Last summer Stesha took a trip to Colorado with her husband Daniel and when she came back she was raving about the coolest little motel they stayed in, located in the little mountain town of Salida, called The Amigo Motor Lodge. It’s a sixty year old motel, renovated with some of the most hip design choices by Phillip and Kaitlyn Sterling. They are originally from Dallas, and it wasn’t until later that we put together that lovely and hilarious Kaitlyn, was actually a mutual acquaintance of both of us. (We always say Dallas is a big-small town!)
To conclude our month of travel inspired posts (we really have saved the best for last!) we wanted to share our conversation with Kaitlyn about Amigo, what it’s like to work with your spouse, following your dreams, and which former U.S. president she thought Phillip resembled on their first date.
A little background: Kaitlyn’s work history is in advertising and design, and Phillip formerly owned and managed two retail stores.
Kaitlyn on how she and Phillip met-
I actually used to shop in Philip’s store, Centre, and I always saw him in the shop and thought he was a mega hunk (like a young JFK, but without the “womanizer vibe”). I was pretty pumped when later on in life we ended up having some mutual friends and we became digital friends. We started talking online, and eventually decided to go to Eno’s for pizza and beer. After about 8 months of pretending we were just going to be friends, we decided that we had too much of a good thing going. I stopped playing hard to get and he locked it down! We never looked back.
On how they came to the decision to renovate and run a motel-
It’s actually something we sort of came up with on that first date at Eno’s — which sounds much creepier than it is! Philip was trying to figure out what was next for him after selling Centre and Atama, and it was clear that he wanted to do something that would incorporate his love for the outdoors (which is how we ended up in a tiny mountain town). I basically live for brainstorming… especially when I’m drinking beer, so when someone has a problem or idea, I just go with it and start spouting off ways to improve upon it, or other possibilities within that same vein. Our first date was essentially a romantic business meeting, but instead of shaking hands at the end of the night, we made-out like high schoolers.
Philip wanted to get out of Dallas. He wanted access to the outdoors, and after years of paying thousands upon thousands of dollars in rent for retail space, the practical business man in him knew that he wanted to own the land that the business sat upon. I knew that I wanted to create something of my own without a boss or client interfering or telling me how things should be done. I think part of me wanted to see what life was like outside of Dallas, and honestly, more than anything I just wanted to do something different. I was getting to a point in my career where I could see a clear trajectory for the next 10-15 years, and that was just a little too boring for me. I liked the idea of exploring the unknown.
The motel idea morphed over time, and grew out of a mutual love for travel and design. We stayed in lots of hotels and AirBnBs, overanalyzing every single aspect of each place until we decided that we wanted to make a better motel that people could actually afford.
On how they chose the name Amigo Motor Lodge-
We actually had a different name picked out, along with a logo and everything! It was going to be called “The Scout Motel” — but after looking into trademarking the name, we learned that The Boy Scouts of America have a pretty strong hold on any variation of the word scout. We went back to the drawing board and fielded endless calls from friends and family sharing their lists of possible names. Eventually my mom jokingly suggested “The Two Amigos Motel” which we laughed off, but I sort of thought “Amigo” was a nice word. It sounds friendly and light, and Philip and I are both drawn to interior design with a southwestern flair, so it really ended up being a perfect fit.
I’m so glad the old name didn’t work out. I love our name, and it’s hard to imagine us being called anything else.
(note: The “Motor Lodge” part of our name comes from the motel’s original name in the 1950s. It was called Monarch Motor Lodge)
On their process for making design choices-
A lot of the design choices were made because of budget constraints, which I know is the least sexy answer one can give. It was a lot of “how do we incorporate all of these things that we already own?” (A lot of the art, skulls, knick-knacks were things from our own homes). I created endless moodboards and reached out to brands that we thought aligned with who we wanted to be, such as Malin + Goetz, Tuft & Needle, The Citizenry and Conway Electric. Philip and I generally agree on most things aesthetically, but he is much more of a numbers guy. So when I wanted to put a $1,000 SMEG mini-refrigerator in every room, the answer was no, and we had to compromise. (I did get a big one in the lobby though!) I basically always start out asking for an elephant, and he will give me a puppy instead.
We also really had to consider the way that people use the space. Our rooms are intentionally very minimal because they are so small. Our beds are custom made with plenty of storage space underneath so that your bags aren’t taking up all of the space in the room. We got rid of the wasteful tiny shampoo bottles and one-time-use bars of soap and added Simple Human dispensers, which actually ended up being cheaper and allowed us to splurge on nicer bath products from Malin and Goetz. We have Conway Electric outlet plugs next to every bed, because HOW DO YOU LIVE WITHOUT YOUR PHONE CHARGING RIGHT NEXT TO YOU WHILE YOU SLEEP?!?!
So…. it was a mix of personal taste, budget constraints, and trying to be smart about what people actually want and need when they travel.
On what has been the biggest surprise, and some memorable guests-
I think the biggest surprise has been how receptive and supportive people have been. Denver is such a community oriented, tight-knit place. We’ve been so lucky to meet amazing people who want to help and include us in that community. They seem to genuinely want us to do well, which has been great. The place is still very much a work-in-progress, and Philip and I constantly look around and see a million things we still want to improve upon, or that we just haven’t been able to do yet because so much of what we’re doing is DIY — but our guests actually love being able to be a part of the process. They’ll come in the spring, and then come back in the summer time to check in on the progress. It’s really sweet.
I think the other big surprise is how much hair people shed! It’s both disgusting and incredible. Like, how do any of our guests still have hair left on their heads? I have it all. It’s in our vacuum.
We definitely had way more stories when we first started! All of our new guests are pretty tame, and generally very cool people who like to hang out with when we go to Denver.
When we first started out, we were still running the motel as an el-cheapo $45/night dump, and the people who stayed there were absolutely TERRIFYING! (not all of them, some were just lovely budget-minded people)
There was one man who was particularly memorable. He drove an old mini-van and claimed to ride with the Hell’s Angels. He literally looked like Santa Clause, if Santa Clause lived off of gas station burritos and Red Bull — and he had not one, but TWO wives who stayed with him in the motel room! He made some inappropriate comments about my appearance (maybe he was going for 3 wives??) and ended up not having enough money for his room, so Philip had to ask him leave. He was awful.
On the best things to do in Salida-
During the winter time, we love to ski! There are also several hot springs nearby, which is a really nice way to warm up and experience nature in a way that doesn’t require you to be a hardcore mountain woman.
During the summer time, we raft, hike, paddle board and go tubing in the river! The town really comes to life in the summer time! It’s definitely my favorite time of year to be here. There are festivals and concerts in Riverside Park almost every Friday night, and the vibe in town is just great. It’s the perfect little mountain escape for anyone coming from the city.
I think my favorite part about town is that it feels a lot more genuine than some of the better-known Colorado vacation spots, like Vail, Aspen or Breckenridge. It’s a real town with real people and kids who still play outside and ride their bikes to school.
Thank you so much Kaitlyn, looks and sounds so dreamy! We are huge fans and cannot wait to come stay again soon.
P.S.- Amigo was just featured in Architectural Digest, no big deal.
(Photos Courtesy of Amigo. Photo of exterior of Amigo by Mike Hawkins)