If you’re going to hire three mosaic artists to live on your property and take turns working around the clock, you should expect some spectacular interiors.
That’s what Gianni Versace did when he bought the dilapidated property on South Beach and turned it into the grandeur that is the Versace Mansion. The house now goes by The Villa by Barton G, but it still carries the glamour and over the top flamboyance that the designer gave to it. The Villa celebrates its beauty, and does its best to overlook the tragedy that happened on its front steps when Mr. Versace was shot and killed there after coming back from a walk on the beach in 1997.
The house was first built in 1930 by architect Alden Freeman, the 27-year-old heir to the Standard Oil fortune. This young bohemian spent his life traveling the world, but wanted to build a property that would pay homage to Christopher Columbus and modeled after the Alcazar de Colon in Santo Domingo, a residence built in 1510 by the son of Columbus. Where most people would build a large home with several communal gathering rooms, Alden built “Casa Casuarina” into several apartments with the hopes that the people he would meet around the world would come visit him and he could provide them a place to stay. After Alden’s death, the property became a run down flophouse for several decades, complete with homeless crashers and laundry strung out to dry.
Not until 1992 did Versace walk by, his eyes fell on the kneeling Aphrodite statue in the center of the courtyard, did he begin his battle with local Miami government to change the art deco nearby lots making it the house of art, fashion and design that it is today. Guest over the years have included Madonna and Elton John (not at the same time, we presume). Mosaics make up the floors, walls, and even the pool, Versace signature home designs complete the tableware in the dining room, and as for the bedrooms—get ready for double king-size beds with custom made linens, and gold-lined showers.
Want to go inside? That’s not completely impossible. You can pay to stay there (Room rates start at $1,200 in the off season), or book a table at the Barton G Dining Room restaurant inside. However, if you happen to stroll by on an evening that the villa is not rented out for a special event, you can present yourself by knocking at the gate. Should the security and manager find you well dressed, and well behaved enough, you can go in for a cocktail at the Onyx Bar, a beautiful little hideaway in this richly designed house that Gianni may not have built‑but certainly perfected.
For more information, room rates, and reservations, go to: http://www.thevillabybartong.com/