Las Vegas has morphed from a family-friendly getaway to a nightlife bastion and cool escape for chicly designed hotels and great food from award-winning chefs.
The latest metamorphosis has hit the former Hard Rock Hotel and transformed the site into a modern-glam British-born Virgin Hotels. (Yes, the same brand by mogul Richard Branson who plans to start sending people into space on Virgin Galactica.) The property is also part of Curio Collection by Hilton which is the upscale arm of the legendary U.S.-based hotel brand.
Even though it’s technically located off the strip, like many of the newer, sprawling properties, you will need a map to navigate and get your bearings just like your first trip to a new city. You can also download the mobile app Lucy for a truly touch-free experience via mobile keys, controlling lights, temperature and in-room entertainment, plus rooms service from your mobile device.
Chambers & Suites
For this project, the Venice, California-based powerhouse design team Studio Collective collaborated with the brand on 1,500 chambers (‘Virgin-speak’ for rooms) and suites. The designers decided to look deeper into the local desert terrain and ethos of the area for inspiration rather than seek out other countries to mimic in the construction theme of the property. (We’re looking at you Venetian and Paris.)
“We drew inspiration from the surrounding desert landscape, which is reflected in our designs for the chambers,” remarked Adam Goldstein, design director and partner at Studio Collective. “Our vision combined with the Virgin Hotels and Curio Collection by Hilton’s signature amenities and hospitality will make the property a much sought-after destination in Las Vegas.”
The modern, art-filled accommodations span over three distinct towers: The Opal Tower oozes sophistication and is located near the meeting and convention spaces, while the mountain view Canyon Tower is the one to book if you plan on spending most of your time at the casino, which is also not far from the pool. The VIP’s need to look into the all-suite Ruby Tower with views of the strip and a dedicated check-in area and valet.
ABOVE: Canyon Tower Chamber at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas
Richard “Boz” Bosworth, President and CEO of JC Hospitality, owner of Virgin Hotels Las Vegas said, “There is a chamber to meet the needs of every traveler and we cannot wait for you to experience the comfort of our unique style.” All the rooms have two distinct areas starting with a privacy door that separates the dressing chamber with a bathroom, closet and make-up area leading to the lounge chamber, bed and work area.
Re-imagining the hallowed ground of the Hard Rock with the Virgin brand esthetic was a dream project for Goldstein. “When I moved to LA in the mid-90s, The Hard Rock pool was the spot to be and Vegas was in the early stages of reinventing itself. It was the first real casino off the strip that people were going to.”
Studio Collective wanted to help bring some luster back to that location. “There are incredible stories and parties and things that happened there. To be able to leave a little of our thumbprint there was a great opportunity,” added Goldstein.”
For the art program, pops of bold color were brought into the space to combat the neutral palate. “We curated an eclectic mix of prints, hand drawings and photographs in order to create a more residential salon feel for the Chambers,” said Goldstein. “We worked with Eaton Fine Art to help source a mix of artists and pieces.” A majority of the furniture is also custom-designed by Studio Collective (with the exception of the Virgin brand bed.) “For the furniture, we really wanted The Chambers to feel very comfortable and offer a true respite from all of the noise and craziness from the Casino floor so all of the pieces were designed to promote a sense of coziness and give guests a relaxed environment to recharge,” he added.
Fun & Games
The architectural design, interior design, lighting design, fixture design and custom furnishings were services provided by the renowned Rockwell Group who designed the “Virgin spaces” which also took cues from the local landscape, and the 60,000 Mohegan Sun Casino, including the porte-cochere and entry areas, the Junction check-in area, the Bar and The Kitchen at Commons Club and The Shag Room.
According to Greg Keffer, Partner and Studio Leader, Rockwell Group, “For every project, whether it’s a hotel, theater or train hall, we look for inspiration in its location. Our public spaces reference desert Modernism and, wherever possible, blur the lines between indoors and out. We imagined taking guests on an adventure along a desert highway spotted with natural wonders and follies. The neutral, natural material palette and design elements, including flagstone flooring and rammed earth walls with pops of red (Virgin’s signature color), agate stones, and greenery, creates an inclusive series of lounge and dining spaces that invite guests to linger and explore.”
ABOVE: Pool Area at Virgin Hotel Las Vegas
Not far from the gaming area is a five-acre desert pool oasis with VIP-style cabanas and daybeds. The new outdoor experience combines this area with dayclub, The Promenade and Event Lawn, creating an interactive new pool and entertainment vibe amidst a culinary party atmosphere.
The two-story Mykonos-themed dayclub will feature an open-air entertainment stage with the flexibility to present a variety of DJ beats. Multi-level bar experiences and made-to-order, beach-side bites from the poolside restaurant are part of the amenities.
The outdoor Event Lawn turns an open space into an entertainment venue for functions including concerts, private events, and resort activations. This area connects seamlessly to The Manor, a new indoor event space that opens out to the resort pool and The Promenade which takes guests along the meandering pathway that circles back to the event and food options.
Food & Drink
Hospitality heavy-hitters are also involved with the dining venues including the legendary Nobu, Michael and David Morton’s One Steakhouse, Casa Calavera by the Hakkasan Group and Kris Yenbamroong’s Night + Market with three locations in Los Angeles.
“We have been approached many times over the years to open up in Vegas,” said Yenbamroong. The partnerships just never felt right. When ‘Boz’ and the Virgin team pitched the idea to us, one of the first things they mentioned was “vibe.” They wanted to completely transform what was a run-down, dark and seedy hotel into one with as much light as possible and with a cool and sophisticated vibe and that was totally in line with what we had in mind for a Vegas property. They also responded positively to my vision of not wanting to simply recreate NIGHT+MARKET in Vegas, but taking it up a notch, doing a bigger, sort of glitzy, disco version.”
ABOVE: NIGHT + MARKET Las Vegas
Another Los Angeles-based design firm, Avenue Interior Design took Yenbamroong’s dream of combining a Thai countryside eatery with a French disco brasserie by adding design elements from electric orange wall paint, custom oilcloth-inspired patterns for the tabletops and a disco ball installation.
According to Avenue Interior Design, Principal, Ashley Manhan Justman, “One of the biggest draws for visitors to Las Vegas is the restaurant scene and everyone is in search of the newest edition to the mix. From a guest perspective, the food must be outstanding, the design original and the experience memorable to say the least. They already came to the table with a strong identity and we are upping the ante with a few additional dramatic, party-centric additions to the design of the interior.”
You can also find Pizza Forte by the Ferraro Family along with signature Virgin Hotels restaurants and bars including The Kitchen at Commons Club, The Bar at Commons Club, The Shag Room and Funny Library Coffee Shop.
Still coming to the property later this summer, Kassi Beach House from LA restauranteur Nick Mathers, Todd English’s Olives and nightlife venue Money, Baby! from Justin Massei and Mikis Troyan of Clive Collective. For the latter, expect an in-door/out-door adult playground with sports viewing and betting, interactive games, food and cocktails and a high-energy atmosphere that will be open from day to night, seven days a week with a funky mid-century vibe. And, Afters Ice Cream will also open their first location outside of California at the hotel. Afters has a cult following with EDM and hip-hop music playing as they craft handmade ice cream creations.
Health & Wellness
This might be Sin City but it’s no longer all about drinks and debauchery. The Fitness Room features state-of-the-art equipment for working out along with floor-to-ceiling views of the new pool and entertainment complex to clear the mind – and gear up for your next adventure.
The Spa is where you can work out the kinks after sweating it out in the gym (or a long night out) with a massage using Farmhouse Fresh Spa products, and don’t miss the Roman-style baths for a deep soak.
As the Studio Collective team pointed out: The American conservationist Terry Tempest Williams said, ‘Every pilgrimage into the desert is a pilgrimage to the self. There is no place to hide and so we are found.’ “At some level, this is what we aspire to achieve, to inspire guests to find their true selves. What better place than Vegas for that to occur?”