King of Clubs

James Gundy is the design mind behind Las Vegas’ sexiest spaces, from Bare Pool Lounge to King Ink

He’s created some of our city’s most memorable interiors, but you’ve probably never heard of James Gundy since he saves the flash for his clients versus self-promotion. Gundy, principal of 1027 Design Management, has already struck gold in 2010 with the opening of King Ink at The Mirage, a project he designed for renowned tattoo artist Mario Barth. Years before the getting inked trend began to dominate Vegas, Gundy was envisioning sexy lifestyle spaces for locals and tourists.

For Bare, Gundy went contemporary chic.

Gundy gave King Ink the old-school castle treatment.

Gundy got his start in the corporate development department for Mandalay Resort Group. While there, he created the original Moorea Beach Club and the (now-closed) 55 Degrees Wine + Design and 3950 Steakhouse. Following his early success, he signed on to design Bare Pool at The Mirage, Leor at the Palms, LBS Burger at Red Rock Resort, Venus at Caesars Palace and Bambu Bar at Mandalay Bay pool, which opened last summer.

A California native, Gundy came to Las Vegas via Arizona State University, where he studied architecture. His first job was under Bill Richardson at Circus Circus Enterprises, which later became Mandalay Development. After several years on Richardson’s team, Gundy branched off and used his deep connections to secure great clients.

King Ink is one of the hottest and trendiest spots on the Strip. Adjacent to Jet nightclub, the tattoo lounge includes three studios, a large retail area and a bar, which also opens up to the exterior patio space. The vibe: old-school European castle. Design elements include polished white floors, white ceilings and very clean lighting—all the things you want when getting tatted up. The interior measures 4,000 square feet, including the retail, bar, tattooing and lounge, and the patio measures 2,000 square feet.

Gundy deems projects such as King Ink to be the future of Las Vegas design. Business owners are straying from the mega clubs and the mega budgets, opting instead for more boutique ventures. “We didn’t spend $30 million, but we didn’t spend $200, 000 either. We spent the right amount of money for the market,” he says. An opportunity to do something fresh and unique is every designer’s dream.

And while others just view Vegas as a stepping-stone, Gundy is firmly planted in the city he says is the center of hospitality design.

“If you’re in hospitality design there’s only one place to be, and it’s Las Vegas,” he says. “There are other cities in Asia, there’s Dubai, Miami, L.A., New York—but for hospitality it’s really about Vegas … and Asia. Those are the hot spots.”