Last Friday evening may have been a blustery one here in Miami, but that didn’t hinder the elegance of the private opening of the new Villa by Barton G., which took over the former Versace mansion on Ocean Drive. The 1930s property, formerly known as Casa Casuarina, is home to an event space, restaurant, and boutique hotel, all of which have been upgraded to reflect the signature over-the-top, five-star Barton G. style with which Miamians are quite familiar.
The extremely private opening was an elegant affair that brought out Miami’s most well-connected names, including Sanford Ziff, who was departing at the time I arrived, a little over an hour after the official start time of 6 p.m. (it’s called being fashionably late). I passed under the Barton G. flag flying outside of the third-story bedroom where Gianni Versace once slept, and noticed the new golden “Villa by Barton G.” logo adorning the wrought-iron gates. Civic leaders, philanthropists, big-name media members, politicians, and socialites were in attendance to show their support to Barton G. Weiss, who was greeting guests in the open-air center courtyard. “I am done with the big openings,” Weiss said, “especially after the opening of Prelude,” he said, alluding of the hoopla that surrounded the opening of his signature restaurant at the Adrienne Arsht Center. (There were monkeys and giraffes involved.) Instead, Weiss focused his attention on the restoration process. “We polished every single tile, every stone, everything has been repainted and brought back to the original,” he said.
Over the past five months, the team, led by Weiss himself, has been working around the clock to restore the property to its former, elegant glory. The Miami Herald reported that $1 million has already been spent on the refurbishment process, and the evidence is everywhere. Each stone and tile has been polished, the original artwork adorning the ceilings has been retouched, and the mosaic tile pool is restored.
Weiss mentioned that the boutique hotel’s first guest, who was from the Middle East, had just checked out of the property that morning. Room rates range from around $2,100 to $5,000 a night for one of the 10 rooms, which come with personal butler service—hard to come by in South Florida, setting this property in a category all its own. Amongst the accommodations is The Villa Suite, which was once Gianni Versace’s room, complete with a 9-foot-wide bed, beautifully detailed paintings on the walls and ceilings, and a sitting room for the closet. Each suite is outfitted with Versace fabrics and Frette linens, and even come equipped with Kindles.
The restaurant, which only seats 70 (read: reservations are required), is also now open for business. The lucky few who get into the dining room will be served Barton G.’s signature cuisine off of original Versace dinnerware. If you can’t snag a reservation for dinner, you can try to stop by for the daily afternoon tea, which runs for $30 per person. And rest assured that when you do pass through those gates, you will be entering a luxurious estate that Gianni Versace himself would be proud to call his own.