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Spend the night in Gianni Versace's Miami mansion

16/03/2014 John O'Ceallaigh
The swimming pool as seen from The Rotunda at Casa Casuarina, the former home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach, Fla. is shown on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008. Before the designer's death more than a decade ago, his celebrity friends stayed so often, rooms were outfitted with them in mind. After Versace's murder and the house's sale, it become home to another mogul with A-list friends. But, slowly, 1116 Ocean Drive has opened its doors, first as an invitation-only private club, then allowing non-members to stay in its ornate rooms for prices that start at $1,200 a night, and now to the masses, or at least anyone willing to plunk down $65 for a tour. "It was just kind of a domino effect," said Elisa Brinkworth, a spokeswoman for Casa Casuarina, as the 26,000-square-foot estate is called. "The more people you let in the more that wanted to come in." (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) © Provided by Sydney Morning Herald The swimming pool as seen from The Rotunda at Casa Casuarina, the former home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach, Fla. is shown on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2008. Before the designer's death more than a decade ago, his celebrity friends stayed so often, rooms were outfitted with them in mind. After Versace's murder and the house's sale, it become home to another mogul with A-list friends. But, slowly, 1116 Ocean Drive has opened its doors, first as an invitation-only private club, then allowing non-members to stay in its ornate rooms for prices that start at $1,200 a night, and now to the masses, or at least anyone willing to plunk down $65 for a tour. "It was just kind of a domino effect," said Elisa Brinkworth, a spokeswoman for Casa Casuarina, as the 26,000-square-foot estate is called. "The more people you let in the more that wanted to come in." (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Flanked by exceptional art deco buildings on all sides, the relatively unimposing Casa Casuarina nonetheless remains one of the most noteworthy buildings on Miami’s Ocean Drive.

In 1997 Gianni Versace, then the property’s owner, was shot on its front steps by serial killer Andrew Cunanan.

Almost 14 years after his death, the property this month opens as the luxury boutique hotel the Villa by Barton G.

The mansion was bought by the Nakash Family, owners of the American clothing company Jordache Enterprises, for $US41.5 million ($A45.8 million) in September 2013 and, despite some adaptations, the designer’s contributions to the property’s aesthetic remain largely intact.

The 10-suite hotel features a 516.5 metre “thousand mosaic” swimming pool which is lined in 24 karat gold and was designed by Versace; meals are served on Versace-designed Rosenthal china and lavishly finished interiors retain features and decorative elements introduced during his time living there.

The smallest room is the 434 square metre Medallion Suite; the largest, the 435 square metre Venus Suite, features vivid murals and offers views of Ocean Drive from its two private balconies.

Versace’s former bedroom now serves as the 358 square metre Villa Suite and features a nine-foot double king-size bed, two balconies and an ornate over-sized shower.

All suites will include patios and balconies, Italian marble bathrooms and Egyptian cotton bed linen; butler service will be provided as standard.

Guests will also have access to two private lounges and the villa gardens and spa services will be available within bedrooms, poolside or on the villa rooftop.

Day visitors are also welcome within the property’s Il Sole restaurant, which opened in February.

Serving a “Mediterranean-influenced” menu, signature dishes are to include pistachio-seared Hawaiian ahi – the fish will be flown in from Honolulu each day – and grilled swordfish.

Reputable Miami chef Scott Linquist oversees the menu but, whatever his talents, it is likely that some diners will have macabre motives for making a reservation in the mansion’s restaurant or booking an overnight stay.

The Versace mansion has become a Miami tourist attraction in its own right and is one of a number of “dark tourism” sites made infamous through their associations with a tragic incident.

As for the curious name, the property is so called because the restaurateur and events organiser Barton G. Weiss has been entrusted by the Nakash family to oversee this latest incarnation.

And hopes are high that this endeavour will prove a success.

Dating from 1930, Casa Casuarina was built as an architectural homage to the oldest existing house in the western hemisphere, the Alcazar de Colon in Santo Domingo, and went on to house artists before being restored and redeveloped by Gianni Versace in 1992.

After his death the building was sold to the telecoms magnate Peter Loftin and converted into a boutique hotel which subsequently closed.

Now in its soft-opening phase, the hotel opens fully at the end of this month.

Suites start at $US795 ($A878) per night; the Villa Suite starts from $US2,200 ($A2,431 ) per night, with all prices exclusive of breakfast.

The Telegraph, London

The swimming pool as seen from The Rotunda at Casa Casuarina, the former home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach, Florida.

The swimming pool as seen from The Rotunda at Casa Casuarina, the former home of Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach, Florida.
© Provided by Sydney Morning Herald
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