Case Study: Nobu Hotel


The Nobu Hotel, the first ever of its kind, is located in the prestigious Ceasars Palace Las Vegas Hotel & Casino. The hotel is a charmingly grandiose realisation of a partnership between famous actor Robert De Niro, architect and president of Rockwell group David Rockwell, and the hotel’s namesake and prominent chef Nobu Matsuhisa.

Housed in one of Las Vegas’ most sought-after and well-known mega-resorts, the hotel surprisingly opposes the maximalist style of the Strip and aims to provide its guests with “comfortable simplicity”.

Designed by David Rockwell and Rockwell Group Principal Shawn Sullivan, the Nobu Hotel lies at the epicentre of entertainment and celebrates the beginning of an exclusive Nobu lifestyle experience.

After years of collaborating with the luxury brand on restaurants across the globe, Rockwell Group has created a unique hotel inspired by Nobu’s philosophy and playful style. Re-imagining the best of eastern and western elements, the hotel combines Nobu’s signature Japanese style with oversized elements to reveal a touch of classic Las Vegas glamour.

“The local environment is very important when we design a Nobu restaurant. In each design, we try to reflect each location’s unique character and landscape. For Las Vegas, we wanted the atmosphere to be theatrical and lounge-like: a place that ultimately is as entertaining to see as it is to be a guest,” explains Rockwell.

Creating a relaxing setting for rejuvenation, guest rooms embrace comfort and the texture of raw, natural materials.

Neutral tones are juxtaposed with hints of colour and unexpected bold graphics representing traditional and contemporary Japanese forms. Complementing the design’s organic and Japanese elements, the furniture reflects the influence of wood craftsman George Nakashima.

“We incorporated oversized elements into Nobu’s signature style and natural, handcrafted materials in order to combine the best of east and west,” continues Rockwell.

The rooms radiate Japanese sensibility with the beds dressed simply in white, 350-thread-count linens and duvets; chocolate-coloured, calligraphy-style horizontal brushstrokes on the walls; and rugs that fuse hues of cream and grey while emblazoned with calligraphy designs.

Lighting both in the rooms and the actual hotel is a contemporary fusion of Japanese lanterns with western touches. Bathrooms boast deep basin sinks, a teak bench in the shower (no tubs in standard rooms, only in some suites) and a wooden ladder for displaying towels.

The hotel’s 181 rooms, which include the 18 suites, embrace natural materials and textures balanced with oversized elements to reveal a touch of Vegas flair. Neutral tones set the palette, while hints of purple and aqua adorn multiple accent pieces, decorative pillows, and artwork. Patterned beige-coloured carpets feature a graphic design that evokes sentiments of landforms, seascapes and movement.

The hotel is designed around the Japanese ideal of “waba sabi”, which refers to simplicity and beauty in its natural states. This Zen-like idea of living contrasts greatly against the usual Vegas tendency toward cluttered opulence and extravagance.

Additionally, Rockwell designed the interiors to contain natural hand-crafted elements like stone, paper and wood. “We developed a chic and playful design language that emphasises craftsmanship and detail by incorporating a lot of wood and timber, as well as incredibly…comfortable custom furniture,” said Shawn Sullivan, principal and studio leader, Rockwell Group.

Rockwell Group designed three suite types for the hotel: the Hakone Suites, Sake Suites and Nobu Penthouses. Six suites have media rooms and eight suites feature pool tables to create a true Las Vegas experience. Every master bedroom in all three suite types features custom gold leaf wallpaper with a cherry blossom print manufactured by de Gournay.

The Hakone suite draws on inspiration from the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just outside of Tokyo, famous for its hot springs, natural beauty and views of nearby Mount Fuji. The design uses earthy tones and natural textures to evoke a sense of tranquility. The suite features a dining room with a custom dining table, providing the Nobu dining experience on a more intimate scale.

The Sake suite provides a warm ambiance with different options for entertaining. The chic and playful interior emphasises craftsmanship, comfort and detail, contributing to an environment that reflects Nobu’s sense of fun.

Friends and families can relax and play pool in the great room or watch a movie in the media room. The suite brings elements of the lounge environment of Nobu Restaurant to a more private and residential space.

Influenced by traditional Japanese tatami architecture, the Nobu Penthouse is the largest of the suites. This grand suite features vaulted ceilings, and the two-storey living room has a tall stone hearth wall and staircase.

The bathrooms feature a large Umi-tiled walk-in shower with multiple state of the art shower heads and a teak bathing stool. The toilets and sinks are designed to evoke a garden fountain. The toilet and bath ware see uniformity in the spas, which have impressive Qua Baths.

Guestrooms offer Strip or garden views and are in neutral tones with hints of aqua and purple. They have a natural-look using rice paper, grass cloth, wood and stone tiles, and feature over-sized elements.

Artwork in the guestrooms, exhibiting traditional prints and expressionist designs, are by Japanese artists and selected by Nobu Matsuhisa, while custom calligraphy provides a main focus point. The Nobu Restaurant, the primary unit of the hotel and the lounge have large cloud-like light fixtures and feature colour-patterned, private dining pods wrapped by leather screens.


Nobu Restaurant at Caesars Palace is the largest branch worldwide. The restaurant’s design concept was also inspired by evocative transience and fresh and natural beauty.

The bar and lounge area showcases hand-chiselled black Kadapa stone flooring, custom sofas upholstered in Donghia fabric and tables with green marble table tops. The 26-seat bar is located toward the centre of the lounge area. The custom wood bar recalls the imagery and smoothness of a hand-carved wooden bowl.

The main dining area in the iconic restaurant features five semi-private dining “pods” that create unique spaces which are both screening and revealing. One pod features colourful, geometric upholstered panels that wrap around the pod. The other four pods are defined by rounded abaca walls.

Rockwell Group designed lighting fixtures in each pod that are inspired by Japanese tea whisks and vibrant kimonos. The lighting fixtures are covered in a dark woven Chilewich fabric and are lined with purple and orange suede with a silver zigzag pattern from Moore and Giles.

The pods provide a unique dining experience for guests including teppenyaki tables and chef’s tables. The largest pod seats a party of 13 people and can be screened off to create a separate dining space. Giant glowing paper lanterns evoking the fluid shape of jellyfish are scattered throughout the centre of the dining area.

The Asian infused interiors break free from the glamorous Las Vegas ways but in no way compromise the underlying theme of luxury and modern comfort. Rockwell explains: “The opportunity was to take the Nobu experience, and scale it up to a residential hotel that is different than what exists already in the marketplace. The hotel is positioned to be at the 5 star level, and it’s still fun and casual.”

This article was originally published in Commercial Interior Design in August 2014. Photo credit: Nobu Hotel.

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