Airbnb Hosting / Interviews

Airbnb Hosts | Natalie and Selin of La Casita Cacao

Nestled in the high desert of California, you will find Airbnb hosts Natalie and Selin’s little desert farm stay: La Casita Cacao. It is truly a one of a kind Airbnb destination for guests to unplug and reset surrounded by nature. La Casita Cacao is a renovated shed that has been transformed into an amazing off-grid tiny house. Designed with sustainability in mind and beautiful details, this desert oasis has everything a guest needs and more.

While nestled in the desert on 5-acres, Guests are only a few minutes from town and 30 minutes away from the Wrightwood Mountains or the Big Bear Mountains for skiing, snowboarding, or hiking. I’ve had the chance to interview these inspiring Airbnb hosts, who share such valuable advice on creating the Airbnb renovation of their dreams!

Video by Mizraim Soria

Tell us about yourselves!

We are Selin and Natalie Cacao…just two city folks gone’ desert country! A few years ago, we decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city for a place much quieter that would allow us to raise our family differently. We knew our 5-acre property nestled in the high desert mountains of California was the perfect place to do just that. We have always been passionate about raising our own food, reducing waste, and being self-sustainable. So naturally, we ventured into homesteading with ZERO prior experience! Fast forward to now and many adventures later we cannot imagine living anywhere else. We love being surrounded by all our animals, the Joshua trees and these beautiful desert sunsets

What inspired your dreams to turn an old shed into an Airbnb?

In 2018 as our family began to grow, we had to close our first Airbnb listing. While this was a nice break…hosting had become a creative outlet for me (Natalie) and I was beginning to miss it. At the same time, Selin had been talking about having an off-grid shelter in case of an emergency (he’s a prepper kind of guy). That’s when we thought of turning the old blue shed into a tiny house! The shed had been used as storage for years and needed a lot of work. (It was also the biggest eyesore, our neighbors personally thanked us when we painted it!) But it was the perfect space that met both our needs. So, with some vision and help from our contractor, we began the biggest project yet on the property: transforming the 45x 15 ft shed into an elevated eco-friendly living space! 

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What was your favorite part of the design process? 

All of it! The design process is essentially the transformation of an idea, a want, a blueprint (in our case a wrinkled napkin) into reality. It was like Christmas morning every time I walked into the casita and something was painted or finished. In fact, there were tears when the first wall went up. So in retrospect, watching this transformation unfold and come to life without a doubt has been my favorite part. Also, I’m just going to add that the challenge of styling it on a very low budget added to the adrenaline and made me a somewhat fierce bargain shopper, I may never recover.  

How important was designing with the environment in mind?

Extremely important! Our entire lifestyle is centered around self-sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint. This project was the perfect blank canvas to do just that. We wanted the casita to marry modern comfort with natural living. So we searched for the best eco brands and products available to make this possible. We use the sun to power all electronics, a strategic water piping system that drains into the garden ground, and a composting toilet for zero waste (literally). We also decided to use a lot of the material already available in the shed, like keeping the original ceiling beams and having them become the focal point of the design. Undoubtedly, the result of this project is a space that provides conventional comforts without compromising esthetics.

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You’ve paid attention to every detail so beautifully, what amenities do you provide that guests have appreciated the most? 

Definitely waking up to farm fresh eggs and our home raised bacon! (when available) For us hosting is an extension of our homemaking. When guests come to stay it is an invitation to experience the way we live. We set the ambiance indoors to serve you but also extend the table to share our very own farm goods. Not only can guests walk into the garden to harvest veggies, gather eggs from the coop but also buy some of the meat we kindly and slowly raise just like nature intended.   

What unique experiences will guests find during a farm stay at Casita Cacao?

It really all depends on the season, we’ve had guests witness the birth of piglets, watched baby chicks hatch while others have stuck around to see what a shearing is like! One thing is for sure being around free-range happy animals is an experience in and of itself. But a favorite around here is feeding our three rescue alpacas Ryder, Phoenix, and Cayanne! It’s not every day you get to be up close and personal with an Alpaca and they really are just lovely pets. 

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What does an Ideal weekend spent in the high desert hills look like?

Honestly, we didn’t think the high desert was much of a destination. We sit right in between two major cities (LA/LV) and thought we were just the place you stopped by for gas. But boy were we wrong! The best thing about Airbnb is meeting guests that travel from all around the world to visit your neighborhood and show you a thing or two about it! First of all, we are perfectly located at the foot of two resort mountains Big Bear and Wrightwood where many skiers visit during snow season. We also have local hot springs, lakes and desert hiking trails. And finally, the beauty and solitude of the desert or clarity of the night sky has become a hot spot for photographers. 

What advice can you give other Airbnb hosts who are thinking of renovating a shed?

Set a timeline and budget…now double it! Surprise fixes and delays WILL  happen- be prepared. Take as much time as you need to find a good contractor! They are so hard to find but when you do they will show up for work every day, understand your vision, and will certainly NOT impose their own taste on your design.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for us which leads me to the next point. Plan on managing the project from start to finish yourself.  No one cares about this project as much as you do it is that simple! We noticed details would be left unfinished or design elements would be misplaced if we didn’t check the renovation on a daily basis.

Don’t start shopping the details until the big stuff is done and set ( Framing, floors, walls, etc…) I got carried away buying rugs, pretty faucets, chairs, even a murphy bed we didn’t end up using because of the size of our finished layout. Finally, just have fun watching your vision become reality- it’ll be what its meant to be! 

Thank you for being inspiring Airbnb hosts and sharing your amazing Airbnb renovation story!

P.s If you are ready to become Airbnb hosts and want to learn everything to become a Superhost? Check my Ultimate Airbnb host bundle on Esty!

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