up through water. A simple chandelier of clear glass baubles continues the effervescent theme.
White walls, blue glass accents such as a tall vertical pane serving as a partial room divider, turquoise pillows, and white and marine blue curtains are a nice framework for the ocean outside.
The Rip Curl Room makes a bold beachy statement with its one wall filled with a photomural: A surfer moves underwater with his board, looking up through the blue at the sun and a wave crashing on the surface. It’s an image filled with both action and calm.
The rest of the room takes its cue from that, with surfboards hanging in the bedroom and bathroom, a white wall feature at the head of the bed that mimics the pattern of rippling water, and a beachy wicker chair that uses fabric from Rip Curl boardshorts on its cushions. Industrial-style silver light fixtures look like something that would be found along an ocean boardwalk.
“Each is really a different personality,” Keller said of the Casa Surf rooms. “Each is really capturing the heart ... of what Laguna Beach is all about.”
Nightly rates start at around $200. For more information, visit www.lacasadelcamino.com.