Mayfair Mansion Designed for Gianni Versace
An Ambassadorial Grade II listed 5,756 sqft Mayfair mansion, originally built in 1751-52 and specially designed in 1995-97 for fashion designer Gianni Versace when it was converted from offices into a luxury home, has been released onto the market for sale through Wetherell.
With a tradition front façade and a striking glass rear façade, the mansion has four bedrooms, three reception rooms and a spectacular atrium-style conservatory, the largest of its kind in the West End, opening onto a Milanese style patio garden with stone terrace and water feature.
Located at 50 Charles Street the house was originally built in 1751-52 by John Philips and George Shakespear. In 1889 the front brick façade had a magnificent first floor stone oriel window and dormered mansard roof added creating an elegant four storey streetfront. The house was owned by various members of the aristocracy and wealthy merchants until it was converted into offices after WWII due to the lack of commercial accommodation in the City of London.
In 1994 the property was purchased by a local West End contractor who then undertook a speculative development to convert the building back into a single luxury residential address. Several wealthy potential buyers came to visit the property, one of whom it is understood was the Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.
Emboldened by Versace’s interest in the property, the contractors put in fresh planning applications and between 1995-97 upgraded the specification, created a grand diamond patterned marble slab entrance hall, extended the basement level and designed a spectacular glass conservatory, over 30ft high, opening onto the rear garden. Devised as a 34ft long Milanese style patio garden, 30ft high double doors from the conservatory open onto a stone paved terrace bordered by a water feature and planting areas, creating a spectacular inside-outside entertaining space.
During the 1990s Gianni Versace (1946-1997) was arguably at the height of his fame and success. By the early 1990s the Versace Group, founded in 1977 was a £695 million global business with over 2,000 stores selling Versace merchandise.
As Gianni Versace’s success grew he acquired a property portfolio consisting of four luxurious homes around the world: his first, the £33.7 million Villa Le Fontanelle on Italy’s Lake Como purchased in 1977; a 15th-century palazzo in downtown Milan purchased in the 1980s; Casa Casuarina, a mansion on Ocean Drive in Miami beach purchased for £6.5 million in 1992 and finally a townhouse just off Fifth Avenue in Manhattan purchased for £4.9 million in 1995. At the end of his life the Manhattan house was still undergoing renovation into a luxury residence.
Whilst Versace often travelled to London on pattern buying missions; had opened a flagship store on Bond Street in 1991 and had many friends in the capital including Elton John and Princess Diana he had never contemplated owning a home in the city.
Circumstances changed dramatically in December 1993 when financial issues in Italy led the Versace family to cancel a decade long plan to float Versace Group on the Milan Stock Exchange. Instead they announced that Versace Group would float in late 1997 on either the New York and/or London Stock Exchanges. Suddenly a home in London close to the financial markets became an enticing prospect, hence from 1994 Versace’s growing interest in 50 Charles Street and the modifications made to the property to entice him to buy.
By July 1997 the house at 50 Charles Street was 70% complete and that month, just four days before his death, Versace signed an agreement to take Versace Group public, hired Morgan Stanley to underwrite the £225 million stock offering and reviewed plans to spend more time in London and New York in order to be close to the analysts, investors and money markets when the floatation went ahead. Then tragically on 15th July 1997 Gianni Versace was shot in front of his Miami beach mansion by Andrew Cunanan, a serial killer he had met in San Francisco whilst designing costumes for the opera.
The impact of Versace’s death on the unfinished house at 50 Charles Street was significant. With the famous prospective buyer now no longer in the picture the ambitious conversion plans were downgraded and the house was quietly sold to a businessman later that year. Now the house is for sale again, and the backstory is useful because it helps explain why the house and its features form an interesting story of two contrasting parts.
The Milanese inspired elements of the house designed to entice Versace are arguably the most striking and novel parts of the mansion. The centrepiece is the vast modern fully fitted designer kitchen / breakfast room which spans the depth of most of the lower ground floor and opens into the spectacular double height atrium/conservatory room.
Undoubtably the centrepiece of the house, the conservatory has vast floor to ceiling windows, full height glass double doors opening onto the patio garden, and a glass roof over 30 ft high. The conservatory serves as a large entertaining/dining space which during the summer months can be opened to the garden. A sculptural spiral staircase links the conservatory to the floor above.
With the main staircase to one side, the diamond patterned marble slab entrance hall has a high ceiling and gives access to a guest cloakroom and the ground floor reception room which has elegant ceiling coving, a deep bay window and ornate fireplace: it is also linked to the lower ground floor via the atrium spiral stairwell.
On the first floor is another grand reception room with gold leaf ceiling coving and carved wood and marble fireplace and a separate study/home office. The master bedroom suite occupies the entire floor above and features a large double bedroom opening onto a private balcony, a walk-in dressing room and a large master bathroom with oversize oval bathtub. There are three further bedrooms on upper floors, all with access to ensuite bathrooms. The house is complete with a private lift to all floors; a separate staff studio flat on the lower ground floor and extensive storage vaults.
Peter Wetherell, Chief Executive of Wetherell said: “The Charles Street mansion is a striking fusion of highly traditional and contemporary, with a brick front and a glass back, and inside classic rooms and modern open plan spaces. The patio garden flows into the glass conservatory, the largest of its kind in a private home in London’s West End. It will appeal to a buyer who wants a statement home with space to entertain on a large scale.”
Peter Stevenette, Partner at Stevenette & Company LLP who worked on this conversion project when he was a director at DTZ Residential said: “When I was a director at DTZ Residential this was a substantial Mayfair property which was converted from former lawyers offices into a luxurious single house. I clearly recall the dramatic transformation of No.50 Charles Street from a tired and underwhelming office building into an extremely stunning Mayfair residence of which the triple height glazed conservatory was a major attraction. The entire project was highly sensitive at the time and cloaked in confidentiality so it’s interesting to hear what the rationale was.”