How well do you understand the Versace style? Did you truly understand how he paired cheetah prints with paisley patterns and made it work? Sure, you understood that he was an icon and the envy of celebrities everywhere, but were you daring enough to wear Versace? And if you dared, did you do it right? Gianni Versace had a sense of style that set his creations apart from the rest and while you might be able to pick a Versace out in the crowd, it's likely you needed a fashion stylist to show you how to properly wear the genius wardrobe.
There's good news: you don't have to wear Versace to stay in what was once his multi-million dollar Miami mansion but I assure you, once you walk through the guarded doors of this palace you'll 'get' Versace. And you'll never be the same.
Gianni Versace's Miami mansion is the second-most photographed home in the U.S. Try as Michelle Obama might, the White House has nothing on Versace's style.
Keep reading below.
On July 15, 1997, the fashion world came to a screeching halt when Versace was shot dead outside his Miami home, but his legend lives on inside the white-washed walls on Ocean Drive. The Italian fashion mogul called 1116 Ocean Drive home for more than five years and hosted everyone from Elton John to Madonna at his lavish digs. While his legacy lives on among the accessories, fragrances, makeup and clothes, the home that Versace built remained closed to the majority of the public until now. When Barton G. Weiss took over the posh digs he turned the Versace-owned home into a hotel for those who defined the very meaning of glamour.
You don't need to own anything Versace to be able to recognize his look. The complex mix of fabrics and patterns were synonymous with Versace style. No one else could pair animal prints with bright pink cashmere and turquoise blue porcelain with gold-flecked and multi-jeweled crystal. You know a Versace when you spot it, and the same holds true for his 19,000-square-foot South Beach home - within seconds of walking through the iron gates, you know you're standing inside the brainchild of one of fashion's greatest minds.
I walked into the mansion at precisely 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning. The butler opened the steel gates and ushered me into the courtyard where the fountain in the middle streamed gold water (via gold thread in its spouts). I stood in awe as the realization of my whereabouts came into focus. The Versace handbag tucked safely in its dust bag in my closet suddenly had a whole new meaning.
The butler took my half-gulped latte and placed it perfectly in the center of a silver tray while she pointed the way toward the outdoor pool area. A quick left at the water fountain and we were standing face-to-gold in front of the Thousand Mosaic pool. Lined in 24k gold and serving as a focal point along the perfectly manicured lawn, the pool was nothing short of mesmerizing. I couldn't imagine swimming in it, and yet at the same time I wondered what it was like to float along the gold that trimmed the perimeter of the pool. The lounge chairs were all cushioned with Versace prints and while Ocean Drive was only steps away, you felt like you were in another world.
Guests can dine al fresco by the pool during the day and in the evening, the cuisine turns five-star in the 30-seat dining room. From the tiled walls to the Versace-original flatware and plates, you can almost see the visionary sitting in the corner enjoying a meal on the one-of-a-kind dishes and sipping wine from the jeweled cups that grace each table. Dinner menus are designed daily and the carefully cultivated wine list offers more than 100 labels selected from the world's finest vintners. After dinner drinks can be served in the Dining Room or outside in the courtyard under the stars.
I made my way up the first flight of stairs (my coffee approximately three steps behind me the entire way) and walked into the first suite - the Signature Suite, said to be where Versace's brother, Santo, stayed when he visited. The living room is true Versace - a plethora of colors, textures, patterns and technology merged to produce a stunning entrance. Zebra print sofas sit next to cheetah print lounge chairs, both accented with bright throw pillows in red, pink and orange.
The bedroom is what dreams are made of. Barton G. kept the same fabrics, color schemes and ambiance that was left over from the Versace days. A double-king bed serves as the focal point of the bedroom, flanked by original Versace drapes and linens. The custom created comforter is red silk with embroidered cheetahs, but the way it was cut explains the very definition of "design." Linens are cut on dimensions - a twin, full, queen, king - and are sized appropriately. However, a double-king bed is unusual and to sew the fabric together to simply make a double-king meant a seam would run through the middle of the bed. Ask any royal and they'll tell you: one should never sleep on a seam. The result: A custom-created silk comforter, seams appropriately placed on the edges, fit for a King (or two) and now slept in by guests at the villa.
The other guest rooms are quintessential Versace with the Barton G. touch. Golds, blues, reds and greens serve as the backdrop to patterns and prints you'd likely see in Roman churches and temples. Each room has a butler devoted to the guests, each butler expertly trained. Frescos line the hallways providing a history and art lesson to those who pass through. The interior frescoes were created by Versace's artisans and were restored by Barton G. The exteriors feature art that dates back to 1930 and the Versace era, and throughout the mansion you'll spot mythological figures that were brought in exclusively for the mansion when Versace lived here.
While I wasn't given the official confirmation, there are specific rooms in the villa that were designed with specific guests in mind. I opened the door to one room and found shades of red and gold plastered throughout the walls and on the furniture. A cherry wood desk sat at the far corner of the room and placed perfectly on the window seat was the most recent issue of Vogue. The room was said to be Madonna's personal suite when she stayed with Versace, and is currently the only room in North America with a gold-plated sunken bathtub (a perfect fit for the Material Girl, herself).
As if the mansion couldn't get extravagant, the scene was from the top of the villa. On the rooftop were lounge chairs, cabanas and sofas in shades of blue and corals offering exclusive views of South Beach, but kept completely private from passersby on the street. It was on the roof that Versace undoubtedly spent a few nights watching the sun set and entertaining guests, and today is serves as the ultimate retreat for guests wanting a little privacy under the South Miami sun.
Few people inspired fashion the way Gianni Versace did. Few people did it in a way that is as recognizable as Gianni Versace. Few people lived the way Gianni Versace lived, and today, few people get the opportunity to step inside the villa that was once owned by the iconic fashion designer. The Versace Miami Beach house today stands as a tribute to the man who helped define luxury to its core.
Villa by Barton G
Guest rooms range from $1,900 off season to $2,500 in-season (Nov. 1-April 24, 2011) for the smaller suites; The Signature Suite starts at $4,900 off season and prices at $5,750 in-season. For more photos, see slideshow below.
Follow Melanie Nayer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chic_travel