The Prince of the Pleasure Palaces

For the weekend. . .

Check out Jonah Lehrer’s fascinating article in the March 26th issue of The New Yorker about designer Roger Thomas and how his interiors revolutionized Las Vegas casino décor.  Lehrer quotes Thomas, who maintains a weekend home here in Northern California, as saying that he doesn’t design interiors based on focus groups, but rather he creates “rooms I want to be in.”

Having traveled to Vegas twice in as many years, I can tell you that Thomas creates rooms I want to be in as well. On our first trip I had the pleasure of staying in the Bellagio and this fall I spent some time exploring the public spaces of the Wynn and Encore resorts—all Thomas projects. 

Our Bellagio bedroom was quietly tasteful and included a spectacular view of the Nevada desert best seen from the elegant bathroom’s raised tub. After the jingle/jangle of the strip it was a joy to tuck in for the night.

By contrast,  the vibrant interiors of the Wynn and Encore projects were brash, beautiful and thoroughly entertaining. This Encore casino illuminated with dramatic red chandeliers is a far cry from the sad, dark, maze-like casinos I’ve navigated to find a bathroom driving from Northern California  to Eastern Idaho over the years.

Lehrer explains that the design for the old-school casinos came from a former gambling addict turned casino consultant named Bill Friedman who called for low ceilings in a casino and insisted that slot machines be laid out in a labyrinth.

Thomas had an entirely different vision for seducing customers.

Lehrer explains: “Thomas created soaring ceilings swathed in silk fabric and insisted on clear sight lines for easy navigation . . . [He] imagined an elegant lobby, not filled with penny slots but displaying a massive Dale Chihuly glass sculpture suspended from the ceiling and huge arrangements of real flowers.  Traditional casinos banished clocks and any glimpses of sunlight, to make gamblers lose track of the hours.  Thomas installed antique timepieces and skylights that let in the desert sun. He even broke the rule prohibiting decor in the gaming areas.  While Friedman insisted that the best furniture was the gambling equipment itself, Thomas selected European-style furnishings with scrupulous care.”

For this nongambler, Thomas’s Sin City designs are the best game in town.






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  1. Hannah
    Posted April 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    And he was raised Mormon! I enjoyed that tidbit.

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Kathryn Pritchett

writes about Things Elemental — where we find shelter, why we connect, what sustains us and how we strut our stuff.