The debut of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story — on January 17 — has sparked a renewed interest in the Versace Mansion, the opulent property on Miami Beach that Gianni Versace once called home. The Mediterranean-style mansion framed with black iron gates and outfitted with elaborate balconies was an attention-grabber even before the revolutionary Italian designer Versace was shot dead on its front steps in 1997.
While the show rehashes the tragic events that took place more than 20 years ago — examining in detail the life of spree killer Andrew Cunanan, whose final act before committing suicide was to gun down famed fashion designer on July 15, 1997 — it also gives viewers an in-depth look at Versace's intricate villa where a large part of the filming took place.
Globally recognised as the third most photographed property in the US — after the White House and the Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis — Versace's three-story villa is an opulent and private oasis in the heart of South Beach where he once entertained Princess Diana and Madonna. The artistic mansion features marble floors, dazzling mozaics, elegant gardens, and a spectacular swimming poll inlaid with gold. Through the grand doors stands a Kneeling Aphrodite statue, built in 1928, and a courtyard surrounded by the four Pillars of Democracy.
Keep scrolling down for a guided tour inside the sprawling mansion, which has since been converted into a boutique hotel known as The Villa, Casa Casuarina.
The Versace mansion goes back a long way and dates back to the 1930s. It was built by a man named Alden Freeman whose father, Joel Freeman, was a successful and wealthy man and the Treasurer of The Standard Oil Trust. Freeman received a whole lot of his father's wealth when he passed away.
This allowed young Freeman to give up being an architect and travel the world. It is believed that he visited the Alcazar De Colon in Santo Domingo (the oldest residence in the Western hemisphere built by Christopher Columbus's son, Diego) which he fell in love with so much that he decided to build a replica in Miami as a tribute to the Alcazar property. Freeman also brought back two bricks back from the original property.
Once he was satisfied with the mansion he built for himself, he would constantly travel and meet different kinds of people whom he would often invite to spend time at the luxurious house.
Casa Casaurina became extremely famous when it was bought over by Gianni Versace in the year 1992 while he was on vacation with his family. Gianni was not on the lookout for a house and just happened to stumble across the Casa while he was on the way to meet his sister, Donatella.
In the year 2001, Donatella Versace, as reported by Harper's Bazaar, said: "We took a walk in South Beach, and Gianni just stopped in front of the building and said, 'I want this house.' Just like that, 'I want this house.' But it wasn't a house; it was literally an apartment building, and people were living in it! I said, 'Gianni, how are you going do that?' It was 10 o'clock in the evening. He said, 'Don't worry, we'll get the lawyers,' and he did it, I don't know how. Like many things in his life."
It is reported that Gianni fell in love with the house the moment he set his eyes upon the "Kneeling Aphrodite" statue as well as the Spanish type of architecture.
Apart from him using the house, the house was also used and enjoyed by his family and friends. His brother Santo's bedroom is called the Venus room and sister Donatella's room is known as the Signature suite.
The sitting area:
The Signature Suite
What a view!
With its custom double queen-sized bed and separate sitting room, The Signature Suite features a balcony overlooking Ocean Drive and the sands of Miami Beach.
The Azure Suite
The transactions and money involved
Gianni Versace purchased the original house at $2.95 million as well as another hotel property next door called the Hotel Revere. Versace received strong opposition from the neighbors as well as the Miami Design Preservation League which only made Gianni immediately purchase the Revere hotel for $3.7 million the very next day.
He ordered it to be demolished so that he would be able to construct a swimming pool and garden in the south wing of the property. These insane renovations and ammenities cost Versace a whopping $32 million and converted all 24 apartments into luxurious and huge suites.
It took a total of three years and a little more to finally complete all the elaborate plans that Gianni wanted. He clearly had a vision in mind was ready to drop a lot of money to finance and aid that vision.
The swimming pool at the mansion's mosaic garden courtyard
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.
The Medusa mosaic was crafted in Versace's home town, Reggio Calabria, Italy, and then taken apart and shipped to Miami Beach in pieces, where it was painstakingly reassembled. Medusa has a place of honor on the Versace brand's logo.
One of the hallways
The shower in the Versace Mansion
Gianni Versace's death
Unfortunately for Gianni, only five years after buying his dream home, he was fatally shot on the front steps of his home while out for his morning walk. Gianni was shot by Andrew Cunanan and this story was the juice for FX's series, American Crime Story: The Assasination of Gianni Versace.
Post his death, the house was empty for three years before Donatella finally sold the house to Peter Loftin in the year 2000 for around $19 million dollars. Loftin went on to use this as a private residence as well as a hotel, membership club, and host events.
Some contents of the Versace house were sold at an auction in New York in the year 2001 for a total of $28 million.
Here is a video of the house:
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