Gianni Versace’s lavish mosaic-embellished residences

“I discovered [that] the real artist is the artisan. It makes me laugh when some stylists [designers] say that they are not tailors. Certainly, when you look at their clothes, it is quite clear to see. In my opinion, the real artist is, in fact, the one who realises things by hand.”

Gianni Versace

The flamboyance and unique style of legendary Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace (1947-1997), who started his career studying architecture in the southern Italian port city of Reggio Calabria, was very much present during the recent Salone del Mobile, part of Milan Design Week – the world’s most important design extravaganza.

More than 26 years may have passed since the premature departure of this global maestro of sartorial excellence, yet his vision, passion for refined beauty and intimate understanding of and passion for history and mythology endure.

Villa Casuarina, Miami Beach, credit photo: Massimo Listri

During Milan Design Week, thousands of visitors viewed the Versace Home collection, a collaboration between Versace and Italy’s Luxury Living Group, designed under the creative direction of Donatella Versace by architects Ludovica and Roberto Palomba of Studio ps+a.

Meanwhile, in the Milan Design Week edition of Architectural Digest (AD), Italy honoured this great design maestro by running an in-depth feature on the lavishly decorated and furnished homes curated by Gianni in Italy and the United States. The article highlighted the designer’s high intellect and profound understanding of the priceless antique furnishings, objects d’art and artefacts that he meticulously collected to create the ideal ambience within each of his distinctly different residences. The article focused on these magnificent stately homes, found around the world, many of which feature floors, walls and swimming pools that Gianni designed and commissioned Milan-based Fantini Mosaici to hand-cut and install.

Gianni had the most profound respect for the work and talents of artisans and craftspeople, and he sought out the best of each to work in his atelier and on his luxury homes and gardens. Gianni, the son of a seamstress, is quoted in the AD article as saying: “I discovered [that] the real artist is the artisan. It makes me laugh when some stylists [designers] say they are not tailors. Certainly, when you look at their clothes, it is quite clear to see. In my opinion, the real artist is, in fact, those who realise things by hand.”

For many years, the Fantini Mosaici mosaicists created indoor and outdoor mosaic, terrazzo and pebble stone interiors and exteriors for the fashion designer, recreating his enigmatic style and satisfying his passion for extremely extravagant and bold living spaces. While the teams of specialist artisans were deployed to Gianni’s New York townhouse, his stupendous neo-classic, Le Fantonelle Villa in Moltrasio, Lake Como and his Milan apartments, it was at his Miami mansion, the eclectic Villa Casa Casuarina – often referred to as the Versace Villa – that the Fantini Mosaici artisans had the most significant aesthetic impact.

Villa Casuarina, Miami Beach, photo Courtesy Versace

Here, Gianni allowed his insatiable appetite and love of classical design and artisanship to run wild. The result was a handmade swimming pool that incorporated some one million pieces of handcrafted mosaics, including a lining of 24-karat gold – the pièce de résistance of the ornate Spanish-style villa.

Villa Casuarina, Miami Beach, Photo Courtesy Versace

His Miami villa, meanwhile, was an exotic potpourri of styles and influences – as well as trompe l'oeil with compelling references to the Mediterranean seaside – and home to many of his prized personal acquisitions. The floors for the bedrooms, dining rooms, kitchen and entrance were embellished with mosaic. At the same time, internal walls and pathways were decorated with hand-polished and hand-placed pebble tones sourced from Italian rivers.

Villa Casuarina, Miami Beach, crediti foto: Massimo Listri

Today, the Villa Casa Casuarina is operated by a 5-star boutique hotel. It is one of the most photographed residences in the US, as people never tire of taking photos and selfies that feature a mosaic background and other handcrafted surfaces in the unique home where the late fashion designer granted himself a creative license where he let his imagination run wild.

The April opening of the third Palazzo Versace in Macau, China – again featuring extensive bespoke handmade mosaic and terrazzo work by Fantini Mosaici – puts a renewed focus on the work, legacy and enduring following that the late Gianni enjoys on the catwalk, throughout interiors and as part of people’s lifestyles.

Catherine Belbin, Design Editor

Gianni’ s quote from AD Italia, April 2023

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