MORELLI HOUSE ARCHITECTURE
                                             FACT SHEET

The Morelli House was ultra-modern for its day, and in a sense defies
architectural classification. It is known from individuals who worked on the
construction of the house that Maestro Antonio Morelli and his wife, Helen, were
directly influenced by the work of R.H. Schindler, who built modernist houses in
southern California, and Philip Johnson, whose acclaimed Glass House, is
located in New Canaan, Connecticut, Helen Morelli‟s hometown.

Having chosen the modernist design for their home, Mr. Morelli approached the
Sands Hotel carpenter foreman, Richard Small, with his ideas. Together, over the
course of two years, the two men designed and built the house. Las Vegas
architect, Hugh E. Taylor, was engaged to create the plans for the house. The
house was located at 52 Country Club Drive in the prestigious Desert Inn
Estates, which overlooked the world-class Desert Inn Country Club and Golf
Course. The Desert Inn was the fifth property to be built on the Las Vegas Strip.
Although this was the first country club community built in Las Vegas, it was not
originally set up as a residential development. The first homes on the resort
grounds were for the use of owner/developer, Wilbur Clark, his executives, and
certain high rollers, including Howard Hughes. The Desert Inn Estates was the
first Las Vegas development to employ Mid Century modern design. The Morelli
House was completed in 1959 and was the Morelli‟s home until 1974.

Rectangular in plan, the overall appearance of the Morelli House is long and low,
melding into the landscape. The flat roof is covered with crushed white rock.
Exposed redwood beams support the widely overhanging eaves. The wall
surface is stucco and painted redwood with vertical battens which counteract the
extreme horizontality to a degree. In several places along the front of the
building, walls are screened with decorative openwork cement blocks. These
screens are topped by a row of windows. Between the top of the screen and the
widely overhanging eves, is an area called „a gallery‟ by the architect.

The walls of the rear facade consist of the vertical wood on the outside of the
kitchen and a small ell contained the mater bedroom that extends a few feet past
the rear wall. In between the bedroom and kitchen is a bank of floor-to-ceiling
windows (one segment a sliding glass door) that serve as the living room wall.
Four futuristic metal light fixtures hang from the beams, with smaller matching
sconces attach to the metal framework of the windows. All of the windows and

The Morelli House Architecture Page 1 of 2                     Phone: +1 (702) 822-6536
Junior League of Las Vegas                                        Fax: +1 (702) 822-6538
861 Bridger Avenue                                            Email:
Las Vegas, NV 89101-5539                                                 Web:
                 MORELLI HOUSE ARCHITECTURE Continued
doors are set into aluminum frames. With the exception of the double entry front
doors, all of the doors are full glass panels or sliding glass doors. Windows are
either fixed or sliding. Originally a carport extended from the southwest corner of
the building which was separated from the house by a breezeway that led to a
service yard on the east end. After occupying the house for a short time, a
portion of the carport was enclosed to serve as Mr. Morelli‟s music studio with an
entry door into the kitchen. Unfortunately, this portion of the house could not be
moved due to the cement block foundation.

The home‟s interior is a paragon of period appointments, all of which have been
kept in the original condition, including the instruction books for the kitchen
appliances. The approximately 3,300 square foot house is laid out in an open
plan, with two bedrooms, a living/dining area (great room), and a kitchen/utility

The kitchen represents the height of 1950 modernity, with nearly every
conceivable built-in appliance; the plans for the kitchen appointment detail the
redwood cabinets, the built-in lazy Susan, spice cabinet, teacart, and the
breakfast bar with a Formica top. The oven is a double copper-tone wall unit and
the counter-top range has a large stainless steel hood above it. The light fixtures
in the kitchen are a drop-style with opaque egg-shaped, white glass globes.

The double entry doors, which are surrounded by opaque art-glass panels in a
raindrop design, lead into an open foyer, separated from the great room by a
redwood paneled room-divider that houses a coat closet and storage closets. On
the opposite side of the closets is a built-in redwood china cabinet that delineates
the dining area, which is an extension of the living room. The entire great room is
paneled with redwood paneling. The most prominent feature in the great room is
the fireplace that consists of a raised “floating” marble-topped hearth with a
massive copper hood which extends to the ceiling.

Because the Morelli House is an excellent example of Las Vegas Mid Century
modern architecture and displays a high degree of integrity of design, materials,
workmanship and even association, it was placed on Nevada‟s Register of
Historical Places in 2002.

This program is made possible by a grant from Nevada Humanities

The Morelli House Architecture Page 2 of 2                       Phone: +1 (702) 822-6536
Junior League of Las Vegas                                          Fax: +1 (702) 822-6538
861 Bridger Avenue                                              Email:
Las Vegas, NV 89101-5539                                                   Web:

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