Case Study

For the design of N9NE Steak House at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Kashmir glass tile manufactured by Oceanside Glasstile of Carlsbad, CA, was used to clad the columns.

A custom red, a shade of purple called Morado and Pewter were the colors of glass tiles chosen for vertical applications in Rain in the Desert. The tiles were 1-by-1-inch in size.
The design intent for the Palms Casino Resort, which opened its doors one month ahead of schedule in November 2001, differed drastically from the many themed resorts that line the Las Vegas strip. With the objective to be an upscale entertainment facility, building materials needed to be sleek and sophisticated to create the overall effect. In particular, three main attractions within the building - N9NE Steak House, Ghostbar and Rain in the Desert, a three-story dance club - required a look that would dazzle patrons with glitzy and glamorous visual elements. To create this desired appearance in these areas, the design team turned to a collection of glass tile.

"We used glass tiles in one of our prior projects - the original N9NE Steak House in Chicago - and we really liked how they looked," said Scott DeGraff, co-owner of The N9NE Group in Chicago, who led the design team for N9NE Steak House, Ghostbar and Rain in the Desert. "The place is pretty amazing when looking at the design - seeing how we use all the parts together. The glass tile helps to pop and adds color and sizzle to the design."

Approximately 10,000 square feet of tile was used primarily for vertical applications throughout the three venues. The material was manufactured by Oceanside Glasstile of Carlsbad, CA, and supplied through Materials Marketing of Chicago. "The company that reps them in Chicago introduced us to Oceanside Glasstile, and we really liked the public's response."

The designer explained that the wide assortment of available colors was an added bonus. "It made it easy for us to want to use them," said DeGraff. "All along we knew that we wanted to use the glass tile as accent material."

In N9NE Steak House, Kashmir glass tile was used to clad the columns, while the floor is a combination of Kashmir and Sandstone. The floor tiles are 4-by-4 inches, and the tones of Sandstone are predominant, according to DeGraff.

"In Rain in the Desert, we used a custom red, a shade of purple called Morado and Pewter," said the designer. "All the vertical applications are 1-by-1-inch tiles. A lot of them were used on columns."

With so much material being used on a fast-paced project such as this, communication between all parties involved was crucial to the success of the design. "The sheer quantity of tile and staying organized and coordinating was the biggest challenge," said DeGraff. The designer explained that The N9NE Group handled all of its own purchasing, so being able to get all the material ordered and moved from the warehouse to the jobsite was a large task.

Working together

Open communication channels between the design team and the tile manufacturer played an essential part in the progression of the project. The close collaboration between the two also assisted in creating a cutting-edge design.

"We've done a number of commercial projects over the years - Las Vegas and New York being two of the biggest markets," said John Marckx, Executive Vice President of Oceanside Glasstile. "This one was particularly interesting because we were involved from the beginning."

According to Marckx, he had been invited by The N9NE Group to tour the original N9NE Steak House in Chicago where Oceanside Glasstile's material had been used. "It was gratifying to be a feature within this amazing place," he said. "Because they had so much success with that, we then partnered with Palms to take the concept further. Being involved with the first project, got our distributor in on this one."

The Sandstone floor tiles at N9NE Steak House are 4-by-4 inches. The iridescent surface on the glass tile makes it more scratch resistant, and the coefficient of friction makes it slip resistant.
Working on the project from conception presented Oceanside Glasstile with the opportunity to provide specific materials that were desired. "We showed them the inside track on R&D and new things that we were working on," said Marckx. "It's not everyday that you can do this on a project - to be ahead of the curve. It was great to be able to offer this to our high-end customer who is such an advocate for us. Their strong desire and support for the product allowed us as a hand-made manufacturer to deliver on a high-scale project."

In addition to the tiles, other decorative trim pieces were employed throughout the three spaces. "We really helped them use products in a functional way," said Marckx, explaining that quarter rounds were applied on outside corners, creating softer edges for the mosaic pieces. "Also, bar liners and a narrower version - baby bars - were used to trim other areas. They added a strong finishing line."

Marckx went on to say that the use of glass tile has been steadily increasing through the years in both commercial and residential projects. "Glass once upon a time didn't have a strong understanding as a material in the tile industry - or in the architectural and design community," he said. "It was more frequently used for wall applications because it was thinner. Our field tile in mosaic is thicker and stronger, giving higher breaking strength and overall durability, which makes it more suitable for floor applications."

The iridescent surface on the glass tile also makes it more scratch resistant, and the coefficient of friction makes it slip resistant, according to Marckx. "I think on different levels, there is a much stronger awareness of glass tile now," he said. "It has become the jewel of the installation."

MAPEI’s Keralastic Mortar Admix and Grani/Rapid were used to install the glass tile.
Installing glass tile

The glass tiles for the Palms project arrived on the jobsite in square-foot sheets paper-faced on the front. "The best thing about glass is that it is translucent," said Marckx. "The facing on the front offers a much better bond strength - there's nothing inhibiting between the glass and mortar."

The installation process required lightly wetting the paper, which had water-soluble glue on it, and waiting a few minutes for the water to soak through. The paper was then peeled off. According to Marckx, this is a very user-friendly method.

The manufacturing company recommends several different types of installation products that it has tested and believes would perform best with its tile products. One of them being Keralastic Mortar Admix from Mapei of Fort Lauderdale, FL, which was used for this project along with Mapei's Grani/Rapid.

"Looking at the installation side, it is an important point with any project," said Marckx. "For a better part of 10 years, we have been doing continuous research and testing - working in the field and in house.

Essentially it comes down to two things - materials and methods. We partnered with a number of manufacturers - working in their labs and also tested products in independent labs. Our installation instructions and application recommendations are based on successful ASTM tests."

According to Mark Kolinoski, who was one of the installers for the project and still works to maintain the tile work at the Palms, Keralastic was also chosen for its rapid setting time. "Bars have to be open," he said, explaining that the installation process needed to go as smooth and quick as possible. A white thinset was also used for the glass tile. "There weren't any problems with separation between the thinset and glass."

One particular focal point of the glass tile work is stationed at the entry to N9NE Steak House. A waterjet-cut pattern creates an emblem on the floor. "We cut the N9NE emblem in a piece stainless steel with a brush finish and also cut the emblem in the glass pieces around it with a waterjet and then installed it at the entryway," said Kolinoski. "The tile can all be cut with a diamond blade saw. I was worried about that at first. I was worried that I would have to get a new blade." Because of time constraints, the installation was completed in 12 hours - between 4 a.m. and 4 p.m. Planning for the Palms Casino Resort initiated 19 months before construction. Actual construction of the $265 million establishment lasted about 15 to 16 months. The Palms Casino Resort comprises 22.5 acres of a 32-acre piece of property, and is currently the tallest hotel in Las Vegas, stretching 400 feet high. Other structures within the structure include a multi-use entertainment venue, 14 theaters and an IMAX theater, seven restaurants, a food court, a 10,000-square-foot banquet and conference facility, an 18,000-square-foot spa and salon overlooking a resort-style swimming pool, and a 95,000-square-foot casino with 2,200 slot machines.

The Palms Casino Resort

Las Vegas, NV

Owner: Maloof Companies

Executive Architect: KGA Architecture

Master Planner and Design Architect: The Jerde Partnership International

General Contractor: Perini Building Co.

Designer: The N9NE Group, Chicago, IL (N9NE Steak House, Ghostbar, Rain in the Desert)

Glass Tile Manufacturer: Oceanside Glasstile, Carlsbad, CA

Glass Tile Supplier: Materials Marketing, Chicago, IL

Glass Tile Installer: Mark Kolinoski