Architects, builders and the shifting look of Luxe Vegas.
Move over Mediterranean — make way for modern. Las Vegas luxury home designers are embracing a look defined as “desert contemporary” after decades of favoring Euro-inspired styles.
“It’s warm and inviting with walls of glass and indoor-outdoor living,” said Jon Sparer, president of the Nevada chapter of the American Institute of Architects. “The colors reflect more of what the desert is — the chartreuse greens, rammed-earth walls, natural materials, glass, concrete and zinc that really work in the valley.
“People are recognizing that we’re not living on the Amalfi Coast and this is more what belongs here. Some of these houses out here look ridiculous in the desert. Our history is not that deep, so it gives you the freedom to build what you want, and just copying old styles from another part of the world really doesn’t make sense.”
We spoke with seven prominent architects and builders shaping the local luxury landscape for their perspective on what they see on the horizon.
Owner of Blue Heron
“We’re one of the youngest major cities in the country, so we haven’t had but a couple of years to evolve our own style,” said Jones, “or come up with a true architectural vernacular that fits Las Vegas in our time and place.” The luxury-home custom designer started his company 14 years ago, but began working with architects in high school because his father also was a custom homebuilder here. Jones has built homes in The Ridges, Southern Highlands, MacDonald Highlands, Seven Hills, Ascaya, Anthem and Lake Las Vegas. Three of his modern homes were showcased by the National Association of Home Builders when it held its convention in Las Vegas a few years ago.
Southern Nevada has been lost for a long time architecturally, Jones said, and Tuscan, Mediterranean and Spanish styles don’t make sense here. That’s why Jones is focused on his own philosophy, which he calls Vegas Modern.
The architectural form he chooses is determined by whether a home faces north or west. His vision includes liberal use of glass and shade, allowing indirect sunlight to minimize the need for lights.
“We have a strong indoor-outdoor relationship,” Jones said. “The climate is beautiful here. Even though it’s hot in the summer, there are ways to create some pleasant outdoor living spaces and integrate those seamlessly with the indoor spaces.”
President of Sun West Custom Homes
During the past three decades, his custom design and build company has created more than 500 homes in communities throughout the valley.
He’s seen a decline in desire for Tuscan homes in the last three to five years, said Coletti, 54.
Now people want more contemporary homes with glass, wood and stone.
“They are timeless,” Coletti said. When you put those three elements together, it’s everlasting.
“I’m known for designing pools with every house. Our signature is the indoor-outdoor living space integrated with water.”
While he’s built many Tuscan-style homes due to customer demand, “Tuscan is definitely in the past,” Coletti said. “I think right now we are getting closer to what should be built than ever. Our architectural themes are finally matching our desert environment. We’re creating a lot of open glass areas where you can (see) the natural desert surroundings and mountains beyond.”
Owner of Richard Luke Architects
Luke started his firm 32 years ago after moving here from Australia. The 64-year-old has designed mansions for celebrities and casino executives throughout the valley.
He began his career creating modern and contemporary designs, but transitioned to Tuscan and Mediterranean styles after moving to Nevada.
“Now, I’m right back to where I started,” Luke said.
He credits “America’s love affair with Europe” for Mediterranean style’s rise to prominence in the 1980s. “They identified a classy home as Mediterranean style, and everyone wanted to emulate that. I grew to like it and appreciate it, but it’s nice to get back to contemporary and strip down all the façade, and let the bones of the architecture speak for itself instead of dressing it up with lipstick.”
Luke says Summerlin developer Howard Hughes Corp. and MacDonald Highlands developer, Rich MacDonald, recognized the need to shift toward contemporary design to attract more international buyers coming into Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas is on the forefront now,” Luke said. “There’s a big demand for high-end, custom homes with high ceilings and indoor-outdoor feel, where the flow is from the inside to the exterior, and use of pocket doors. Our climate is so great, except in the summer, that you can take advantage of it. You don’t have bugs that preclude Florida or California from doing that, and we have the views of the Strip and mountains that we can take advantage of with glass and steel and limited walls.”
Studio g Architecture
“Las Vegas has been very good about doing thematic architecture and replicating other places,” said Gardner, who founded his company in late 2010, after moving here from California. “I was fairly disappointed in generally what we had. Everything was made with stucco.”
Now, however, “we’re really starting to grow up,” said Gardner, 39. “I think one of the challenges from a design standpoint is we have the Strip, where the mentality is to shock and awe with design.”
Gardner, whose firm also handles hotels and design inside high-rises, has worked on projects in MacDonald Highlands, The Ridges and other luxury communities. He and other young architects have tried to “push and elevate the level of design, and it starts by creating a unique piece of architecture” in area homes.
“We’re in a transition period. We went from a Mediterranean period to all-out contemporary boxes to now the design (that) is more unique and individualized.”
It’s better to use more natural materials than the “harsh feel of stucco,” said Gardner, who has used rammed earth in home designs.
“Now we’re starting to see a level of sophistication and refinement.”
Principal of Atlas
“The housing in Las Vegas has been kind of disappointing, but over the last 10 years there’s been a trend toward a more contemporary design,” Robillard said.
The 45-year-old moved to Las Vegas from Boston in 2006 to work on the Fontainebleau hotel (now The Drew Las Vegas). He started his own firm more than two years ago, and designed a 13,500-square-foot home that will be built in the Summit Club in Summerlin.
“With the economy roaring back, we’re seeing more opportunities,” he said. “The mindset of a lot of the higher-end clients is definitely trending much more in line with the kind of architecture I like to do.”
Architects in town need to be more responsive to the climate and building sites to enhance views and better orient the homes for heating and cooling, Robillard said.
Designs shouldn’t be formulaic, but tailored to the lifestyle of the client, he said, because some want wide-open spaces and others want traditional planning, where every room has its own function.
Principal of Hoogland Architecture
“We’re trying to create serene and peaceful spaces,” said Hoogland, who started his firm in 2011.
Born and raised in Las Vegas, the 42-year-old has designed homes in The Ridges, Summit and Ascaya, with most priced between $3 and $6 million.
“Las Vegas is dominated by red tile roofs and stucco and suburbia, and for me that’s kind of underwhelming and uninspiring,” he said. “This Tuscan wave is nothing more than adding gingerbread and decorations.”
His firm strives for a different aesthetic.
“We do modern designs and very clean lines and tend to erase the boundaries between indoor and outdoor.”
Owner of Pinnacle Architectural Studio
“I used to love that (Tuscan) style, and it was very successful for us, but people are looking for something different,” Boesenecker said.
The 46-year-old started his company more than 19 years ago, and has worked on projects in Ascaya, Summit Club, MacDonald Highlands and The Ridges.
Contemporary is where it’s at today, he said, though he has created Tuscan and Mediterranean designs in the past. He’s not through with them completely, however, since one client from Texas wants a Tuscan home at Lake Las Vegas. But “contemporary is taking over now. And the style we’re doing here they want in California.”