By Jean Prenn
It’s dawn, after closing the trendy Ghost Bar, Johnny Brenden hops in his metallic yellow 2002 Lamborghini Murcielago. He and his lady friend are headed home to the gleaming twin towers on Paradise Road off the Las Vegas strip where, indoors, the thick theatrical curtains in his townhouse will shut out daybreak.
Brenden, an intrepid 39-year-old movie theater owner, purchased a $1.8-million condo in a new, outrageously luxurious Las Vegas high-rise—Turnberry Place—about two years ago. And just as its name and coat of arms imply, the high-end condo is olde-world in its design, with formidable chandeliers, marble floors, elegantly sweeping staircases and other architectural splendors that are requisite to any upscale living environment.
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Brenden, however, is a modern man who pumps a lot of iron in his spare time, has a penchant for Versace clothing and thrives on “seeing things in a new way,” which is exactly why he bought into Turnberry Place. While the impeccable perks—the Sterling Club private club, which includes a 30,000-square-foot European spa and fitness center, lounge with piano bar, a nightclub, concierge and two restaurants—are a big draw, Turnberry’s floor plans seemed ordinary for Brenden’s fearless tastes. He saw his living space in complete contrast to everything else in the 40-story tower. He envisioned circles, not rectangles, something “cozy and fun and different” that would challenge people’s perception of everyday decor.
Brenden, who cites Phantom of the Opera as one of his all-time favorite music selections, has a flair for the dramatic, and when he says “different,” he means it. To accomplish his vision, he turned to Francisco Behr of Behr Browers Architects Inc., outside L.A., who helped him breathe life into his Brenden Theatres Modesto 18 east of San Francisco. An award-winning specialist in commercial cinema and entertainment center design, Behr accepted Brenden’s invitation. “It was John’s desire that we help him,” Behr says. “He felt a home architect might not take his ideas seriously.”
Behr did. A devotee of theater design and Art Deco, Behr has lent his talents to many historic renovations, including Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles. As is the case throughout greater L.A., Behr understands the critical connection between style and entertainment. The moment you pass through the gold stainless-steel front door into a vestibule of solid black granite columns and a lavender sky above, encircled in a gold frame, you’re in for a real Las Vegas show.
The circular-patterned black-granite and gold-tile flooring ripples from the foyer into Brenden’s entertainment room. Walls are wrapped in shimmering holographic wallpaper with a gold and silver finish that changes color and pattern, depending upon the lighting. Metallic wallpaper dramatizes the unifying trompe l’oeil dome ceiling above.
The boldly colored, elliptical-shaped furniture is Behr-designed, much of it red. To transform typical square rooms without bulldozing walls, Behr used circular and elliptical cove ceilings, soffits, mirrors and furniture throughout. Everything reflects something. And you have to use a magnifying glass to find a flat wall.
To create Brenden’s fantasy world, Behr conjured up every theatrical trick at his disposal. Neon fuchsia, lavender and gold lighting tucked behind frosted-glass walls, suspended from stainless-steel cables, adds luster to the entertainment area, master and guest bedrooms.
Tiny Tivoli lights are woven through the flooring and ceilings in the entertainment room, terraces and master bedroom. Recessed mirror alcoves create a sense of height. In his never-ending quest for sparkle, Behr pounded domed upholstery nails into the circular soffit above the bar, and onto the walls in the adjoining den, for a glittery diamond effect.
Then there’s the 500-gallon shark tank, an homage to The Four Seasons at Mandalay Bay, where Brenden lived for one year during the remodel. The aquarium, home to three leopard sharks and several trigger and angel fish, is supported by an aluminum base that doubles as a prism.
Three layers of theatrical curtains—velvet, a metallic center curtain and a sheer—in hues of deep purple lock out daytime the moment it awakens. Always, in Brenden’s Turnberry Place condominium, it is night.
“This could only be designed in Las Vegas,” says Behr, who admittedly turned to Sin City itself for inspiration. “It’s about the lifestyle and the place—nightlife and the desert at night. Colors are gold and black.”
At control central, under a giant elliptical cove ceiling, stands the circular stainless-steel bar and 50-inch Pioneer plasma television. Internally lit, the bar radiates. Behind, the console compartmentalizes the Bang & Olufsen equipment, including a satellite receiver, DVD player, multidisc CD player and AM/FM radio. The bartender, remote in hand, can control draperies and lighting, and manage the light, sight and sound system while mixing a Cosmopolitan.
With that same remote, he can make individual changes, room by room. Liquid-crystal computer monitors in every bathroom, the hallway and kitchen allow Brenden to intermingle the DVD at hand throughout the condo. Or he might have Frank Sinatra or Moby emoting from every speaker.
Brenden, a devotee of all things high tech, turned to Art Elliott, owner of Bang & Olufsen’s Las Vegas store, to orchestrate the system design and installation. Brenden says among his favorite possessions are the candy-apple red tower speakers in his entertainment room, living room and den that allow him to watch any film with the luxury of surround sound.
The disparate lighting sources—neon, soffit lighting, low-voltage LEDs embedded in the floor, recessed lighting—are remote-controlled. “You can set a lighting scene like in a movie, using four color-coded buttons,” Elliott explains. A touch of one button turns off everything—lighting, picture and sound.
Brenden, the grandson of the late movie theater chain owner Ted Mann and actress Rhonda Fleming, says he essentially project-managed the construction of his four multiplex theaters, as well as his condo remodel. “It’s perfect,” he says. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Behr, meanwhile, wouldn’t mind taking on a few challenging personal home projects. “With clients like Johnny Brenden,” he quickly adds. “Clients who are interested in trying something different.”