Monday, October 1, 2012

Jackpot! A Spokane Home Story

Written By Laurie L Ross & Blythe Thimsen  Photos by Alan Bisson

Bringing Vegas back home for a winning look.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but where is the fun in that? With all that incredible style, flair and over-the-top extremes contained in one city, what does it leave for the rest of us? Homeowners Michael Wernz and Michael Nestor figured Vegas shouldn’t have all of the fun, so they brought some of it back to Spokane with them, infusing their town-home with Vegas touches, accomplished in a clean and classic style.

Wernz is the CFO of the Kalispel Tribal Economic Authority, and has worked in the casino industry for over 20 years. With Northern Quest Casino as the backdrop for his daily work, and business trips to numerous casinos just another part of the job, high-end casino style is something he knows well. Don’t look for a cheesy Wayne Newton or Elvis impersonator style; rather, this is a home with unique touches, bursts of color and lots of pop art, all working together to create a one-of-a-kind look that proves what happens in Vegas can happen right here in Spokane.

Opening the front door to the home, prepare to be immediately impressed, and even dazzled by the décor. Standing at the edge of the great room, you may experience déjà vu of a scaled down version of a hotel lobby. This room holds both the living room and the dining area; however, due to its soaring ceilings and ample floor space, it never feels crowded.

Those high ceilings are necessary in order to pull off the artwork on the dining room wall, a massive lighted modular art piece that immediately captures everyone’s attention. Created out of 15, three-by-five panels of pressed fiberglass boards with plaster panels, the huge white piece has a design carved into it which gives the look of rippled, moving water.


Similar artwork was featured in a casino design magazine, and then the homeowners saw a live version of it while visiting Red Rock Casino in Las Vegas. It had been in a hallway at the hotel, but was impressive enough to warrant being duplicated on a grander scale in a more prominent place in the home.

Stunning enough on its own, the artwork is even more impressive when paired with the custom LED lighting system that splashes a variety of colors across the panels, creating a virtual live rainbow on the wall. The lighting is controlled by a computer system hidden in the kitchen, atop the refrigerator. With the flick of a switch, the colors can pulsate, quickly flashing from one color to the next, or they can leisurely transition between colors, drawing out different colors from the room, and creating different moods in the massive space.

The changing colors reflect off the art found throughout the room. This special effect adds a drama to the room that is usually reserved for upscale hotels and flashy casinos, rather than found in a residential setting.

In the early evening, the LED lights, as well as the natural light that pours in through the nearly floor to ceiling living room window, and the graciously sized dining room window, work together, reflecting off the limited 1967 psychedelic Beatles prints, created by famed photographer Richard Avedon. “People usually always comment about that,” says Nestor, of the lights’ impact on the prints. “If the lights are changing, they react and pull out different colors in the Beatles picture.”
For fans of the Beatles who may visit the house, the prints are exciting enough to see, but true, die-hard fans of the group will notice an additional touch in the house that is a tribute to the band. On the living room coffee table––a glass-topped piece that is modern, yet blends a bit of the traditional, with the dark wood, curved legs–sits a platter filled with bright green apples. In 1968, the Beatles launched a record label called Apple Records. Standard albums had a bright green Granny Smith apple on the A side, and an apple cut in half on the flip side.

Small touches like that – a design piece that is impressive to the eye at first, but upon further investigation has more meaning – are found throughout the house, compliments of the owners, who allowed their differing tastes and interests to be blended together throughout the home, making it a true representation of them. “You can hire a great decorator and get a beautiful space but it doesn’t mean you have a personal attachment to it,” says Wernz. The attachment is present in this home with the combination of the owners’ interests and passions.

Just under the coffee table holding the aforementioned apples, is a large circular rug with smaller circles nesting inside the first circle, in different colors. The keen observer will note that the rug is a large replica of the circular pattern found on the two upholstered club chairs that sit on either side of the window in the living room.

Nestor saw the circles in the chair’s upholstery and thought it would be nice to have a rug that mimicked that design. After bringing the idea to a carpet company, it was soon designed, created and lying on the floor. Not everyone could come up with the idea, but it is something that Nestor, who says, “There are so many things you can do to be creative, but people are afraid to do it,” does well.
Dark eggplant paint, a color people often shy away from as too bold, was applied to the back wall in the dining room, as well as to the wall directly opposite it, across the large room. The use of the rich color, paired with the eye-catching art work and the custom designed carpets and furniture all blend together in an impressive style. “It’s a wow factor in here. The whole point in designing the casino was for the wow factor,” says Wernz, who took the design inspiration he saw during the construction and décor phases of the hotel and casino at Northern Quest, and duplicated the inspiration in the house.

The open floor plan and soaring ceilings create an easy flow to the home, as one room transitions into the next. While having such open spaces can make the flow of the house work well from a space standpoint, it presents a challenge to decorate when the spaces are so large, and therefore requires a well-thought-out and bold approach. Luckily, bold is what Nestor does best when it comes to décor.
“We needed to fill the house,” says Nestor, “and I always wanted a style that was fun, but still clean and classy. Michael wanted clean and classy, too, but was afraid of some of it. I love colors and shape. There are infinite ideas of what people can do.”

The gun vases that rest under the modular art piece in the dining room are an example of a fun and bold style idea that Nestor embraced. The white vases, which at first glance are clean lined, crisp white vases, on further investigation turn out to be three guns resting on their pistol grips. “Guns as vases – that is totally pop art, and I love that stuff!” says Nestor.

Another striking décor piece that Nestor created is the oversized cartoon print of Bette Davis, which dominates the eye as you travel up the stairway to the second level. Nestor found the print, which is a reproduction of an album cover, and redrew the print on the computer. “I wanted something pop art, similar in style to Roy Lichtenstein,” the famous American pop art artist, says Nestor. “These pieces are like big kid toys, and you’re decorating your house. The house is like a big toy box!”

Through an archway off of the dining portion of the great room is the back half of the home, where an open kitchen spills both into an ample TV room in one direction, and out the doors onto a deck that serves as an outdoor living room.

The home’s beautiful and well-appointed open kitchen, with double ovens and granite counter tops, almost begs to be cooked and entertained in. A counter bar creates a causal eating area that is well used and a front row seat to kitchen activity. In this home, functional becomes fashionable and even mundane kitchen items are art. Take for example the “Ex Knife Block.” It is a red statue that doubles as a knife holder, with the knives being stored in the statue’s (representing any ex of your choice) head, heart, stomach, thigh and knee. Equally as fun and whimsical is the George Jetson cookie jar that Wernz swiped from his sister’s house on a recent visit, knowing it would be perfect in this home, where, if something is set out on the kitchen counter, it’s on display and, therefore, contributes to the décor.

The dark granite countertops and rich wood cupboards anchor the kitchen with an appropriately dark edge, while the rest of the room takes on a light and airy look thanks to the wall of windows and glass doors that open onto the deck.

Wernz selected the outdoor furniture based on a style he first saw at the The Mirage, in Vegas. The dark frames of the furniture encompass inviting creamy white cushions and offer a traditional, yet clean lined approach to the outdoor décor. Unobstructed views of the surrounding manicured lawns of the housing development, and sweeping views of the city and mountains beyond, make this a popular spot for guests to gather on summer evenings.

With the cushioned furniture, the spacious outdoor oasis is completed with stairs down to a walled-in grassy area for the two most important residents of the home: two precious poodles named Agadore Spartacus and Sheridan Bouquet. The sweet doggy duo have their own door providing access to the enclosed mini yard designed for them.

Back inside, the kitchen opens into a comfortable TV room, where a plush sectional encompasses the area. Still wanting to keep the look rich with style, and to incorporate the bright colors and patterns found in the great room, there are vibrant colorful throw pillows peppered along the couch, serving both as comfort and style.

A fireplace built out from one of the walls serves as a partial wall between the TV room and a home office that lies on the other side. Without walls and a door truly separating it from the open space of the living room and family room, a unique design choice was used to make the office separate and more enclosed. A rich espresso colored cork flooring was applied onto the walls! At first glance, it looks like leather, adding a rich texture to the room. You have to be a décor rebel to even fathom putting flooring on a wall. This think-outside-the-box approach is evident through out the home.

On a shelf above the desk in the office sit three large bright glass cherries, which Wernz chose because they play subtly off the casino theme, mimicking a win at a slot machine. The casino references are done in such a tasteful way that it is far from kitschy, and is closer to elegant. Almost every item in the home has meaning and every decision has been carefully thought out with design and purpose in mind.

While flooring may be on the wall in the office, it was equally well chosen when it came to what actually went on the floors. Beautifully finished hardwood floors flow throughout the main level and carpet adds warmth to selected living areas.

Back in the formal living area, a cascading staircase leads up to the private quarters, with a scrolled wrought iron railing adding movement to the climb.
Upstairs, a stunning bedroom rivals that of the finest resorts. A one-of-a-kind wall treatment was inspired by the carpet in the lobby at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel. Fans of the carpet, an adventurous Wertz and Nestor meticulously masked the trellis and hand painted the wall, putting in countless hours toward the masterpiece.

Nestor also made the crescent shaped ottoman at the foot of the bed after seeing a similarly shaped one at Hotel Andre, a boutique hotel in Seattle. Radiating creativity, Nestor sees things that are regular and imagines how they can be transformed into a functional piece for the home

Off the master bedroom is a sliding door that opens to a amply-sized private deck that takes full advantage of the expansive view. This deck represents one of three outdoor living spaces, which not only expands the home’s footprint, but it also brings the outdoors inside.

The master bathroom is zen-like in décor with a spacious walk-in shower and tranquil soaking tub. Wernz claims that the best view in the home is from the bathtub, adding you can see the fireworks from the Spokane Indian’s baseball stadium from that vantage point. A generous walk-in closet, double sinks and a private commode completes the room.

The adjacent upstairs bedroom has its own street-side balcony deck and is truly a second master suite. This modern bedroom has a look all its own, crisply decorated in a chic black and white décor. Again, this could be a stylish city hotel room beckoning guests to stay over.

Wernz’s career often provides the opportunity to attend concerts, and sometimes to meet touring artists who perform at Northern Quest Casino. Signed memorabilia and pictures with celebrities are framed and displayed on the wall of fame on the lower level of the home, bringing that Vegas touch even to the pictures.

Change is one thing that can be counted on when it comes to the décor and style of this home. Scouring antique stores and perusing garage sales in search of vintage items to incorporate into this mostly modern home is a hobby of the homeowners, and one that will continue as long as they own the home. After all, they know best that when looking for hidden treasures, you never know when you’ll hit the jackpot!

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