How many times have we heard the phrase, “your house is the true reflection of your personality”? Surely more than once. And the truth is that a home expresses the character of those who inhabit it: cheerful, functional, cluttered or Zen, as the case may be.
But this time, we are not talking about just brick-and-mortar: this is a property of more than 23,000 square feet decorated with the lavish style of the late Gianni Versace. This is what will be sold to the highest bidder at the September 17 auction: Casa Casuarina, the mythical couturier`s mansion at 1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach.
Casa Casuarina has 10 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, each decorated differently but always with the variegated style characteristic of the owner. The building, which housed the Amsterdam hotel, dates from 1930 and was restored by the designer after he purchased it for three million dollars in 1992. He invested another $33 million in a grand renovation. Versace expanded the property by acquiring the adjacent Revere hotel for $4 million.
The mansion is accessed through a Renaissance portico that leads to a huge courtyard with a large fountain and sculptures, surrounded by the various rooms. In one of the outdoor gardens, there is a swimming pool lined with a 24K gold edge and fine Italian mosaic tiles. The centerpiece of this garden is an exquisite mosaic featuring the designer’s logo: the emblematic head of Medusa. Two staircases are used to access the interior rooms.
Once inside the house you are immersed in Versace’s fabled world of excess. The rooms are decorated with trompe l’oeil, golden fittings in the bathrooms, canopies and colonnades, even an observatory: a dome partially open to the sky above, adorned with clear Moroccan references.
Ideally located, on South Beach’s iconic Ocean Drive, the mansion is surrounded by chic hotels and art deco buildings. It boasts amazing ocean views, and the warm, pristine beach is just across the street.
The designer spent long periods at Casa Casuarina. He greeted his jet setting guests in the warm embrace of South Beach, a place he forever changed. The most elegant women in the world were charmed by his personality and loved to wear his designs. Among them: Princess Diana, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Elizabeth Hurley and Madonna, among others.
One morning in 1997, Gianni Versace was returning home after breakfast when the unthinkable happened. He was shot to death in front of his house. Inside the mansion, one can still feel the presence of a man with impeccable taste, who, in many ways, transformed the fashion industry. After his death, the Versace family decided to sell the house, which was transformed into a members-only club, but always respecting the original decor.
Now Casa Casuarina is back on the marker. Whoever buys the mansion should not mind the continuous parade of tourists and onlookers taking pictures at the gates. That and having to pay at least 25 million dollars (the starting price at auction). ■