Hotel

Hotels With A Past

by Cathay Che

THE FASHION HOUSE: Casa Casuarina
Where: South Beach, Miami
What it is: A private club and hotel on Ocean Drive
What it was: Gianni Versace's showplace villa

The story: The most infamous residence in Miami was built in 1930, supposedly modeled after the house in Santo Domingo where Christopher Columbus's descendants once lived. Versace purchased it in 1992 for $2.9 million so he could be right in the center of the South Beach scene. He decorated it in his inimitable Italianate style, complete with frescoes, fountains, and elaborate mosaics—then bought and demolished the hotel next door to build an equally swish extension. If you think Versace's taste in interiors was over the top, it was rivaled in decadence by his legendary soirees, attended by the likes of Madonna (Versace built a red and gold suite just for her), Naomi Campbell, and Elton John. In 2000, three years after the designer was murdered on the front steps, a telecom billionaire bought the house and converted it into a members-only club and exclusive 10-room hotel. The opulently decorated suites are perfectly suited for the debauchery of South Beach: carved marble tubs, massive wooden headboards, stained glass windows, a bed (in Donatella's old room) that sleeps at least five.

Be sure to check out: The mosaic pool and garden, where thousands of tiles were hand-laid into the pattern of Versace's Medusa-head logo.

Casa Casuarina
Tel: 305 672 6604
Junior suites from $800

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Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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