“One of the amazing things about hospitality, and what I tell young designers and interns, is that when you decide to go into hospitality design, there’s the opportunity to do every type of design,” says Kara Siffermann, whose own passion for the industry was piqued in childhood. Her father’s work as a tract home developer inspired her own journey through the ranks of hospitality and the casino trade, culminating in her role today as the vice president of design at Resorts World Las Vegas.
Today, Siffermann leads a team of 12 talented designers and project managers for the $4.3 billion dollar casino-resort project—the first resort to be built from the ground up on the Las Vegas Strip in over a decade—that will offer 3,500 rooms at an 88-acre parcel of land that previously was home to the Stardust Resort and Casino. This luxurious location will offer a 5.5-acre outdoor pool complex with bold accents and rustic textures, while its interior will feature warm gold and cream colors that will complement each space’s unique identity.
“We will have a wide variety of amenities and exciting experiences Vegas is known to offer, but it will be our technology and thoughtful design that will set us apart,” the VP describes. “It will be a wonderful surprise for our guests on the Las Vegas Strip.”
Her work in the hospitality trade has allowed her to develop the skills needed to create everything from effective retail spaces to appealing nightclubs and restaurants to spas that provide guests with ideal beauty and wellness experiences. “And to take it to a high-end suite in a hotel really is very similar to high-end residential,” Siffermann notes. “So, what I’ve really enjoyed about working in the hospitality industry is that whatever space you’re focused on in the moment, you can always learn something new.”
Another aspect of hospitality that she likes is that it’s dynamic, always changing and offering unique challenges. “Hospitality never gets boring; it’s always evolving and becoming something new and more exciting,” Siffermann asserts. “The way that the world changes based on what’s happening that moment or during a decade always impacts design. I think that keeps you smart; it keeps you growing, and it keeps you inspired.”
Siffermann grew up in San Jose, California, and attended San Diego State University before transferring to San Francisco State, where she earned a degree in interior design and housing. In 1993, she moved to Las Vegas as it was undergoing a boom in residential construction, and she secured a job with a model home design company. She then took a position as a project coordinator with Atlandia Design, the in-house design and architectural firm for Steve Wynn’s Mirage Resorts.
In 2000, she relocated to New York to work for Tony Chi, who she describes as one of the masters of hospitality design. Chi remains a close confidant and friend to Siffermann today. “At that point in time, his work was more focused on restaurant design, so I learned amazing things from Tony and the world of food and beverage across the globe,” she recalls.
That position took her around the world to places like Egypt and Istanbul. She then started working for the notable Alexandra Champalimaud where she honed her craft in the areas of guestrooms, suite, and public area design. “Alexandra is a master of design in her own right. She taught me volumes about residential and hospitality design.”
Siffermann’s son was born in 2004, and as New York in the years following 9/11 saw a reduction in the number of hospitality projects that were completed, she decided to return to Las Vegas and Wynn Design & Development. “We all go to college and we learn how to do things and how to follow through on things, but my college in design, or my experience, was basically molded by the talented team at Wynn Design & Development, inclusive of Roger Thomas, Jane Radoff, and Karina Ashworth,” she remarks.
After her second stop with the Wynn Design & Development, Siffermann took a job with Station Casinos LLC, which is a local hotel and gaming company with multiple resorts located just off the Las Vegas Strip. “It was a totally different type of casino design that’s more geared to making the local community happy and comfortable and coming back to them,” Siffermann adds. “It gave me a different perspective on casino design and amenities. My time with Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta greatly shaped my abilities as a designer in hospitality.”
Following her time at Stations Casinos LLC, she continued on to MGM Hospitality to work on the company’s international projects that brought her to Vietnam, Beijing, and Kuala Lumpur before one more return to Wynn where she oversaw the company’s multimillion-dollar renovation projects. Thereafter, Siffermann was hired on as a consultant for Virgin Hotels where she helped the company establish its presence in Las Vegas before joining Resorts World Las Vegas as director of interior design in February 2019. With nearly two decades of global design experience, Siffermann says she hopes Resorts World Las Vegas will be her grand finale, a swan song that leaves a final lasting impression on Las Vegas and the luxury resort’s visitors when it opens next summer.
“Vegas appeals to a very wide demographic,” Siffermann says. “As a designer, you always want to be able to please your end user, but here, your end user can be anyone.” She says her background, which includes her work as an owner’s rep, has taught her how to support and guide other designers’ ideas. “Trying to keep something fresh and new but something that appeals to the masses is what you need to do in Las Vegas,” she notes.
Even though she had never been to Vegas before moving there in 1993, Siffermann says it has been the city most pivotal to her career and a place she’s proud to call home.