The Wynn Las Vegas has one of the most show-stopping designs in a city all about show stopping. Executive Vice President of Design and Development at Wynn Roger Thomas explains how the Wynn uses an anti-theme to create a resort experience unlike any other.
By Stephanie Wilson
Roger Thomas may not be a household name, but his designs are witnessed by some 35 million-plus visitors who stroll through Las Vegas in any given year. He is the man responsible for the designs of Treasure Island, Bellagio, and The Mirage. Roger Thomas is the executive vice president of Wynn Design and Development, where he has worked with mega mogul Steve Wynn for the past 20 years.
The most recent addition to his design résumé is the Wynn Las Vegas, the $2.7 billion, 215-acre resort that opened its doors in April 2005. The only casino resort in the world to have both the Mobil 5 Star and the AAA Five Diamond rating, the 50-story Wynn Las Vegas is Steve Wynn’s first establishment that hides the spectacles that Sin City are known for away from the prying eyes of people on the street, luring guests through the doors to experience the wonders.
But unlike the past collaborations between Wynn and Thomas, Wynn Las Vegas is not a themed resort. “The Wynn, if anything, is meant to be a beautiful, hopefully classic, and very attractive place,” Thomas explains.
For Wynn Las Vegas, the theme is almost an anti-theme, a simple culmination of the best that Thomas had to offer. “When it came to the Wynn, Steve said, ‘I know that over the years we’ve been together, you’ve collected and developed all these things in your sketchbooks, and a lot of things in your sketchbooks have never made it into the hotels. I want you to pull all the best stuff, the rooms you have been waiting to accomplish, those things that you have that just want to explode out of you, and that’s what I want you to show me for the Wynn.’ There is no better dream for a designer than that.”
And to achieve this dream took years of planning and customizing. The wonders begin and end with the show-stopping décor, most all of which is the brainchild of Thomas. He explains, “I want our experiences to be completely unique. I don’t want you to go through one of our hotels and say to the person you are traveling with, ‘Gee, that reminds me of the chandelier I saw at fill-in-the-blank.'” To prevent that, Thomas designed custom carpets, chandeliers, wall coverings, and upholstery fabrics. He laughs, “Custom is our middle name-everything is custom from stem to stern.”
The custom designs wow guests from the moment they pass the 140-foot high mountain that separates the resort from the Strip. The mountain is covered with more than 1,500 trees, with some of the Aleppo pine trees reaching as high as 50 feet. A coursing fall of water drops 70 feet-and another more than 100 feet-into a lake that spans 3 acres. Shimmering with 4,000 color-changing lights, the lake is home to The Lake of Dreams environmental theater that transforms light, water, horticulture, architecture, music, and imagery to create a total sensory experience.
The resort is filled with bold colors that reflect the larger-than-life feeling so often encountered in Vegas. “The colors are ones that we were very comfortable working with… The Bellagio was really about harmony in terms of color. It was about softness of palette as well as a classicism of design. The Wynn is about a drama both in line form and palette.”
Thomas ensured a heightened sense of design through incredibly intricate details in everything, right on down to the marble and mosaic floors. No expense-or time-was spared when it came to the creation of this resort. He explains, “[The marble floor with mosaic] was the result of a real period of invention. It took two and a half years to develop the technique for making the floor.” That is because the marble is three quarters of an inch thick while the mosaic tiles are around a quarter of an inch. Through the wonders of laser and water jet cutting, the mosaic and marble manufacturers were able to develop a digital technology that resulted in the intricate and beautiful floors in the Wynn.
Every detail was mulled over in order to ensure perfection, from the shops in Wynn Esplanade to the 15 restaurants on property. Why? Because “in Las Vegas, most people spend more time with their eyes open in restaurants and casinos and clubs than they do in their rooms, so it’s appropriate [to have elevated designs],” Thomas explains. In Vegas-and around the globe-restaurants have almost become a form of theater. They are as much entertainment as they are a place to dine. They are there to feed the eyes as much as they are there to feed the palette. Thomas says, “My reaction was to do something that is not as high pitched, to do something that luxuriates in its materials and luxuriates in detail rather than in super high drama. Having said that, I think some of the restaurants we’ve created are as dramatic as any other in Las Vegas.”
This especially rings true with Alex, one of two restaurants at the Wynn included on Esquire’s Best New Restaurants of 2005 list. “Alex was inspired by a memory from when I was about ten years old. I lived in a fantasy world, I didn’t really particularly like what I saw and felt around me so I spent a lot of time in magazines and books.” His imagination must have run wild, because Alex pays homage to a Balenciaga gown he saw in Vogue that was covered in handmade silk roses made out of the same fabric as the gown. Impressed by the intricacy of the gown all these years later, he explains, “It was the Balenciaga gown that took over [Alex]. With Balenciaga being couture, we added couture details to the chairs, which were also designed for the room.” To compliment the exquisite design, AAA Five Diamond and Mobil Star award winning Chef Allessandro Strata creates incomparable French delicacies.
After dinner, guests can enjoy the new Blush Boutique Nightclub, which just opened its doors Labor Day weekend. Thomas directed the renovation of the space, which was formerly home to Lure. Now the space portrays a rich palette of deep greens, chocolate browns, golds, and shimmering metallics that exude a sensual elegance. The lit onyx dance floor and crème lantern ceiling sculpture provide added eye candy and atmosphere. And while the restaurants and nightclubs provide entertainment, so does Le Rêve, an entertainment experience directed by Franco Dragone, Cirque du Soleil’s former creative director. Also onsite is Monty Python’s SPAMALOT.
The rooms also boast as much lure and elegance as the rest of the resort, nowhere as evident as in the six second-story villas, each with more than 5,000 square feet of space alongside a private garden with lap pool. “I never looked at the price tag of anything when I was designing the villas,” says Thomas. “We looked at it in terms of what was going to make the experience more phenomenal. If we can make our guests feel a heightened sense of romance and drama and comfort, along with every convenience within fingertip reach, that’s what its all about.”
Not that the regular guest rooms are anything to scoff at. As it says on the Wynn Las Vegas website, “Michelangelo took four years to complete the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Your room took five.” With an average size of 640 square feet, each room offers floor to ceiling windows that either look out over the Lake of Dreams, mountain, or the Tom Fazio and Steve Wynn designed 18-hole golf course, located just behind the hotel.
Every detail of the resort was designed for the ultimate comfort of its many guests. Thomas concludes, “We want you to have that heightened experience, we want you to feel so particularly unique at our [resort] that if you want to have that sensation again, you’ll simply have to come back.”