Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Fascinating Double Design Life of Roger Thomas: Marin County and Las Vegas

In Las Vegas, Monday to Friday, award-winning interior designer Roger Thomas creates hyper-style interiors for resorts, hotels, casinos and restaurants to entertain, surprise, shock, and inspire fantasy. His decor induces flights of fantasy, hedonism, romance and fun. It’s maximal, delicious, and over-the-top.

As executive vice president for Wynn Design and Development, including Wynn Las Vegas, Encore and Wynn Macau, his designs are escapist, seductive, and witty.

He has been on Architectural Digest’s ‘Top 100 Designers’ for many years, and is considered a leader in the hospitality industry. 

Friday nights, Roger flies home to an elegant, remote hillside in California, where he escapes to a refined, minimal, monochromatic and sedate world.

In his private life, he is surrounded by John Dickinson plaster tables, Jean-Michel Frank and Ruhlman chairs, and rare twentieth-century and contemporary furniture and paintings.

In Northern California he spends time in his studio, designing collections of elegant fabrics, carpets, outdoor furniture, furniture, Peking glass, passementeries. He collects art and museum-quality furniture. He relaxes by poring over auction catalogs. He entertains with panache and style.

Sunday nights he jumps in a Towncar, heads to SFO, and is back in Las Vegas, the desert, and the Wynn dreamworld for a week creating excitement and escape.

Follow me to discover the two dazzling fields of design of Roger Thomas.

“My absolute criterion for collecting art or furniture: it must possess the extraordinary.”  —Designer Roger Thomas 

At home in Fairfax: among Roger’s most treasured possessions is a white plaster tripod table, based on an African tribal table. It was designed by John Dickinson, circa 1975.

Designer Roger Thomas is a devoted and serious vintage, antique, art, and design collection. 

Forward thinking, Roger is putting a new spin on his residence, blurring the lines between furniture and art. He shares the house with his longtime partner, artist representative Art Libera. He has embraced a constellation of worldly antiques, museum-quality Paris salon furniture, French-inspired Czech chairs from the thirties, his own new designs, and a mix of new art and venerable crafted décor. 

Once there were only two settings for the design dial—traditional or modern. Designers and architects were in love with elaborate Georgian curves or opulent gilded Louis XV chairs—or it was chrome and Miles and modernism all the way. 

Today, Roger Thomas is staking out his own territory, exploring and Mapquesting the wilder shores of design history with grit and wit. 

Roger travels often—I receive emails from Paris or New York, London or Hong Kong, where he is attending auctions of antique shows or overseeing production—and he has his eye on an international roster of design stars. He’s also on the hunt for rising artists, experimental shapes, fine tapestries, space-age materials, and talent with a classical approach to ensure design immortality.

Designers like Roger have the great advantage as collectors that they’re constantly exposed to centuries of art and décor, and 24/7 they’re immersed in finding the best examples of art and design for their clients.

Passionate, knowledgeable, confident, and aware of the market, Roger is constantly editing and energizing his collections. A Chuck Close portrait, or a rare Oriental sculpture will add depth. He’ll add rare textiles, an auction find, a new piece from Paris antique dealer Stephane Olivier. 

Going Global 
"For serious collectors, the Internet offers the world,” said Roger, who has worked closely with Steve Wynn, chairman of the board of Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas for more than thirty years..

“Because of globalization, I can research the rarest of the rare furniture and art, go in-depth with scholarship and provenance of a Gerrit Rietveld prototype or a John Dickinson plaster table,” Thomas said. “It has become easier to bid on auctions in Stockholm or Antwerp for example, and shipping is simpler. It’s a collector’s dream.” 

Thomas travels constantly in Asia and Europe to fulfill the demands of his high-powered Wynn Resorts role (the company recently opened a resort/casino in Macau), and in his time off (airport lounges, flights) he loves to do arcane searches into remote sites for T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings taborets, perhaps, or quirky 2001 ‘San Demas’ chairs with scrabbling bronze dragon feet and chic leopard-spotted back by U.K. designer Mark Brazier-Jones.

Thomas said his casino and hotel designs stoke his collecting.

“I design interiors for new restaurants or night clubs and suites, and they must encapsulate escapism, fun, mystery. These restaurants or clubs must be capable of inspiring memories,” said Thomas. “At home I’ve obviously dialed down the drama, with muted walls in colors designed by Evans & Brown, and minimalist architecture by Daniel Solomon. I wanted a rather neutral background to show off the evolving collections.”

Thomas recently acquired a Czech Deco chair, circa 1930, in Prague. The sinuous curves of this singular chair are finished in elm burl veneer. Nearby, in his living room, he has a pair of Andre Arbus lacquered mahogany chairs, circa 1940, acquired in a sale at the venerable Tajan auction house, Paris. 

But his mix also includes new pieces, like the 2006 silicon, mirror and steel wire sculpture (a spoof on an eighteenth-century French girandole) by Timothy Horn that floats above a pair of sculptural sycamore lamps, circa 1940s, attributed to Alexander Knoll. The composition, in a corner of his bedroom, is anchored by a handsome green cerused oak dresser designed by Thomas, with rock crystal drawer pulls and brushed nickel floor plates.

“Collecting and decorating for me offers a collision of knowledge and taste and a lust for beauty,” said Thomas, who recently acquired a pair of Jean-Michael Frank cerused oak armless chairs, circa 1930s at the Patrick Fourtin gallery in Paris. He discovered them in the galleries dusty basement storage. “I started collecting sea shells and paintings as an eight-year-old and have never stopped.”

If, like Roger Thomas, you would like to be a collector, here are some of his Secret Sources: 
Roger attends the Paris Biennale, as well as New York shows and the annual San Francisco Fall Antiques Show, for example.

He continues to build a reference library, and grab every book (old or new) on their favorite periods and craftsmen, artists and designers. They become experts, constantly on the hunt.

Sites to watch: 

Bonham’s: The international auction house often presents special sales of California art collectors, and memorabilia. Recent twentieth-century furniture sales have featured pieces by John Dickinson. 

1st Dibs: Antiques have migrated to The leading access site to hundreds of antique and art dealers around the country, and in London and Paris. Easily-traversed site offers excellent searches (by designer, for example), and all decorators today use the site as an essential reference and marketplace. This pivotal site, which offers a broad range of twentieth-century fine art, furniture, lighting, jewelry, vintage fashions and decorative arts, was founded ten years ago. Most leading galleries, antique shops, and vintage specialists in the US and internationally display and sell their wares on 1stdibs. An excellent site for researching and studying the market, watching trends, and comparing goods and prices. 

Phillips de Pury & Company: Focuses on art and significant design from the twentieth century. A recent sale offered Wiener Werkstatte designs. Phillips de Pure also builds art collections for well-heeled private and corporate clients. 

Christie’s: Leading auction house offering museum-quality art, jewelry of historic provenance, and seasonal furniture collections. Excellent catalogs for reference.

Sotheby’s: Top auction house, with twentieth-century sales, as well as highly-collected and rare art. Outstanding catalogs are essential for current reference and 

Wright: Chicago-based pioneer of modern furniture, books and decorative arts, and a broad range of offerings from diverse and recherché twentieth-century designers. Excellent catalogs. 

Viva Las Vegas
“Resort hotel rooms and casinos, nightclubs and bars and restaurants are Wynn properties are designed to inspire fun, to be extremely glamorous, and to transport guests to another world, another way of being and seeing,” says Roger Thomas, who designed the Wynn Resort and Encore at Wynn décor, shown below. 

Wynn Las Vegas Hotel

The entrance to the Tower Suites at Wynn Las Vegas.

Tower Suites Lobby

Wynn Ballroom Lobby

Deluxe Resort King

Chandelier detail

The Encore at Wynn

The Encore at Wynn

Suite entrance

Suite bathroom


2-story suite

Encore Spa Foyer


It’s maximal design, sheer delight, and sheer folly at times. It works. Guests are in a dream world, far from the everyday, in an alternative universe of hedonism, playing out fantasies and escape.

For this, Roger Thomas is the master. 

Roger Thomas

Roger Thomas at work in Las Vegas
Art Libera

Photographs of the Rogers/Libera residence by Russell MacMasters,, and Julian T. Schuchman.

Photographs of Wynn Resorts’ Wynn Las Vegas and Encore interiors designed by Roger Thomas, courtesy Wynn Resorts.

All photography used with express permission.


Karena said...

Diane, a fascinating tribute to an exciting and innovative designer/ collector!


Art by Karena

peggy braswell said...

What a grand post. Bravo Roger Thomas.

Love Your Homes said...

Hi Diane,

interesting to read about Roger Thomas. I do like his trim collection for Samuel&Sons, great vivid colors, I would love to see them alive, but sadly there is no showroom here in Sweden.

I am a true fan of passementiers, love the french brands Declercq and Houlès. I often use Beacon Hill when designing for clients.

I hope all is well in SF,
vacation is running out over here and S is already back up in the air.


Philip Bewley said...

Hi Diane,
This is a great profile on Roger Thomas, and you show that maximal fantasy is witty when informed; Rogers is certainly all that in his private collections...he is right on the money and in the forefront of what is hot, such as Czech Deco and mixing new works with Frank and Arbus. Love it.
Great insider advice on using Sotheby's and Christie's catalogs as reference books too.
Loved your post on this current tastemaker.
Warm regards,

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...

Hi Karena
H Peggy
Hi Ingela
Hi Philip

Loved hearing your enthusiastic reactions.
Roger is brilliant.His new decor for the Wynn Encore has a residential feeling (lavish, yes, and bold, but residential)...rather than very theatrical and glitzy Las Vegas. Roger's work is worldly, a bit toned down, and still very entertaining. He says 'Guests come to Las Vegas to escape the everyday and I offer them dreams and another world.'
Ingela--so pleased you like his trims! This is great.
Philip you are right that he is exploring new directions--Czech Deco--as Frank and Dickinson and Ruhlman are impossible to find now, especially at a non-museum price. Cheers and thank you.

Concrete Jungle said...

Fabulous post!

Unknown said...

This is a great profile on Roger Thomas, and you show that maximal fantasy is witty when informed.

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