Manhattan Dispensary Etain Engages All Five Senses

Designed by fashion and interior design icon Clodagh, the shop is an inviting escape from Midtown madness.


Ever since New York legalized adult-use cannabis in 2021, all eyes have been on the Empire State. The creative mecca is certain to establish an East Coast cannabis culture that will inform the region’s approach for years to come.

One trendsetting location is Etain, a chain of medical-cannabis dispensaries based in Midtown East that until recently was women- and family-owned. (RIV Capital sealed a cash-and-stock deal to buy the operator in March.) Mononymous designer Clodagh collaborated with the former owners to design a space that is clean, inviting, easy to navigate, and endlessly soothing for medical patients in need.


Clodagh is a longtime influencer for all things style. Hailing from Ireland with experience in haute couture design, she pivoted from fashion in the 1970s and moved to Spain to design residential, hospitality, and landscape projects.

She relocated to New York City in the mid-1980s, opening a small design studio in the East Village with two partners. Since then, she has established her design approach in New York, where she prioritizes safety, comfort, and healing.


“I think the best thing a designer can do — whether it’s fashion or architecture — is create an experience where people feel an ease of self,” she said. “When I was in fashion, I was working on clothing that would make people feel comfortable and safe with the selected material and the cut of the design. I’ve applied the same ethos to my architectural designs, allowing people to really enjoy a space and forget everything else for a moment.”

It was her thoughtful approach that made Clodagh’s clothing such a hit in Ireland, and the designer finds subtle ways to work the same concepts into her interior designs. Her guiding principles happen to work especially well for medical cannabis patients.

Etain’s name pays homage to the owners’ grandmother as well as a heroine from Irish mythology. The former owners connected with Clodagh through mutual colleagues, and the Irish women instantly hit it off. Clodagh agreed to make the dispensary her very first cannabis-related design.

The process became a true collaboration, and the finished product benefitted from both the designer’s extraordinary eye and the owners’ creativity. “They’re a very craft-y family, and we wanted to showcase that,” said Clodagh’s design director, Nancie Min. “The family made the chandelier out of acrylic cannabis leaves that were laser-cut and assembled one by one.”

While working with commercial clients can be mundane for designers, the Etain collaboration allowed both teams to shine, working together to present a dispensary that would best serve those in need of comfort, safety, and relief — especially in New York, where patients often weren’t altogether comfortable walking into a dispensary, and even more especially after the pandemic hit. 


“We opened the location in August 2020, in the middle of COVID,” Clodagh said. “We had this idea that the front of the store is like a face, and we wanted it to be welcoming in the midst of unsettling times. We designed an awning with plants rippling down and added a projector to project light and shadows onto the street at night. It allows for this very intriguing, calming, and safe space to walk into with a prescription.”

In order to accomplish a space as inviting and welcoming as it is private and discreet, Clodagh followed her five senses, filling in the location in a way that pleases them all. “I train myself to close my eyes and go by touch,” she said. “The sense of smell goes to your brain faster than almost anything else, and sound has become a prime road on which we travel.

“People say sight is the most promiscuous of all the senses, but if you were to walk into Etain and couldn’t see, you could still hear the deadened sound of footsteps and water flowing in the background,” she added. “You could smell the scents emanating from the plants, instantly soothing you and drawing you in.”

Clodagh and her team also worked elements of feng shui into Etain’s composition. The ancient Chinese practice helped bring harmony to the store’s flow, according to Min. “Feng shui informs that if all colors of the chakras are represented, people will feel more comfortable, so we’ve found a way to work them all into the space,” she said.

One of the details of which the team is most proud is the Etain’s signature wall of green plants, which sits under a skylight and allows patients to enjoy the natural view while they wait for their products.

“Because of the constant plant growth, the green wall has small changes every time we come in,” Min said. “It’s very soothing.”

Although medical patients are at the forefront of Clodagh’s design intentions, she also prepared the space to include the adult-use market from the start. “There was anticipation of adult use going legal when we first began designing, so that intent was always integrated into our plans,” Min said. “We’re hoping to start an event space within Etain to teach people about cannabis, CBD, and overall wellness and health.”

There’s plenty of room for Etain to expand and innovate — especially as the adult-use market in New York establishes itself — but in the meantime, Clodagh and her team remain focused on the current location and ensuring their goal of comfort and safety always is honored in the space.

“We feel creating a brand is like creating a human being, and with that, we must celebrate every aspect of it,” Clodagh said. “Etain is a human being with a certain ethic and friendliness, and I want that to always shine through.”

Etain Dispensary New York

242 E 58th Street, New York, NY