James Weidner opens the door to his penthouse in Soho Lofts where the woody scent of American pickled oak—characterized by its light finish—wafts from a cozy entryway. The rustic timber covers the walls, floors and spiral staircase, then continues into the vast living room where 18-foot-tall windows frame the mountains in the distance and the streets below.
Having grown up in New Jersey amid birch and aspen trees, Weidner expresses his appreciation for natural materials when designing the 4,300-square-foot penthouse in the Downtown residential complex. It was a “gray concrete shell” when he purchased it five years ago: no interior walls, no kitchen or bathroom. To turn it into a home, he worked with Evan and Oliver Haslegrave, designers who founded New York’s Home Studios. The award-winning firm is known for the stylish interiors of boutique bars and restaurants in New York City, like Elsa, a Weidner haunt when he lived there. Impressed by the way those environments gave him the sense of having an extended living room—a reprieve from his cramped Manhattan apartment—Weidner enlisted them to work on his new home in Las Vegas.
Rather than re-creating the firm’s Brooklyn aesthetic or classic East Coast style, they focused on Weidner’s desire for desert modern, working closely with Maderas Collective, a company in Nicaragua that makes handcrafted furniture from sustainable sources, of which Weidner is a partner. The result is a warm and cozy Scandinavian minimalist feel with masculine tones, quite an achievement for such an open space.
“When a place gets built here and it’s dark brick and has a fireplace, I always wonder why,” Weidner says. “I wanted something that felt local, something that communicated with the desert.”
On a recent Friday afternoon, the sun filled the two-story condo, landing on custom-made furniture built from Nicaraguan wood, giving energy to potted trees and mature cacti.
The rustic materials are allowed to be themselves so that natural grains, cracks, knots and dings appear in the wood, and imperfect ceramic tiles cover the kitchen.
A brilliant and colorful print by the Luo Brothers, merging pop art and politics to critique consumerism and East-meets-West culture, hangs in the stairway, joining works by Raymond Pettibon and John Baldessari.
The 12-foot wood tapestry that hangs above a custom-made wood console in the living room enhances the natural feel of the home. The wood stays visible when Weidner commands three TVs to emerge from the console using his cellphone. “I have a healthy enjoyment of sports betting,” he says with a smile. “The tapestry is something for when the TVs are asleep.”
The project took five years, partly because of his travels and partly because everything was custom designed and then shipped to Las Vegas.
Weidner originally moved to town with his family at the age of 13, attending the Meadows School then heading off to Northwestern to study business and earning a master’s in literature from Columbia and the University of Edinburgh, with plans to become a college professor. Instead he joined the family business (his father is William Weidner, former president and CEO of Las Vegas Sands). Now, the younger Weidner is managing partner for his family’s interest in Lucky Dragon, a boutique hotel/casino under construction on Sahara just off the Strip, but travels between Asia, Central America and the U.S. most of the year for business.
His loft was Home Studios’ first residential unit in Las Vegas. Nearly everything is wood, from the sliding barn doors to custom cabinets and counters. “We wanted a stress test [for Maderas Collective] and we got a stress test,” Weidner says humorously.
The project got a nod in Architectural Digest earlier this year with photos featuring the spacious interior, highlighting the sharp contrast between black metal and pickled oak tiles on the walls and living room staircase. The pattern repeats itself under the stairs. There, a small nook becomes a seating area off the bar, adjacent to the dining room which features hexagonal ceramic mosaic tiles inlaid into the wood floor as a sort of area rug, a design element that’s also found on a nearby hallway wall. Bone-colored tiles blanket the kitchen, meeting the pickled oak and barrel-vaulted tiled ceiling. The customized island counter made of Nicaraguan wood stretches the length of the kitchen separating it from the living room.
But it’s the entryway that defines the entire loft, offering a “nice warm hug when you get home,” Weidner says. From there, spiral stairs lead up to a library, built in a semicircle, connecting to Weidner’s workspace that overlooks the living room with a view of the Strip. Though his job keeps him traveling, once the penthouse was finished, Weidner says, “It felt like home.”
Indoor garden: To bring nature into the space, Weidner enlisted the personalized service of Las Vegas’ Interior Gardens, a local company responsible for his indoor trees, large cacti and other potted plants, including the leafy greens beginning to fill cubed clear shelves in the loft overlooking the living room.
Chandelier: A rectangular and custom-made chandelier made of brass piping and LED lights (think cherry picker basket) combines elegance with a masculine urban feel.
The bar: A single slab of dark Nicaraguan hard wood serves as the bar top, with matching stools lining it. The brass on the bar back with a tap mimics a brass chandelier in the living room.