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July 29, 2014

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MGM designer provides a glimpse of how Las Vegas resorts plan room renovations

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A mirror framed in lights is one of the new design features in the renovated rooms at the MGM Grand, Thursday March 22, 2012.

MGM Grand Room

A look at one of MGM Grand's newly renovated rooms, Thursday March 22, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Jeanne Lynne Starling looked into the bathroom mirror in one of the older rooms at the MGM Grand.

"I'd be scared to put on my makeup here," Starling said, looking at the overhead light.

Starling's unpleasant experience happened in a room that was scheduled for a makeover as part of an extensive room renovation project launched by MGM in October. When the bathroom is finished, it will feature a mirror framed in lights that will illuminate the faces of guests, so makeup application isn't frightful.

Starling is to the MGM Resorts what cable TV designer Candace Olson is to HGTV. But instead of being limited to a hundreds of dollars in a made-for-television makeover, Starling is working with a budget of $160 million in a room redo at the second-largest hotel in the world. She also worked on the designs for the new rooms at the Bellagio, another MGM project.

The 19-year-old MGM Grand is one of at least five Las Vegas hotels to renovate their rooms in the past year, including the Flamingo, Caesars Palace and the Bellagio on the Strip, along with El Cortez and the Plaza downtown. Last week, the Golden Gate provided an update on major renovations and additions at its historical hotel and casino.

The projects are part of a trend of millions of dollars in spending to upgrade and redo rooms at Vegas resorts, including those at the Wynn, as well as Treasure Island and the Tropicana.

The Sun got a peek inside some of the newest rooms last week.

It's been about a decade since the MGM Grand's rooms were updated.

That was before many travelers had smartphones and before the dawn of iPods and iPads.

In the latest round of renovations happening across the city, all of the hotels have added more convenient outlets for charging multiple devices, along with sound systems that include docking stations for people who carry their music libraries in their pockets. The designs are aimed at helping people try to forget that they're staying in a hotel.

"There's a lot of talk in the industry about having a residential feel," said Starling, director of design development for MGM Resorts International. "We try to use several different color palettes and designs to try and get away from a cookie-cutter look."

Embroidered throw pillows, rich desert-inspired colors in shades of persimmon, fuchsia and taupe, and contemporary furnishings highlight the room redux across Vegas.

One nifty innovation at MGM grand is a safe tucked away in a nightstand that's the size and shape of a laptop. There's no charging station inside the safe, however.

"We found that produces a lot of heat inside the safe, which is not good for your laptop," she said.

MGM's rooms come equipped with more efficient energy, including solar-powered shades that rise and fall with the flip of a switch.

Besides the cost, room renovations require precise planning and shutting down entire sections of the hotel.

When one floor of rooms is under construction, the floors above and below the renovations are closed as well. The move is designed to create a buffer, minimizing noise for other guests at the hotel.

The fun part comes in picking out the carpets, wall coverings and furnishings for each set of rooms.

The Bellagio rooms were inspired by the changing garden displays in its Conservatory and the artwork lining the rest of the resort, with decor that reminds the visitor of flowers, plants and European style.

MGM incorporates circular design to simulate motion and excitement. The designs include lively artwork, lamps that look like movie set lights and playful patterns on the wallpaper and carpeting.

"What the MGM offers is a lot of entertainment with all the different shows," Starling said. "So we try to capture that in the atmosphere of the rooms.

"It took a few magic tricks to get it all done," Starling added.

And no, she didn't have to call David Copperfield up from one of the MGM showrooms to make it happen.

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