Tuesday, March 10, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Beyond the Sun
Roger Thomas, as much as anyone, has changed the way people look at Las Vegas.
Thomas, executive vice president of Wynn Design and Development, recently was recognized as a design icon at the World Market Center Las Vegas’ Winter Market. He and the elegant interiors of the Encore are featured in the April issue of Architectural Digest.
Thomas distinguished himself by focusing his work on a niche — interior design at resort properties that include casinos.
His efforts at the Mirage and Treasure Island helped change the image of Strip properties from “casinos with hotel rooms” to “luxury resorts.” At the Bellagio, he made elegance the standard for subsequent Strip resorts.
He is credited with raising the bar yet again with spectacular interior designs at Wynn Las Vegas, Wynn Macau and Encore, which opened in December.
“I have had one client for really all of my career,” Thomas said. “That client is Stephen Wynn. Really, Stephen and Elaine Wynn have acted like the Medicis to me. Because of this extraordinary relationship, he’s always challenged me to accomplish more than I thought I could.”
Thomas talked about using design elements to differentiate Wynn’s sister Las Vegas casinos — from the swooping escalators of the Wynn’s Parasol bars to Encore’s red Murano glass chandeliers.
“Luxury is not a knockoff, it’s not a copy, it’s not like something you’ve done before,” Thomas said. “It creates an emotional experience.”
Thomas said it has been a challenge to work for clients who are willing to spare no expense to get results, but also have extremely high expectations.
For example, he has been allowed to spend millions to create a scale replica of a casino floor in a warehouse. But he also has been instructed to redesign a restaurant weeks before an opening because Wynn was not satisfied with the results.
Elaine Wynn said Thomas has been an integral part of the luxurious image envisioned by the Wynn brand.
“I think that whenever anybody credits the Wynn name or brand for building the modern image of Las Vegas, that Roger Thomas is embedded in that brand,” she said. “The talent, the education, the taste — everything he has built in his life — represents the iconography of the best modern resort properties in his world.”
Thomas was born in Salt Lake City but has lived most of his life in Las Vegas.
Rocky La Fleur, a sales representative for Kneedler-Fauchere design showroom, which has worked with Thomas on several projects, said Thomas is successful because he is passionate about his projects and is not tied to convention.
“He never saw a piece of furniture he couldn’t redesign or tweak or make better,” La Fleur said.
Thomas said he thinks the reason his partnership with the Wynns has been so successful is that they share his love of design.
“I don’t care if it’s a handbag, a ring or a hotel, it has to create an emotional experience,” Thomas said. “We don’t say, ‘Let’s do a casino with this many games or this many slot machines.’ Designing emotionally evocative spaces is what we do.”
A version of this story appeared in this week’s In Business Las Vegas, a sister publication of the Sun.