Right at the end of our travels we had the pleasure of shooting and also staying at the most incredible hotel a couple of hours outside of New York in Woodstock called The White Dove Rockotel. It was honestly one of my favourite places I have ever stayed, with so much character and attention to detail in every room. While we were there we got to meet Erin & Martin the owners and left very inspired by all their hard work and creativity. It was so refreshing to sit down and talk to Erin about how they created the place from scratch and her other work in the industry.
Our paths crossing has also led to a very exciting collaboration between us both! Erin has designed us a 70s floral pattern of dreams which we’ll both be using on separate projects. It will feature heavily for us in our SS19 collection which we’ve just finished creating and for Erin in her Beggars Tomb homeware brand. We’re so excited for you to see both when they’re released this year.
Before heading onto New York we caught up with Erin to find out more about the White Dove and her wonderful career…
What’s the story behind The White Dove?
My husband Martin and I moved to Woodstock on a whim basically. He was dying to get out of the city; I wasn’t loving Bushwick (Brooklyn) and my art studio in the basement of the building we owned had been invaded by rats. At the time just traveling back and forth occasionally made commuting back to our jobs seem reasonable. But it didn’t work out that way. We had converted a carriage house on our home property in town Woodstock into two short-term vacation rentals and my new art studios. They seemed to be doing okay. So when this abandoned and derelict property down the street came up for sale we thought, maybe we could open a boutique hotel and stop commuting.
What inspired you to create the place?
I guess necessity is the mother of invention? I was only traveling down to Pratt Institute in Brooklyn (where I taught in the fashion Dept) for one full day a week but Martin’s small contracting business was keeping him gone 5 days a week. We need a sustainable local economy. We met in 1998 while following the band Phish on tour. We did tour for almost 20 years, me with Grateful Dead and Phish and him with Phish. Plus we both have traveled all over the world. We love travel and other travelers so hospitality was a good fit.
Why the 70s influence?
Well in college I was known as “The Disco Queen” among my friends, 70s has been my look for a very long time. I have dressed in vintage and second hand clothing since I was a child and have a life long obsession with anything unusual that has been previously owned. As rock and roll aficionados the “theme” of The White Dove isn’t an outside construct but truly a projection of who Martin and I are as people. I am both an illustrator and fashion designer by profession, working in rock poster art, textile design, street-wear and visionary art, so the hotel is really just one large Erin Cadigan sculpture.
What made you decide to move to Woodstock?
I guess it was just that time in life? As soon as I got out of high school I ran from my small town into the arms of a city and never thought I’d look back. When we decided to maybe look outside of NYC for our next spot, we were looking for three things: music venues, a thriving art and culture scene and a reasonable proximity to NYC. Out of Asbury Park, NJ; New Hope, PA and Woodstock, NY; this is just where we ended up.
How long did it take you to finish the place?
I started writing the business plan while my daughter Rose Anastasia (1 at the time) napped in late September 2013. We closed on the place in April 2014 and opened to the public on October 9, 2014; a date I’ll never forget since I was in labor all morning with my second daughter, Ophelia Wolfe. I literally climbed off a ladder trying to finish hanging art before guests checked in and raced to the hospital. I almost gave birth in the parking lot.
Did you look anywhere or to anything in particular for your inspiration?
For the Rocket Room and Bohemian Rhapsody our two guest cottages in the carriage house, I kind of just went with my personal style and the zeitgeist the rooms were presenting to me. The four suites at The White Dove though are each based on a band that played the 1969 Woodstock music festival. I wanted it to look as if those musicians might actually inhabit the spaces. To do that I took clues from clothing they wore, album cover art and interviews with the band members.
What is your favourite room in the The White Dove?
It’s a tie between Station Suite, our Grateful Dead inspired suite, and Rocket Room. I like to describe Rocket room as a mid-century modern cabin that the grandparents left to their 1970’s stoner grandson.
What are you most proud of?
My three children: Connor McKenzie, 22; Rose Anastasia, 6; Ophelia Wolfe, 4; they are all incredibly gifted, searching souls.
You have had a successful career in the fashion industry, tell us a bit about your background?
At some point during my days of following bands around the country, I ended up in Vancouver Canada for nearly 5 years. In between touring I was bored, so I went back to school and got a post-graduate degree in Fashion Design. Years later when I moved to Brooklyn, NY that seemed like fashion the most viable job opportunity. After a few internships I got hired as the head designer for a small boutique accessories company who also did private label for most of the major players.
Your also an amazing illustrator and artist, what bits did you create yourself in the rooms?
I designed the entire hotel from business plan and financials to interior and location design to marketing platforms and website. The building was a shell that had to be gutted, it was rat infested and uncared for in any real way for a long time. I did all the interior and site layouts in a CAD program as well all interior and exterior design. The wallpapers and many of the textiles are dry designs. I also created some of the art and all the wall stencils and murals. The golden bed in Garden, the upholstered bed in Heart and hand dyed the couch in Station were all designed or hand-made by me. My husband Martin and the crew of local craftsmen we had working on the construction, mechanicals and landscaping were a dream.
Are there any plans for you expand the White Dove or create other properties?
Yes. We’d like to see a series of Rockotels in music towns all over the country. Currently we are looking for the right investor to make that a reality. (Reach out to us with any interest!) After 5 years of living this amazing hotelier existence we are at a point that our vision is expanding to other things. I am currently working on a spring launch for a rock and roll vibe home goods line. Martin and I are starting to consult on all things construction, interiors and building projects. And, of course, I’m stoked to be co-branding a mini collaboration line with The Hippie Shake during my brand launch.
I know you are a big fan of vintage clothing, what’s your most treasured piece you have ever found / owned?
During the 50th Anniversary events for the Grateful Dead, there was an online auction selling off tons of crazy stuff from their long history. I scored a rayon silk bomber jacket that was given to the staff by the band around the 1980 “Go to Heaven” tour. It has Grateful Dead embroidered over the heart and a big Mouse/Kelly phoenix embroidered on the back. It belonged to their long time secretary. I got a bunch of her old t-shirts too!
Do you have any top tips for finding the best vintage pieces – clothing, antiques or furniture?
Look, look, look. Stop at every small thrift shop, yard sale or estate sale you can. It’s gotten harder and harder but it almost makes it more fun. Also buy anything unique you are even slightly attracted to. I’ve bought stuff that sits in my closet for years, then all of a sudden is a on-trend, wear everyday item in my rotation!
What advice would you give to people taking on project like The White Dove?
Write a business plan. No, seriously. Write a business plan. Get a business advisor or mentor. Do a serious five-year financial projection based on market reality. Have a solid exit strategy. But most importantly, do what you love. Always.
Stay at the White Dove Rockotel HERE
We have had the pleasure on our journey of meeting some of the most creative people and visiting some of the most unique and inspiring places all around the world.
In Australia we got the chance to shoot at the incredible Walkers Run. We came across this place on Airbnb by chance when searching for locations and I could not believe my eyes. The decor and whole place is so visually pleasing and everything was created by the owners Rob and Ruth. It really is one of the most unique spaces we have ever visited and something very special.
Rob and Ruth used to work together in Wellington, NZ when Ruth was Robs PA at EMI records, and they rekindled their romance 15 years ago after meeting up again, having not seen each other for 30 years, at a mutual friends funeral in Sydney.
Rob had a very successful career in the music industry which we found fascinating after seeing photos on the walls of him with the likes of Stevie Nicks and Mick Jagger! Amongst other incredible things he travelled the world whilst he was tour manager for Tina Turner! Rob’s also responsible for artist signings including Savage Garden, Tina Arena, Keith Urban and James Blundell. His career earned him top positions as head of A & R/Promotions for EMI Australia, and Director of International Operations at Capital Records Los Angeles.
Rob discovered the 30 acre spot in Bucketty not long before they met again and together they have spent the last 15 years creating their ‘Funky Wild West’ in the Aussie Bush. Pairing Ruth’s creative background in the textile and furniture industry and Robs ability to build ‘just about anything’ it made them the perfect dream team to create and develop what they have today. A quirky, inspirational, magical space which we will never forget.
They recently opened their home to guests via AirBnB and have had visitors come and stay from all over the world. It really does feel like you’re getting lost in the Wild West but you’re only 90 minutes outside of Sydney!
The spectacular views from the decking is endless green and so perfect to relax on with a glass of wine.
You can book their place on Airbnb HERE and follow Robs and Ruth’s amazing place below…
Keep an eye on our site for our shoot from Walkers Run, coming soon!
Photography: Dan Hilburn
Model: Sloan Peterson
Hair/Make Up: Amy Chen