Steve Aoki didn’t set out looking for a massive house in the desert—but you might say that it found him. The electro house DJ and producer had been scouring Las Vegas for the perfect home, when a friend in real estate alerted him to a 16,000-square-foot property about to go up on the auction block. The home, which had been constructed at the height of the financial crisis in 2008, languished on the market for years with no one able to stomach the $12 million price tag. By the time it hit the auction block in 2014, it was listed at under $3 million and required an all-cash deal. “I didn’t really check under the hood. I just said, ‘I need to get this house,’” Aoki says. “And then I later checked under the hood and was like, ‘Holy s***. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done!’”
Aoki spent years and, by his estimation, “millions upon millions” to convert the property to the technologically savvy and modernist space of his dreams. “I skinned it, gutted it, changed everything,” he says. “I took it to the bare shell of the walls and the floors. Well, not even the floors. I removed all the floors!” Once complete, the DJ christened the space “Aoki’s Playhouse”— and the reasons are obvious once you step inside.
While Aoki favors streamlined interiors and a palette of cool grays and white, there is quite a bit of whimsy introduced into the design through his carefully curated art collection. Most notable: an entire room devoted to 3-D pieces from Aoki’s favorite artist, KAWS, and a Banksy sculpture depicting Mickey Mouse being eaten by a snake from the artist’s acclaimed 2015 Dismaland exhibit. “My prized possession,” he says.
But perhaps the room in the sprawling house that most proclaims “playhouse” is Aoki’s gym, if one could call it that, which was formerly a racquetball court. “That’s not my sport,” he says, “So, I transformed it.” The now tricked-out space features a giant trampoline, a foam pit, and a rope swing. The finishing touch is a 20-foot mural, splashed across an entire wall, by celebrated Los Angeles street artist Neck Face. “He’s not one to do pieces for many people, but I’ve known him for a long time,” Aoki says of the anonymous graffiti artist.
And, of course, there’s an in-house studio truly unlike any other in the world. Aoki converted the home’s former movie theater into what he nicknamed the Neon Future Cave. “When I walk into this room, I want to feel like I’m bunkering down,” he says. “I’m gonna lock myself in this bunker, and the only way I’m going to open that door and go out is if I create something extraordinary.” To create that enclosure feeling, Aoki eschewed a regular flat ceiling for one that supports a bespoke installation consisting of stalactite-like, sharp-edged juts wired with brightly hued LED lighting.
The musician also put his signature touch on the exterior space, which was essentially 40,000 square feet of barren desert when he moved in. The pool, which had previously been located farther from the house, was filled in and moved closer. Aoki had one specific request for the rebuild: “I like having deep, deep pools,” he says. And while his contractor initially expressed reservations about hitting a rock layer as they dug deeper and deeper into the ground, Aoki was undeterred. “I told him, ‘Let’s do it. Let’s just do it,’” he says. The result is a 16-foot-deep pool, complete with the Aoki logo on the bottom. “It’s almost like planting a flag,” he says. “It’s the deepest pool in Nevada, from what my contractor told me.” A second pool and barbecue area was also installed, perfect for taking advantage of warm desert nights.
But if you’re thinking the Playhouse’s level of debauchery rivals that of the Playboy Mansion, you’d be mistaken. “I’m not much of a big party guy,” Aoki says. “It’s my family and really close friends that come over. The house is my safe haven.” But that’s not to say that the DJ has never thrown a chandelier-rattling fête. “I had over 400 bands play in my living room in my college apartment,” he says. “I know how it is to have a party in your place. It just destroys it. I don’t need to do it again.”