Villa by Barton G: The Mansion
Purchased in January 2010 by famed Miami restaurateur, event impresario and philanthropist Barton G. Weiss, the former Versace mansion underwent a whirlwind round-the-clock makeover, opening to its first privileged guests a mere three months later. Despite the lightning-fast turnaround, the villa is spectacularly done, with seemingly no detail left unaddressed.
Exploring the villa is a feast for the eyes at every turn, with restored stone floors, custom tilework, and original canvas paintings affixed to walls and ceilings. Each suite is uniquely designed and over-the-top, yet each manages to work in harmony.
This intimate property (only ten suites) feels more like a private home than a hotel. To be precise, it feel like the home of your mega-rich uncle, who perhaps is on safari at the moment, but no worries; his impeccably-trained staff takes care of you until he returns.
Originally built as an homage to Christopher Columbus' family home in Santo Domingo, the expanded property has so many distinctive areas you may find it difficult to choose where to spend your leisure time. Linger in the ornate courtyard, soon with a retractable roof for inclement weather. Lounge next to the stunning Thousand Mosaic Pool. Soak up some sun on the rooftop deck within view of the ocean. Sip a drink in the cozy Moroccan lounge or the airily traditional private third-floor lounge.
Dinner at the restaurant or afternoon tea (both overlooking the pool) provides an opportunity to see the villa firsthand. A romantic getaway here would no doubt leave a lasting impression.
Villa by Barton G: British Butlers, French Chefs
Checking in to the villa was unlike the typical hotel experience in every way. I was called the day before to confirm my arrival time and go over any special requests. When I arrived at the velvet rope and imposing iron gates (where most passers-by stand outside and marvel at the mansion), an entourage of attendants poured out to park my car, take my luggage and escort me inside. I felt like a celebrity as I was swept past the crowd and inside the peaceful courtyard, where I was introduced to my own personal butler, Karen.
Inside my suite, I sat at a table sipping from stemmed glass as Karen presented me with my villa ID and a real door key. (Soon, I'm told, there will be an even more elaborate presentation, with a tasseled gold key within a velvet-lined box.)
Each butler is British trained and certified, and from private residences. I learned quickly what a difference that made. My butler unpacked and packed for me (everything wrapped in tissue and perfectly folded), pressed garments, brought food and drink, and basically took care of everything I needed (often without being asked). I was particularly impressed when she appeared on the morning of my departure with printed directions to my next destination, which I had mentioned in passing the day before.
And forget a wake-up call. Karen appeared discretely at my bedside with a silver tray laden with my preferred morning meal: freshly brewed tea with lemon and housemade chocolate croissants (the pastry chef is, of course, from France). I've stayed in $10,000-per-night suites and not felt so personally indulged.
Villa by Barton G: Unique Suites
I'm told the staff matches each guest to a suite based on their personality and preference. While I was mystified about the practical implications of this, I have to admit, I was given the perfect suite. The Signature Suite is in the front of the villa, and standing on the small balcony, I made an appearance in the many photographs taken by pedestrians along Ocean Drive. Inside is a safari motif, dominated by a zebra-striped sofa. The effect throughout the suite was ultra-luxe: stone floors, Persian rugs, fresh flowers, custom murals, rich fabrics, and a mountain of pillows topping the biggest bed I've ever seen. (It's called a "Jumbo," and it's the width of two King beds side-by-side, and 18 inches longer than a California King.)
The opulence extends to technology, as my suite came equipped with a Kindle (the day's papers already downloaded) and a wireless music control that filled the rooms with my choice of tunes. The palatial marble bathroom was thoughtfully stocked with a flat iron, ionic blowdryer, toothpaste and toothbrush, and perfume. Guests are pampered in every suite with custom-made mink and cashmere throws, in-room massage, and bidets.
Afternoon tea service was not yet being served at the time of my visit (it's scheduled to start in May of 2010). Generously, they offered to set up private tea service in my suite. The butler rearranged furniture, set up a table in front of the window, and laid out silver trays with tiny artistic sandwiches of cucumber, goose liver, and chicken salad; exquisite pastries; chocolate-covered strawberries; and petit fours.(Reviewed 5/5/2010)
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Villa by Barton G is located on South Beach, in the former Versace mansion.
1116 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach, Florida 33139 USA
Phone: (305) 576-8003;
Web site: Villa by Barton G
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodations for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.