James Bond would feel right at home here – and so would Lady Gaga. With its bold red walls, theatrical Philippe Starck chandelier and avant-garde accents, Larry Laslo's Poker Room – touted as "the ultimate bachelor pad" – brings pop-art edge to Esquire House Soho in New York City.
The Soho house is the magazine's seventh signature space created to showcase innovative design, host charity events and attract the fabulous. And Laslo's sleek game room, sponsored by PokerStars.net, has everything for the high-rolling urbanite.
This iconic tastemaker knows something about taking risks with design. Early in his career, Laslo was tapped to remake stodgy Bergdorf Goodman into a seductive retail palace; he also created the serene elegance of Takashimaya on Fifth Avenue.
But how do you bring instant drama to a small room that Laslo candidly describes as "a box with a decent view of Manhattan"? Go bold with color: specifically, Sherwin Williams Heartthrob (SW 6866). "It's a very sexy red, without too much orange or blue," he says. "A real red. Lipstick red. And everyone looks great against that color." For the coating itself, Laslo chose Duration Home® Interior Acrylic Latex in a satin finish.
To match the visual pop of the walls, Laslo used a design approach he calls "menswear on steroids." The rug is a mad check of black-and-white houndstooth in three different sizes.
"Larry constantly plays with scale and color," observes Christy Almond, operating vice president of Design and Merchandising for the Robert Allen Group, whose fabrics were used exclusively in the room. Take the ornate poker-table chairs, designed by Christopher Guy, with fabrics chosen by Laslo: The fronts are covered in gunmetal gray – very Mad Men. But the chair backs feature a paper raffia fabric (Mar A Lago in Noir, part of Laslo's Destinations collection for the Robert Allen Group).
"The raffia is something you'd typically use on a simple piece like an ottoman," says Almond. "To pair it with this curvy, ornate chair is unexpected."
For Laslo, the feminine shape of the chairs is a perfect counterpoint to the room's masculine elements. He is drawn to Guy's designs, he says, "because they possess a natural animation."
Any self-respecting metrosexual is both fashion-forward and green – hence the room's chic and sustainable poker table, designed by Laslo in collaboration with EGM Green, which specializes in green gaming products. "A poker table is a poker table," says Eric Hansel, EGM's founder and president. "But what Larry designed is a work of art."
Shaped like two intersecting teardrops, the base of the table was carved out of solid maple by EGM's master woodworker. The wood came from a managed forest. Then there's the surprise of the felt layout – bright red to match the walls. "This the first time I ever made a red layout," admits Hansel. "Usually they're green or blue. But the red is a regal color. You wouldn't see this in the main areas of gaming places. It suggests a backroom for elite players."
The top of the table, designed without the usual rail or armrest, is surprisingly ergonomic. "Larry came up with a product that's so unique, so stylish and so comfortable," says Hansel. "[Poker star] Eric Buchman played at the table for several hours and loved it."
Larger than life
Buchman's fascination may have come from the glamorous company he was keeping. Lining the walls is a sequence of color-saturated 30-by-40-inch photo blowups of icons, from George Clooney to Queen Elizabeth II. "They all have different versions of a poker face," says Laslo, who created the portrait treatments himself. "You can be stoic like the queen or give a half smile like Angelina Jolie." Laslo recolored the monochromatic images with sly touches. "Of course, Paul Newman has blue eyes!"
This high-end man cave balances strong colors. "The colors of poker are red, white and black," Laslo points out. "The other colors need to be as intense as the red." Accordingly, the ottoman and settee are white and lacquer black. The adjoining bathroom is also crisply monochromatic; Laslo chose Robert Allen's Deco Flair in Domino for the shower curtain, a graphic print upholstery fabric usually used for furniture, but which proved surprisingly fluid.
Other unexpected choices address the room's limited dimensions. To disguise the low ceiling, Laslo used reflective silver wallpaper, bordered by custom white molding shaped like poker chips. The window treatment reflects the dense grid of the Manhattan skyline without spoiling the view: Laslo layered a laser-cut circle pattern over a sheer shade with appliquéd strips of leather. "Very 1960s," he laughs.
The Poker Room showcases Laslo's winning ability to bluff his way through inevitable design anxiety. "Everyone has moments of doubt. Will the red be too intense? Is the chandelier too big? But you have to stay true to yourself and have courage."
Want to bring vibrant color into a space yet keep it livable? Here are suggestions from Laslo and Christy Almond of Robert Allen.
Go fresh and natural. The return to pretty brings botanical hues into the palette. "People need something positive and optimistic," says Almond, noting that one of this year's most successful colors is the fresh green Paradise (SW 6720). "Clean color really adds life to a space."
It's all about the mix. "I like strong colors but elusive ones as well," muses Laslo. The intense Fireweed (SW 6328) and the subtle Aleutian (SW 6241) work with the modern ikat pattern Country Cabin. "It's amazing how you can transform a space by using surprising combinations," says Almond. "Try a milky chocolate and gray. Or a cognac with a citrus green."
Look up."I really love colored ceilings," says Laslo. At his own New York home, "I've painted the ceiling so many times, it's about a foot lower than it started out!"