It’s been a long trip, but you’ve been looking forward to Vegas. Almost there. You step out of the elevator, lug your bags down the hall, find your room, wave the key and enter. It’s got a bed, a window, a mirror … it’s just a room. You throw your stuff down on the bed, and then it catches your eye: a quartet of frames, each filled with what looks like serious classical statuary bedecked in feathered showgirl plumes and sequins. And you realize: This is it. You are in Vegas. You are at Caesars Palace. Because you wouldn’t see this anywhere else.
Usually, hotel room art at best presents a regional accent; at worst, it says nothing and moves no one. For the creatives at KNA Design, the Los Angeles-based interior design firm that partnered with Caesars on the Julius Tower room renovation, the distinctly Caesars touch was essential.
“We were relying on it to add the final layer to the room, to add a sense of place,” KNA Design Creative Director Michael Medeiros says. “It was part of our first design presentation.”
That’s not to say, like all good creative elements, the showgirl statues didn’t evolve.
“The initial concept,” Medeiros says, “was sparked by a Vogue article from the 1950s that had photos of models juxtaposed with simple, single white-line drawings of ‘elaborate’ costumes. This gave me the idea of using images of Romanesque statues, which are synonymous with Caesars Palace.”
Medeiros and the KNA team shared the concept with Caesars executives, who liked it but thought it was a little too “black and white.” That inspired KNA.
“We then decided to look to Vegas showgirl costumes for inspiration with plenty of dazzle, plumes and sparkles, finished with a hand-painted, watercolor-like quality,” Medeiros says. Blending the cold black-and-white statues with the lively costumes created what Medeiros calls a “slightly whimsical, modern interpretation” that would give the rooms a sense of place. Looking at the wall, guests would know that they had to be at Caesars Palace.
KNA worked with Neal Menzies Art Consulting, which obtained images of the statues and provided the final printing of the finished art. KNA’s architectural director, Jordan Banares, “dressed” the statues by hand-drawing each costume.
The ladies won over Caesars brass; Medeiros says Caesars Palace President Gary Selesner was thrilled that the art didn’t take itself too seriously. That fun attitude has defined Caesars for the past half century.
KNA has previously crafted room designs at the Venetian, and put together the high-end (think $35,000 and up a night) Hadrian, Titus and Vespasian villas at Caesars. The Julius Tower renovation was as complete a job as it gets: Everything down to and including the walls was removed, reimagined and rebooted. Starting from a blank slate, KNA Design had the freedom to present something that would rebrand the tower while staying faithful to the Caesars brand. And the new look has won kudos from travelers, including a favorable in-depth review on Vegas Tripping. The overall footprint of the tower was essentially maintained, so the rooms are the same size as they were before the renovation, and there are just as many of them.
For Medeiros, art has an important role in the overall room look, which is why KNA avoids using anything that “someone could find online.” Images are manipulated, transformed into something that helps guests relate to the property. They are mass-produced, naturally, but not available everywhere. “Art is the decoration on top of the cake,” Medeiros says. “It’s not a complete room without it.”
Room art such as what you’ll find in the Julius Tower is an intangible, oft-underappreciated part of the guest experience. Naturally, service and value are what drive repeat visitation. But it’s the little touches—a friendly smile and conversation from a housekeeper or a quirky piece of room art—that give a stay an extra bit of personality that may tip the scales when it comes time to return.
So those costumed statues really are a big deal. Those in the industry get excited over room refreshes, while most guests are just looking for the best place for the least money. Good design can make them feel welcome once they’re in the room, but it takes a whimsical reproduction of a showgirl statue to make them feel like they are somewhere special.
That is how you build a brand that’s stronger than ever 50 years in. That is how you give people the Vegas they expect.
David G. Schwartz is the director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research.