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CLOSE UP : Building a Bettor Mousetrap

March 06, 1994|Ellen Alperstein

Charles Silverman goes to work at a nondescript, two-story Irvine business park. He barks "good morning" to a few of his 45 cubicled employees and enters his plain-wrap office, where the only wall decor is a stuffed and mounted sailfish he caught off Acapulco some 20 years ago. From all appearances, the business of Yates-Silverman Inc. might be designing benefits packages for mid-sized companies or importing wing nuts from Thailand.

But Silverman's currency isn't health plans or hardware: It's excess. He's the country's foremost interior designer of hotel-casinos. Yates-Silverman has, for example, re-created a 3,000-year-old Egyptian city inside the Luxor, the $375-million, 30-story pyramid that opened on the Las Vegas Strip in October. And in 1990, it medievalled the Excalibur with knights, portcullised passageways and an Arthurian attitude. "In the past 33 years," Silverman says, "we've either designed or helped renovate every hotel-casino in Las Vegas, with the exception of the Mirage and the Las Vegas Hilton."

And it goes beyond Vegas; Yates-Silverman has reaped the benefits of gambling's rising popularity. It has 28 different casino projects on the drawing board, including the Western-themed Buffalo Bill's in Stateline, Nev., and a new stainless-steel-and-neon card room at Hollywood Park.

Interior design, he says, is part of salesmanship: "One marketing tool might be big-name entertainment. Another might be an all-you-can-eat breakfast for $1.99. I put interior decor somewhere between cheap food and Frank Sinatra."

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