by Keehnan Konyha .

Versace at Home I: Casa Casuarina


"Casa Casuarina was originally built in 1930 by Alden Freeman, an eccentric philanthropist, as an homage to the Alcázar de Colón, a mansion built in 1510 in Santo Domingo that was home to Christopher Columbus's son Diego. (Freeman named the house after the casuarina tree, an Australian breed that was standing on the site when Freeman began building.) Diego had been viceroy of the Indies, and his wife was related to the Spanish monarchs, so the original Alcázar de Colón had Moorish, Spanish, and Byzantine influences. Freeman transposed many of those themes to Casa Casuarina, making for a gaudy confection of a residence.

By the time Gianni found Casa Casuarina, the building was a shadow of its former self. Previous owners had broken it up into thirty tiny apartments, and rented them out to a mix of down-and-out drug addicts, moribund old people, and edgy, penniless artists. Although developers had revived scores of Art Deco buildings, they were daunted by the cost of redoing Casa Casuarina." [1]

Balcony Ironwork Detail, Casa Casuarina, Miami

Exterior, Pool and Garden, Casa Casuarina, Miami

Pool Mosaic Detai, Casa Casuarina, Miami

"In 1992, Gianni spent nearly $8 million to buy both Casa Casurina and a run-down hotel next door, which he razed to make space for a pool, guest wing, and garage. The entire compound covered halfthe block, and Casa Casuarina became the only private residence on Ocean Drive. It was an unusual choice for Gianni, given that his celebrity friends, such as Madonna and Sylvester Stallone, were buying homes—set far behind guarded gates—in mainland Miami on Brickell Avenue, known as Millionaire's Row. But Gianni loved the idea of remaking the eccentric mansion. The house, with its Moorish tiles, white stucco façade, slate roof, and wrought-iron balconies, was a complete break with the house's Art Deco neighbors. The main three-story building centers around an open-air courtyard enclosed on all four sides by balconies with wooden railings. On the roof is a large L-shaped terrace, covered in brightly colored Moroccan-style tiles." [1]


A Pair of Neoclassical Style Porcelain Vases mounted as Lamps, Late 19th Century; Gianni Versace designed silk lampshades in the 'Le Roi Soleil a Cheval' pattern combined with animal print background

An Empire Style Ormolu-Mounted Parcel-Gilt and Mahogany Upholstered Bench, 20th Century, upholstered in Gianni Versace designed cotton velvet 'Baroquesque' pattern

"Gianni poured millions into renovating the furnishing Casa Casuarina, creating a flashy, mesmerizing style once described as 'gay baroque.' He built two concentric walls to close the compound off from the street. The ironwork on the walls and balconies—even the drains—were dotted with golden medusa heads. He spent ten thousand dollars apiece to ship in a certain type of palm tree from California because the ones native to Florida didn't have the right look." [1]

Baroque Room, Casa Casuarina, Miami

"His pool became legendary for its extravagance. He hired a Milanese craftsman, handed him one of his elaborate multicolored print scarves, and said, 'Here, I want you to copy this.' Fifty craftsmen worked for a year to create images of entwined dolphins, tridents, shells, and geometric designs, all in a blaze of red, blue, and gold. Working in Milan, they had to break slabs of marble by hand into hundreds of thousands of tiny tines—and because he didn't want to wait months to receive them by boat, Gianni had them shipped by air, at an extra cost of $200,000. Between the pool area and the mosaic floors, ceilings, and walls inside the main house, they laid more than 21,500 square feet of tiles in all. The cost: $1.5 million." [1]

A Suite of Italian Neoclassical Brass-mounted Mahogany and Parcel-Gilt Seat Furniture, First Quarter 19th Century, upholstered in Gianni Versace designed cotton velvet 'Chinese Gardener' and 'Chinese Flora' pattern

"All printed fabrics used for the upholstery are original patterns created by Gianni Versace especially for Casa Casuarina. Using these fabrics, he crafted numerous throws, pillows and seat furniture, with each item uniquely styled to help fulfill his design scheme. No detail was too small to escape his notice, from the quality of the fabrics on the outside to the quality of the linings and fillings, from the exact size and shape of a piece to the addition of decorative trimmings and embroidery, resulting in a collection perfectly suited to his tastes. These one of a kind custom designs and details often later served as prototypes, and many simpler variations were successfully introduced into the Home Collection, though never with the same amount of individualized attention." [2]


A Suite of Upholstered 'Knole' Seat Furniture Designed by Gianni Versace, upholstered in cotton satin duchesse 'Raineri Birds' pattern

"Inside the mansion, Gianni was no more restrained. Carved wood panels, tiles, frescoes, and stained glass windows embellished the thirty-five rooms. In one room, a chandelier made of iron palm fronds hung from a ceiling that was, in turn, painted with trompe l'oeil palm fronds. in one bathroom, a golden seat sat on a marble toilet. Gianni's own suite, which looked out onto the ocean, covered eight hundred square feet and featured stained glass windows, beamed ceilings, and frescos of puffy clouds against a deep blue sky. He stuffed the house with a madcap array of furnishings—six hundred items in all. He had mahogany and gilt chairs reupholstered in red, blue or gold Versace prints, creating a riot of colors and styles. He had silk lampshades made up in purple leopard print, and he covered plush sofas in deep yellow leopard-skin patterns." [1]

A Rosenthal Porcelain 'Le Voyage de Marco Polo' Part Dinner Service designed by Gianni Versace

A Continental Neoclassical Style Mahogany and Parcel-Gilt Settee, upholstered in Gianni Versace designed cotton velvet 'Gold Vanitas' and 'Petitot' pattern

Top Image: A Pair of Swedish Neoclassical Style Painted and Gilded Side Chairs, seats covered in Gianni Versace designed 'Portrait Gallery' pattern.

Most images and caption text in this post are taken from Sotheby's Collection of Gianni Versace catalog, originally auctioned April 5, 6 and 7, 2001. Text taken from House of Versce: The Untold Story of Genius, Murder and Survival by Deborah Ball, 2011 [1], and from Sotheby's Collection of Gianni Versace catalog, 2001 [2].