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Desert Companion

Room with a you:Neon stars and guitars

Room with a you:

Ordinary doesn't live here

Every picture tells a story

Held firmly in place

Experimenting with nature

She’s a little bit symphony; he’s a little bit rock and roll.

Neon stars and guitars

Neon stars and guitarsThe first two things you notice when you walk into the home of Warwick Stone and Bethany Swain define their guiding design intention. One is an original six-sheet, 85-inch-square poster from Howard Hughes’ 1952 movie, The Las Vegas Story, starring Jane Russell and Victor Mature; it hangs above a 6-foot-wide stone fireplace that lends a cave-like quality to the sunken living room. The other is an ivory-white standing bass, sitting on an elevated shelf beneath a skylight in the high-ceilinged room. Hand-painted with black silhouettes of characters and floral scenery from The Princess and the Frog, the instrument was one in a Disney princess series.

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Neon stars and guitars

Stone is the memorabilia curator for the Hard Rock Hotel and an erstwhile costume, poker chip and restaurant designer; Swain is a cellist with the Henderson Symphony Orchestra, and both she and her soon-to-be-husband sit on its board of directors. The couple wanted the home to reflect their shared love of music as well as their embrace of vintage Vegas. They chose a home in Rancho Bel Air Estates to be close to downtown and its mid-century modern vibe.

“I’ve always collected musical instruments for the Hard Rock, but there are some things that I invest in only for myself,” Stone says. “I try to keep a lid on it, because I’ve met so many collectors whose collections take over the house. Do you really want to come in and see my collection of Hard Rock pins on the wall?”

Swain adds, with a laugh, “You can see it upstairs, if you want.” She says she told Neon stars and guitarsStone, when they moved into the home in 2010, that she didn’t want to live in the Hard Rock Hotel. But over the years, her abode has experienced a creeping, perhaps unavoidable “British Invasion,” as she affectionately deems her English fiancée’s influence.

For example: Just inside the front door is a series of eight pictures that Bob Gruen took of John Lennon in 1972 for his “Walls and Bridges” solo album. They’re captivating and unique, and now that they’re there, Bethany confesses, it’s hard to imagine the house without such treasures. “They make great conversation starters,” she says.

Still, the Vegas theme has an anchor in every room. A series of four Neon Museum photos, taken by Stone and Swain and printed on doors, hangs in the den. In the kitchen, the refrigerator front is paneled with a 1949 photo of Fremont Street, seen from Union Plaza, that they found at the Las Vegas News Bureau.

“One thing I do in my work is giant printing,” Stone says. “This is the kind of fridge that is designed to have a panel put in it to match your cabinets. So, instead of the wood molding, I put a piece of stainless steel in, with a print where the white is the stainless showing through, so it doesn’t look like a sticker.”

Neon Stars and guitars

This insider design knowledge seems to contribute as much to Stone’s professional influence on the home as his rock-and-roll world connections. The place is filled with rare pieces of furniture and décor that the couple was able to acquire at auctions and garage sales for a fraction of their value, due to Stone’s knowledge. In one Hard Rock staff garage sale, they got a handful of Kelly Wearstler-designed chairs, sofas and tables for $500; Stone estimates one piece could have sold for $675 at auction by itself.

“My motto,” he says, “is, ‘That’s too cheap.’ When I can see something is underpriced, I grab it.”

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