Gold-tiled pool and frescoes: inside Versace's former Miami mansion

Sat Jul 27, 2013 12:03pm EDT
 
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By Zachary Fagenson

MIAMI BEACH, Florida (Reuters) - Walking into the opulent, Mediterranean-style mansion once owned by innovative fashion designer Gianni Versace is a step back into the early 1990s when energy and money began pouring into the renaissance of Miami's South Beach.

Past the ivy-covered gates on Ocean Drive, the 1930s mansion is an expression of the designer's personal style and lust for excess that made it and South Beach a magnet for the creative, artistic and jet set.

"It helped create that early essence," said Michael Capponi, a nightclub promoter who threw parties at Versace's villa in its glory days. "It was the defining house of the era."

As lawyers and realtors scramble to prepare the estate for a September 17 auction, they opened its doors to a group of reporters and photographers, offering a rare glimpse inside the 10-bedroom, 23,000-square-foot (2,135-square-metre) mansion.

After Versace was gunned down at the mansion's entrance gate in 1997 by serial killer Andrew Cunanan, telecom magnate Peter Loftin bought the property and turned it into a boutique hotel. Loftin is now facing bankruptcy and has been trying to sell the house for more than a year.

Known as Casa Casuarina, it was initially listed for $125 million. The asking price was recently cut to $75 million, with bids to start at $25 million, according to Fisher Auction Co.

Versace bought the mansion in 1992 for $2.9 million and spent $33 million to create a marble-and-fresco-covered palace, complete with 54-foot (16.5-metre) pool of black marble mozaic tiles inlaid with 24-carat gold. The snake-haired Medusa head, Versace's logo, is on display throughout the house.

His over-the-top decor - as displayed in his former bedroom where a sprawling, double king-sized bed is flanked by paintings of Grecian, nymph-like characters playing lyres under palm trees - came to be emblematic of South Beach's new over-the-top lifestyle.   Continued...

 
The Empire Suite at the South Beach mansion formerly owned by fashion designer Gianni Versace in Miami Beach, Florida July 23, 2013. REUTERS/Gaston De Cardenas