Downtown Vegas’ aging El Cortez redesigns for hipper crowd

LAS VEGAS At 70 years, El Cortez Hotel & Casino is one of the oldest continuously operating casinos in the world. In an effort to ditch its rough-around-the-edges reputation, the property recently sponsored a creative guestroom design contest that has resulted in some of the hippest accommodations in Downtown Las Vegas.

The winning designer, Urban Design Studio owner Tina Enard, honored El Cortez’s mobster roots—notorious boss Bugsy Siegel is among its past owners—by creating a suite dubbed “Big Sleep,” which aims to find a thematic balance “between crime and charisma.” For winning the competition, the hotel is commissioning Enard to design six more suites.

The winning design includes an all-white sofa accented with colorful pillows meant to evoke the bright lights of the Strip, and a gray-and-black striped carpet suggests a mobster’s pinstripe suit. The suite is accented by a tumbleweed lamp and faux crocodile skull, a wall-sized mural of a desert and even a bowl filled with bullet casings.

El Cortez’s design competition challenged four firms to revamp 600-sq.-ft. suites, each on a budget of US$20,000—about half of what it would typically cost to outfit similar-sized units in Sin City.

“I was nervous when we initially gave the budget. I just wasn’t sure that we’d be able to have a high-end suite for that amount of money, but the result is beyond what we expected,” Alex Epstein, the hotel’s executive manager who conceptualized the contest, tells Las Vegas Sun. “I think it’s excited everyone with the creativity and the possibility of what we’re able to do with our suites.”

The winning 'Big Sleep' suite
The winning ‘Big Sleep’ suite