By: Shayne Benowitz
Tour the former Miami Beach home of infamous fashion designer Gianni Versace.
The wrought iron gates of the Versace Mansion, lined with the designer’s signature Greek key pattern and Medusa logo in gold bas relief, have been a fixture of fascination for passersby on Ocean Drive ever since Gianni Versace’s untimely murder on its steps in 1997 at age 50.
With a velvet rope and stern security guard ever present at the entrance, curiosity about the lavish world that exists beyond those gilded gates lends the home its mystique, yet it’s not open to the public for tours or a look inside.
The historic mansion, originally built in 1930 by Alden Freeman who modeled the Mediterranean Revival marvel after the Alcazar de Colon in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was purchased by the fashion designer in 1992.
Versace’s presence on Ocean Drive and the flashy celebrity parties at his mansion were a hallmark of South Beach’s glittery resurgence in that era.
He died tragically at the hands of a spree killer, Andrew Cunanan, who senselessly shot and killed four others in the month’s leading to Versace’s murder. The motive for the shooting remains a mystery and Cunanan ultimately committed suicide a week later.
While the property has changed hands a few times since Versace’s death, its most recent acquisition was by the Nakash family of Jordache Enterprises for $41.5 million in October 2013. The family also purchased the Hotel Victor next door.
Today, the home’s official name is The Villa by Barton G. boasting a 10-room boutique hotel and fine dining restaurant Il Sole. The home can also function as a private event space.
Amongst the first guests to visit the hotel when it opened in March 2014? The Kardashian clan, of course. Sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloe made a splash when they checked in while in town to open their new Dash boutique on nearby Collins Avenue.
The digs beyond the gate are certainly lavish. The most impressive sight is the famed Mosaic Garden courtyard with an enormous pebbled Medusa inlaid in the deck leading to the 54-foot Thousand Mosaic swimming pool lined in 24-karat gold and designed by Versace, himself.
With custom bedrooms originally designed for Versace’s friends and frequent guests, including Madonna, Elton John, Princess Diana and his sister Donatella, the original artwork and flourishes are a feast for the eyes.
Palm fronds are painted on ceilings with twinkling chandeliers hanging from the center. Elaborate gilded wooden headboards adorn double-king-sized beds and tapestries are layered on top of marble floors in an array of detailed Baroque patterns.
The effect is excessively luxurious, bordering on gaudy (Donatella’s room is covered in animal print on every surface imaginable) and sometimes has the musty smell of a museum. But you’re never at a loss for a new discovery, as general manager Roaseann Grippo discovered a tiny Medusa head adorning a storm drain while rearranging patio furniture.
The designer’s former 1,174 square-foot Villa Suite bedroom is even available to guests for a truly intimate peek into the man’s life.
So how does one get beyond the gates to see the inside of this iconic home and sumptuous world created by Versace? Access can be gained one of three ways:
• Reserve a room with rates starting at $795 per night.
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• Book a table for dinner at Il Sole for an evening in the courtyard by the pool or in the dining room feasting on lobster served on Versace-designed Rosenthal china.
• The mansion is also available for buyouts, often catering to corporate events and weddings.
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