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  1. 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].

  2. by Keehnan Konyha .

    Isabella Blow's Eaton Square

    "My earliest memory is of masses of honeysuckle on the walls of our house. We lived in something called The Gardens; my grandfather had this beautiful house and we lived in the park. I used to wake up every morning and know that we were never going to be there, so I was brought up with this incredible beauty that you knew you couldn't get your hands on. I've always wanted it; I still want it. I think that beauty is very sexy. It wasn't the size, it was the elegance. Once a year, as a child, we used to look out over these incredible gardens and look at the world we'd lost, and it was a red carpet with people going up all dressed for the hunt ball, and the house would be spotlit. It was the only house in England to have plates on it—to have Wedgewood zodiac signs. It made me, I suppose obsessed with tarot cards and the zodiac, and with very strict beauty, which I still like in fashion. People think I like really funky stuff. I like classic with a twist. I like things that are cut beautifully and I think it comes from that house; it was really severe. It was called Doddington Park and it was designed by Samuel Wyatt who was the younger brother of James Wyatt, who did a lot of houses. Plum Sykes recently got married in a Samuel Wyatt house, which was her cousin's, Sir Tatton Sykes. She was wearing a giant emerald bracelet that was perfect with the house and it looked great. You see, I think people have to plan their house so they look good in it. Wallis Simpson's clothes were amazing, she was my heroine; but not her house, it was too busy for the clothes."

    "I had two sisters. My brother died—he drowned in the swimming pool of that house, in the garden. Our house was so ugly: it was a pink house with horrible pink grout. My room was blue, and I've always had blue wherever I go. My apartment in New York was light blue. Neither of my parents had any interest in furnishings; they were socialites. They poured crème de menthe over each other every night. Then my grandfather had this murder trial—White Mischief thing—and everything was sold from the big house. My father didn't want any reminders of those things. But I have inherited two pieces that are going into my new place. One is a pope's table that my grandfather got on the Grand Tour, and it's got snakes and peonies, which are my favorite flowers, and the snake is winding its way around the flowers, which I love. Hard and soft. I like very severe beautiful tables with very soft cushions. That's what makes something very erotic, like a penis going into a vagina—same thing. I was brought up in a house in Cadogan Square in London. That was amazing. It had these beasts on the floor—black beasts with hair flying and funny noses –and amazing doors. I'm obsessed by doors. (The Hermitage; for me it's the most beautiful building in the world because of the doors. The tsar had every single door made differently, and it gives it such an individual feel. Making an entrance. I never thought about that before.) We had these malachite tables that remind me of Russia, and this great round table in the drawing room, with a vase of flowers in the middle—that must have come from Doddington. My parents entertained a lot. You could extend the dining-room table by adding extra leaves, from four people to six to sixteen. My mother got a friend, Andrew Rolla, to do the interior. Do you remember when trompe l'oeil was very popular? We had this absolutely hideous fake trompe l'oeil hall that was orange and cream. I knew it was wrong because I'd seen my grandfather's house. I knew what you should have and what we didn't have, and maybe that's been my problem all my life."

    "When I was 16 I was chucked out. My father had met this woman and my parents got divorced. My mother moved from Cadogan Square to Lennox Gardens, where she had a gray suede hall, ugh! My mother went very suede. She had suede sofas. I hate that. After that, I literally lived like a vagabond. I just loved living in other people's houses. That's my thing. You can't afford what they've got, so why not enjoy it while it's going? As a fantasy. I was very influenced by someone I stayed with called Maria St. Just, who was the muse of Tennesee Williams and she played Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. She got a group of Russians in to paint her house and they make little pelmets, like a theater set. It had pistachio green, like the inside of the nut, on the walls and the sofas were... I don't remember, but she had one little sofa opposite another little sofa. I love it when you can talk to people opposite. When you just have one lame duck it's hopeless."

    "I went to New York and bought a fantastic apartment. It was a classic—the second floor of a brownstone. It had a beautiful square drawing room, lovely light. I knocked through the two bedrooms and had a huge four-poster bed and big cupboards for my clothes. That was the first time I really had somewhere. I was 24 and my grandmother had died and she'd left me some money, so I spent it on that. I worked for Anna Wintour at American Vogue, so I wanted it to look good; I wanted some self-respect. I used to go out with Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. We used to really live it up. It was slightly "rock 'n' roll," the whole thing. The apartment was on the wild side, but very classic. I had a Mary Fox Linton black-and-white sofa. I cooked—I love cooking—and I had a very modern galley kitchen with a black rubber floor. Then I got married to somebody and then divorced two years later. I finished my job with Vogue and left New York."

    "For the past eight years I've been living in this little two-up two-down hatbox in Lambeth, London, but it's a horrible area; I can no longer live in terror. I can't walk under the bridge at night for fear of being murdered. Location is the most important thing. I've now decided to buy this flat in Eaton Square—classic, first floor, very good proportions. I was only looking for three weeks. I'm very impetuous. It's a bed-sitter basically, but I won't make it a bed-sitter because of proportions and scale. I'm not really a good home person; my husband is the same. I'm not very cozy by nature because I've never had a real home. I've lived in 29 houses. I've got a friend called Camilla Guinness who's going to do it up, otherwise it just won't get done. I just don't want to have fights with Detmar—my husband—over sofas and chairs. She can arbitrate. I think when your husband has a strong point of view, you have to show him photographs and drawings so he feels in control. We're going to do a portfolio, so I can say, do you like this sofa, this chair? Do you like the chandelier hanging here? What he wants is organization. He doesn't want chaos. I've got a great chandelier that came from my father's house; it's been in storage for nearly three years. It's absolutely huge—really beautiful; Waterford 1760. People don't hang them properly—much too high. A chandelier is meant to act as a light on top of the food or something. It has to be down, so the eye goes, wow! It's something people have got to learn. I hate shopping. I like buying art. I love auctions. The nerve-racking bit of it. You see it, you fall in love with it and you feel like you're buying it for the correct price. I like to support artists; it's good for them and it's fun for me. You must support the culture you live in. Stability is very important. I've been so ill from not knowing where I belong. Since I was 15, I've never put my key in the door and thought I was at home, never. My mother never gave me a key. Having got Eaton Square I'm not going anywhere else." - Isabella Blow, 2006

  3. by Keehnan Konyha .

    Lacroix, Darling: Garouste & Bonetti's Couture Salons

     

    'I had no wish," said Lacroix at the time, 'to surround myself with that cold and cerebral design that had been advocated for ages.' This was 1987, when Lacroix was the talk of the town. Having just left Jean Patou, he planned to produce out of nowhere something that had not been seen for a long time: a new haute-couture house. In April he got in touch with the two 'Barbarians'; in July they held their first fashion show. 'It was meteoric,' says Mattia Bonetti placidly. They had to invent a place in three months starting from scratch: a suite o three salons, separated by arches and extending for 350sq m, between a courtyard and a garden. Lacroix adopted his usual manner: graphically, 'graphomaniacally' you might say, issuing ideas, cuttings, torn-out pages and suggestions, which all contributed to a gigantic collage that summed up his idea of the place. As none of the three designers particularly cared for the established codes, the first line of action was established. 'We wanted,' Elizabeth Garouste recalls, 'to give an idea of luxury, without using traditionally luxurious materials', to get away from the banal codes of good taste. Luxury, she says, would be expressed in the flamboyance of color, in the richness of pattern and – Mattia Bonetti adds – in the 'luxury of the handmade', the skilful joinery of the furniture serving as shorthand for the perfectionism of haute couture.

     

     

    Hence the sophisticated poverty of the materials (Arte Povera was then in fashion): a simple block of wood (but studded with bronze); pieces of branch (but richly lacquered); long drops of natural linen (but hemmed with velvet arabesques); surfaces of terracotta (but enhanced with gold leaf); sofas in simple shapes (but 5m long)... The references intertwine or clash in a sustained assault on the economic orthodoxy of the design of previous decades. It was a return to what 18th-century theoreticians called architecture parlante, one that is expressive of its purpose: not so much in narrative dimension but as portrayal of personal mythology. 'Here,' said Lacroix, 'you will find everything I love: overtones of Jean Michel Frank, the Cocteau spirit, the influence of projects by [Emilio] Terry and a whole host of references to the theatrical aspect of things, but... devoid of any obsession with the past.'

     

     

    In the opinion of Garouste and Bonetti, these salons marked the beginning of their rise to international prominence. They were, and are, one of the essential elements of Christian Lacroix's 'brand image'. They express a particular moment when it finally became possible, and urgent to move away from the cold functionalism of Modernist orthodoxy. It was a return therefore to the imagination, the dream, the taste for ornament, to the short circuit between past and present. Thirty years have passed. 'That it is dated is a fact,' comments Bonetti, 'that has to be accepted. That you can even immediately date it is great. I have gone onto something else, but I don't repudiate any of what we did. It's not an 'evolution' to move from the Neo-Baroque towards the minimal; I am, at least, dual: I can want something clean and pure one day, and something 'baroque' the next. In matters of style... you don't go from something 'less good' towards something 'good'. The worst errors are committed in the name of progress.

    TEXT BY MARIE FRANCE-BOYER, PHOTOGRAPHY BY IVAN TERESTCHENKO, TAKEN FROM THE WORLD OF INTERIORS, JUNE 2010

    Recent comments

    1. Alex Fury
      17:43 14 Aug 2012
      This, this I LOVE.
    2. jon.emmony
      21:29 15 Aug 2012
      Incredible!
    3. Dina
      07:34 2 Sep 2013
      or see my listings at ebay.com, my user id is preimum_luxury_water, I have sold many and ship them safely overseas (I'm in Canada). I do have a website, too, evian2008.com. They really are very pretty in person, I keep an empty one in my den in the windowsill, and they speak of innonence and beauty. : ) I think in the summer I'll put daisies in it.
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