Darla Real doesn’t just work on big projects, she works on Las Vegas-big projects. When she joined Resorts World Las Vegas in May 2020 as director of interior design, Real knew she would be supporting the construction of the already in progress, $4.3 billion resort property smack dab on the Las Vegas Strip.
Resorts World Las Vegas includes a 117,000 square-foot casino, three different hotels, a mall, more than forty restaurants, as well as day and night clubs. It contains the largest Hilton property and Conrad hotel in the world and a 4,700-seat theater on the premises that has featured residencies from Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Luke Bryan, Kevin Hart, David Blaine, and more.
But, when Real came to the organization, construction that had begun in 2017 was still ongoing. And the pandemic was in full effect.
“We had all been working from home for a couple of months already, and I had known about this huge project going on here for years,” she explains. “I knew they needed help, and I thought I could be part of getting the project to the finish line.”
When the director arrived, there was no finished celling on the mall, nor a floor in the casino. The organization was about a year out from its Vegas opening. Despite the pandemic, the work required Real and her team to be onsite nearly constantly. But for Real, that was part of the allure.
“I love being on a construction site, it’s one of my favorite things in the world,” she admits. “During such a stressful time in all of our lives, it was a fantastic distraction for me. We needed to be here daily to see progress, answer questions, and stave off any potential issues. There just wasn’t any other choice.”
While keeping construction workers six feet apart at all times proved to be challenging in its own right, the real challenge, Real affirms, was the same one felt by builders all over the world: the supply chain.
“We had to make some of our design decisions based on the availability of materials,” she explains. “We had to come up with creative, but appropriate decisions with the limitations that we had placed on us in terms of timing and actual physical materials.”
Another routine experience was also thrown into relative chaos. During a project of such magnitude, Real was used to taking trips to factories to look at, touch, and judge prototypes. But, with COVID-19 protocols, this suddenly wasn’t possible.
“We had to do a lot of virtual reviews that required some truly interesting innovations,” Real says, laughing. “Factories would gather up people of different sizes and shapes and have them sit on the prototypes to tell us how it felt to them. It was an odd experience, but it was also helpful.”
Throughout the pandemic, she learned just how adaptable people can be. That adaptability and nimbleness have also been required post-opening of Resorts World Las Vegas.
Real says as a new company coming on the scene in an established market, there are lessons the organization is having to learn quickly and adapt around. “What I’ve experienced over my career is that it’s pretty apparent when a design choice is not going to work,” she reflects. “You go into redesign immediately, and that’s just part of the learning process.”
For example, metrics help determine what gaming machines belong where on the casino floor. Over time, slot machines may wind up in several different locations as the organization learns more about the way its patrons interact with the space.
Real has spent her whole career in Las Vegas. She rolled her own dice when she moved to Sin City without a job in 1995. But since then, she’s worked for the very best of the Strip like MGM Grand, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay, Aria, Vdara, the Venetian and Palazzo Resort, Virgin Las Vegas, Treasure Island, and New York, New York, while also navigating between the owners and the design side.
The secret to her success? The mentorship she’s received along the way.
“I’m not even sure if some of the people in my life know how influential they were to me,” Real says. “And they weren’t all design professionals. I once worked with a client who was a general manager of a hotel, and I just watched how she interacted with her employees and was able to keep a calm demeanor when approaching a challenge.”
When she was younger, Real was more liable to letting her passion get the better of her. But seeing a strong female leader helped her step back and process before reacting to situations. The leaders and mentors she’s had, both good and bad, are what motivate Real to be the kind of leader she is today. “That’s why it’s so important for me to make sure my team is happy, engaged, and empowered,” the director says. “I love what I do, and I want them to feel the same about the great work they put in.”
T. Nickolas Co. is the premier natural stone and tile contractor in America. Our worldwide network of vendors and state-of-the-art fabrication facility give us the unparalleled ability to supply projects of any size. We have fortunately worked with Darla Real on a myriad of projects throughout the last 30 years; most recently Resorts World where she was instrumental with material selection, approvals, and budget adherence. We look forward to working with her in the future.
Ulster Carpets are proud to be a partner of Resorts World Las Vegas. We extend our sincere congratulations to Darla Real and the Resorts World team on their newest addition to the Las Vegas Strip. It is a privilege to support their creative talent, and we look forward to continued collaboration.