Over the course of two hours on a gloomy Monday in late October, more than 500 people line up in New York City’s Union Square to meet the Property Brothers.
Technically, more than 500 people line up twice. The first line is to spin a wheel. The second line is to meet the Property Brothers, who, a flight of stairs above us all, are sitting in a miniature fake living room to promote the launch of their newest “home rejuvenation venture,” which is an “inspiration hub” called Casaza.
What is Casaza? I keep asking. Why is Casaza? I had meant to ask about the name, Casaza — like the Spanish word for “house” but with pizzazz! — but by the time I have the chance, I have heard and said “Casaza” so many times it has become a word like any other — tree, bear, house, casaza — and it seems unreasonable to demand Jonathan and Drew Scott explain the foundations of language to me.
Jonathan and Drew Scott are Canadian twins who have built a home improvement empire, which began on HGTV and grew until it could no longer be contained by television and spilled over into the physical world. Drew Scott is a real estate agent and wears suits. Jonathan Scott is a construction contractor and wears plaid shirts. They are Canadian. They are tall. They are twins. They are 40. These facts, taken together, are the foundation of their brand.
You might wonder how a home improvement empire could grow so large. How do you scale finding people new old houses and then ripping those houses apart to make them new and better houses? But here you have failed to think like a Scott. I have also failed to think like a Scott: That’s why I am me, and they are worth a reported $20 million.
Now, in addition to the original Property Brothers, currently in its 13th season, and its many, many spin-offs (Buying and Selling, Brother vs. Brother, Property Brothers: At Home), the Scotts have expanded into other media; now you can experience them in writing or in sound. As the Scott Brothers, a country-pop duo, they have now released four singles. They have written a book about their lives called It Takes Two: Our Story, which documented what is indeed their story; right now, they are developing their story into a scripted comedy for Fox.
They have written a picture book for children. As Scott Brothers Entertainment — an entity that falls under the larger Scott Brothers Global umbrella — they hope to produce a feature film written by their father, about an unjustly imprisoned cowboy who struggles to adapt to a changed world once he is released. They have not starred on The Bachelor, but Jonathan has been approached repeatedly, according to Drew, according to US Weekly.
The Scotts don’t just want to show you things. The Scotts want to infuse the full Scott experience into every corner of your real life. Would you like to vacation with the brothers? You’re in luck, because they offer “design cruise” of the Bahamas, where they are both the theme and the entertainment: On day two, you can enjoy a “Love & Marriage Game Show” starring Drew and his wife Linda (your role is to clap); on day four, you can participate in “karaoke night.”
Mostly, though, the Scott lifestyle experience comes in the form of home goods, which is also the most logical extension of their brand. Under their company, Scott Living, they sell their own Scott version of much anything that might go inside a home. A line of Scott Living mattresses. Scott Living electric fireplaces. Scott Living TV consoles. They sell these things at Lowe’s and Amazon and Wayfair, among others, and also QVC. For $81.24, or six easy payments of $13.54, you can, at this very moment, buy a Scott Living indoor/outdoor 21-inch kneeling resin reindeer in either brass or gold. In fact, if you have a budget in the multimillions, they will help you customize a dream home in Las Vegas, through their program Dream Homes by Scott Living.
This is what the Scotts sell: not just ottomans, but dreams. “In an era when most Americans can barely afford to rent let alone buy, the Scotts present a fantastical illusion: six-figure home makeovers paid in cash framed as downright attainable aspirations, demonstrating that the American dream is still in reach for someone,” wrote Fast Company’s Mark Wilson.
“Do the Scotts worry,” Wilson wonders, “that the absurd budgets of their shows make them look out of touch?” No, it turns out. They do not worry that. They explain to him they’re “trying to be realistic to show that you don’t need to spend half a million dollars but you can get that same look for ...” (In Wilson’s telling, the actual number is left unstated, but presumably: less.)
What people want to see is the process, they tell him: the hunt, the angst, the demolition, the decoration, and ultimately, the delight. It is the same formula every time, which makes it soothing, like a fairy tale, or church.
They aren’t wrong: As of October, HGTV was the fifth-most-popular basic cable network on primetime. Even millennials are watching, observed the Boston Globe, despite the fact that millennials keep not buying homes. But as Miranda Banks, an associate professor of visual and media arts at Emerson College, told the paper, the reality doesn’t matter because the American dream of homeownership lives on. “It’s a fantasy that maybe their parents or grandparents were capable of living out at that point in their lives,” she said, “but they may not be able to now due to student debt.”
Right now, in the HGTV-verse, the Scotts are the highest paid talent the network has. But they are not the only HGTV power duo to ascend to multimedia ultra-stardom; their obvious counterparts — though not competitors, they insist, we’re all friends here! — are Chip and Joanna Gaines, Texans who have likewise transcended the bounds of HGTV. They turned Fixer Upper, a show in which they fix up houses, into a cultural phenomenon.
The Gaineses have a wildly popular collection at Target, called Hearth & Hand, created in collaboration with their other home and lifestyle brand, called Magnolia, after their original store (they also have a store). They have a magazine. They have a restaurant. They rent vacation homes. They released a “house flipping sims adventure game!” for iOS and Android, so that you can imagine you are not you but them. They have renovated the reputation of the city of Waco, for that matter. All of these things are also under the Magnolia brand (arguably even Waco, once known for the Branch Davidians; now still known for the Branch Davidians, and also many colors of premium paint).
Then in April, the Gaineses ended their five-year run at HGTV. One show could not contain them: this week, they announced they were in talks with Discovery to start an entire network, the way Oprah has OWN. They also want to inspire you. But Chip and Joanna are selling approachably aspirational domestic bliss. The Scott brothers, who started out with theatrical ambitions, not housing ones, are selling everything. They are gifted in many things, such as charm and height, but their greatest gift is hustle. If it exists in the world, it is a possibility for a Scott brand extension.
Casaza (indeed like “casa” but with a “za,” a rep confirms) is, according to the Scotts, their most accessible, all-encompassing venture yet. It not just an isolated mattress, or a single quilted headboard. “Casaza is taking the whole experience of what you see on our shows and bringing that to you,” Drew tells me as we sit under an arch in Union Square on a sofa that is meant to demonstrate the transformative power of design.
Casaza is many things. It is a shopping platform, but it is more than a shopping platform. It has editorial content, but it is more than a blog. None of their competitors, the Scotts say, are doing everything they’re doing, because they are a one-stop “inspiration hub for people in the home space.”
Do you need a bar cart? You can buy that on Casaza, choosing from a selection of only the best bar carts curated by Drew and Jonathan and a team of unnamed designers. Are you looking for unspecified objects to capture a particular style, such as “sophisticated glam”? You can search for that too. “What is sophisticated glam?” you may be asking. I will tell you: Sophisticated glam is a statue of a shark ($165); a single-handle chrome faucet ($406); a two-drawer walnut writing desk ($1,360); a watercolor painting of a sandhill crane ($240).
Casaza offers whole “looks” — rooms assembled completely with pieces from Casaza — which you can shop in their entirety. Jonathan, for example, has curated a “contemporary coastal sunroom.” Drew has curated something called an “elevated industrial living room.” They also invite other designers who are not related to them to curate even more “looks.” And — this is a key component of Casaza — customers can then hire those designers to overhaul their actual homes. “We think the designers are the heroes,” Jonathan says. “So we don’t charge them to be part of the program; we funnel business to them.”
In the first quarter of 2019, they plan to roll out something called Casaza Pro, to further bridge the gap between screens and your real life. “We’ll have a professional technician come to the house, do all your measurements, identify opportunities for you, ways that you could save money, and get you all set up on the platform,” Jonathan says. There’s a fee for this, of course, but it’s a “very affordable” fee. They’ll help you find a local designer. They really, really want you to love your house!
I have never loved my house. I want to love my house. I want to live in a place that is serene and beautiful, just like on TV. Right now, in my living room, I have a table that is a cardboard box.
“The biggest thing people ask us is how can they have Jonathan and me come to their house and help them with their home,” Drew says. Obviously, they can’t — they’re just two men! “But this is a way we can scale where a lot more people can get that inspiration.”
There are, of course, other sites for both home merchandise and inspiration. Sites like, say, Houzz, which, in addition to a shockingly large catalog of merchandise, also offers shoppable “looks” and a daunting list of professionals available to overhaul your space in different ways, from architects to chimney cleaners.
But according to the Scotts, there is nothing exactly like Casaza. “Casaza is taking the whole experience of what you see on our shows and bringing that to you,” says Drew. And who else can do that? They are the only Property Brothers; the singular selling point of Casaza is themselves. The platform can give us what time and space can’t.
Most of the offerings on Casaza are not especially interesting. The decor section, in particular, is hotel-level neutral, as though you might be furnishing a home for someone you do not know. Maybe you are. Do any of us truly know ourselves?
Casaza does not offer unusual statement pieces that demonstrate your bold and singular taste; if you wanted that, you would not be on Casaza. This is not a failing, I realize: This is the point. Instead, what Casaza offers is a feeling of control. Almost everything is pleasant here. Browsing the site is to experience something between heaven and the interior of a Hilton.
Is that so wrong? Casaza offers a solution to the real problem that it is difficult to make decisions about your house. People are overwhelmed by options; they don’t want to see 10,000 different sofas, or 40,000 different blandly tasteful prints. How are they supposed to make sense of that? How are any of us? At Casaza, they don’t have to: The selection is significantly more limited. Most important, it has been vouched for by the Scotts.
It’s possible I will buy a bar cart. I like the bar carts. I like the idea of being a person who has a bar cart.
“We’re just here,” says Drew, “to make sure that everyone has a home that feels like home.” And they are, they are really, truly here. For the two hours they are present, they greet fans and take enthusiastic selfies and hand out “gifts” with their own four hands.
“It’s very generous of them,” one woman informs me, as though they Scotts are not promoting an e-commerce platform. There are young people here, and old people, and tourists who have arrived straight from the 9/11 museum. The Scotts take selfies with a baby. A French bulldog. Two New York City cops. Everyone loves the Property Brothers! And the Property Brothers love everyone: Nobody leaves without a selfie and at least a branded tape measure.
They have something for me, too. It is, I later determine, a “set of 5 wall candle holder.” It is gold-tone. It is geometric. It currently costs $66 on Casaza. It would look really, really great, from a distance, in someone else’s house. But then, that’s exactly what Casaza is selling: an illusion, in real life.
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