When most people think of the late fashion designer Gianni Versace, they think about the monumental contributions he made to the fashion industry using his visions and designs alone. But when South Floridians think of him, we might also remember the beautiful mansion he left behind in Miami Beach.
The home was originally built as a vacation villa and later turned into an apartment complex until Versace bought the property and made vast changes to it. Currently, the property is operated as a luxury boutique hotel, restaurant and event space called Villa Casa Casuarina.
The villa measures 19,000 square feet and features 10 accommodations as part of the hotel, a restaurant named Gianni’s at the Villa, a spa, a state-of-the-art gym, rooftop lounge, bar and pool.
Dubbed the third most photographed house in America, right after the White House and Graceland, the Mediterranean-style property is rich with history dating back to 1930.
The home was originally built that year by architect, author and philanthropist Alden Freeman. Freeman enjoyed traveling the world and fell in love with Alcazar De Colon – the grand residence built by the son of Christopher Columbus – while visiting Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. As an act of appreciation, Freeman brought back two bricks from the house to display in his new home. One still sits to the right-hand side of the main entrance. In addition, the ground is made of original key lime coral which dates back to this time.
Freeman always invited friends and people he met throughout his travels to stay at his home, so much so that 23 apartments within the property were available for rent and to his guests. Following Freeman’s death in 1937, Jacque Amsterdam purchased the place for $100k and used it solely as an apartment complex named the Amsterdam Palace.
In 1992, Versace was vacationing on Miami Beach when the unique Spanish architecture of the home caught his eye. He purchased the home and the lot next to it for $2.95 million and began what became a three-year, $32 million renovation project.
The renovations included turning the apartments into 10 large suites, adding a south wing, the pool and garden and an additional two suites in the south wing. Versace’s custom-designed walls, floors, ceilings, windows, pool, garden and the entire south wing remain as part of the new Villa Casa Casuarina.
In addition, two popular rooms include his brother Santo’s bedroom and his sister Donatella’s bedroom, now known as the Venus Room and the Signature Suite respectively.
After his murder at the steps of his home in 1997, the mansion remained vacant until Donatella sold it three years later. It was then sold again in 2009. Today, crowds of people still gather outside the home – undoubtedly drawn by its beautiful designs throughout and its captivating story.