Monday, December 22, 2008

INSIDE CASA CASUARINA – Better known as Gianni Versace’s Beach House

Text, Vivian G. Kelly
Images from the official website,
Additional Images, VGK
Although Casa Casuarina now belongs to telecommunication tycoon, Peter Loftin, and is now a Private Hotel/Club but it will forever be known as “the Versace Mansion” and it’s unlikely that tourists will ever stop posing in front of its wrought iron gates.

Gianni Versace’s “Beach House” has always served as a source of inspiration, most recently when we rebuilt our house. Like Jonathan Adler, Versace believed in color and mixing together whatever he pleased – and it worked.

The mansion was named after the hardy CASUARINA tree that survived after the devastating 1926 hurricane, which wiped out much of what is now South Beach.

1930: Mr. Alden Freedman builds Casa Casuarina with his son, Daniel. In the exterior courtyard, there’s a brick taken from the Christopher Columbus mansion in Santo Domingo.
He originally built it as a 32-room hotel. Things have come full-circle, and today Casa is once more a hotel.
1992: Gianni bought Casa and spent 2 years having it remodeled.
1994 – 1997: Gianni lives in Casa, sharing it with sister Donatella and her family for 2 of these years.
1997: Gianni is shot by serial killer, Andrew Cunanan, in front of his gate on his way back from his daily morning coffee run to the nearby News Café.
2002: Peter Loftin buys Casa from Donatella. Mr Loftin lives in one of the house’s rooms, and manages the private club/hotel from there.

To learn more about Gianni’s murder, the A&E Biography presentation provides viewers with an excellent summary of Andrew Cunanan and his involvement in the Versace murder. The video is available on

For those of you who wonder what a house like this costs, try $25million. That’s what Mr. Loftin paid Donatella Versace in 2002, NOT including the furniture. She sold the furniture in New York for $25 million and donated the proceeds to charity. She kept only once piece for herself – the solid gold toilet seat in the downstairs bathroom, just of the courtyard.
Gianni bought the house for “only” $3 million and put $30,000,000 into renovating it.
Why so high a price tag? You pay for quality and Gianni didn’t cut any corners.

- A front entrance with FLORIDA CORAL, which is no longer available – at any price
- Gianni designed EVERYTHING that went into the house. Home collections he designed are based on and correspond to particular rooms in the house.
EG: Madonna’s room aka “the La Mer Suite” has items in it from Gianni’s LA Mer Collection. This bedroom was formerly Donatella Versace’s room. She only lived in the house for 2 years.

- THE MOSAICS – they’re all from Fontini, Italy. Fontini is the oldest maker of mosaics in the world, and the most expensive. The Pool and pool area are stupendous examples of what excellent taste and money can achieve. The pool floor is composed of 1,000,000+ pieces, all shipped from Italy.
- THE COUTURE ELEMENT: Each room was worked on by a different Italian artist.

- THE VERSACE COLORS: blue, gold, yellow, and a little bit of [blood] red.
- 95% of Casa remains today as it was when Gianni Versace lived there.

According to our Art Deco Tour Guide, [a few months earlier] under Daniel’s watch, the house is “party central”, as it was decades later, when Gianni lived there.

Our tour guide, Paola, started our 1-hour + tour from just inside the gates.
Back in the day,

She led us through the downstairs, which included:
-Gianni’s Toilette
- Gianni’s former kitchen [now a comfy masculine bar/lounge]
- Gianni’s former gym, now a lounge with original opium beds from Persia and red & gold carpets designed by Gianni.
- The pool area and Kids’ playroom [actually a rotunda off the pool that provides shade from the hot Florida sun].
- The La Mer aka Madonna’s Suite
- The Baroque aka Elton John’s Suite
- The Parrot Room, formerly Allegra Versace’s room. It was given this name because of her fondness for birds and for the color pink. She was 5 years old when she was gifted this room by her Uncle Gianni.
You can stay in Allegra’s former room for $2,000 a night.
*We were not able to visit Gianni’s former room, as a guest was staying there.

FUN FACT: Portraits abound through-out the 32 room, but there is only ONE blonde woman immortalized in the paintings, all the rest were brunettes.

The Observatory Lounge. The roof will be opened into a bar/lounge, which includes the 4th floor “observatory” cupula.

Many areas are “members only”.
Initiation fee: $50,000. From there on, a $2,000 monthly fee.
Membership entitles you to invitations to “exclusive parties frequently attended by celebrities and jet set”.
For those who merely want to spend the night, there are 10 rooms available to non-members as well as the opportunity to eat at the restaurant.

1116 Ocean Drive, Miami, Florida
tel: 305- 672-6604
*If you decide to take the tour, ask for Paola, she’s extremely knowledgeable about all things Versace.
PRICE: $65/person, the tour ends with a mimosa [included] in the downstairs lounge.
To view additional images and for further images, visit