It’s viva Versace for Hinsdale Realtor couple

March 27, 2010

Diana and Charles Ivas may be known in their neck of the woods as two of Hinsdale’s top Realtors. But around the world, they’re renowned as two of the most avid private collectors of antiques, fabrics and one-of-a-kind items previously owned by the late Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace.

Take a gander around the Ivas’ Neoclassical-themed Hinsdale home and it’s clear that this pair is livin’ la vida Versace—from the bedroom closet to the living room furniture.

“What we love about Gianni Versace are his opulent sensibilities and flamboyant style,” said Charles, who idolizes the famous fashion designer, killed back in 1997. “He had such eclectic and exquisite pieces in his homes, and his tastes often match our own.”

Case in point: The chromatically arresting salon suite that anchors the couple’s living room. Consisting of a sumptuously comfortable couch flanked by two matching chairs and ottomans, the suite sports a colorful array of exotic birds on the fine screened fabrics.

But the Ivas’ don’t have this one-of-a-kind, highly valuable set—specially commissioned and used regularly by Versace himself in his former Miami mansion—under protective plastic or behind a velvet rope. It’s fully functional furniture, sat on and enjoyed everyday by Charles, Diana and any guests who may drop by.

“Our home isn’t a museum or a stuffy ‘look-but-don’t touch’ art gallery,” said Diana. “Nothing is behind a glass case or off limits. We like to display our collectibles for everyone to appreciate and interact with.”

Accenting the Ivas’ living room is further proof of Versace’s timeless taste and impeccable eye for elegant art: a pair of 19th Century French paintings—one Italian School showcasing the sacrifice of Polissena to the Greek warrior Achilles, the other one featuring Trojan war survivor Aeneas; rare porcelain vases that were made into lamps, gracing each side of the Ivas’ fireplace; and sparkling twin obelisks wrought of solid rock crystal, perched atop the fireplace mantle.

Take a trip upstairs to the couple’s bedroom and you’ll discover another eye-catching salon suite, previously positioned in Versace’s media room. The pattern is dubbed “Wild Miami,” but the impression is unmistakably leopard-esque, replete with the distinctive black spots and yellowish base you’d find on the pelt of a jaguar.

Just down the hall is Gianni’s very own desk, an ormolu-mounted mahogany center table crafted in 1820 that, on its reverse-painted glass top, depicts the Greek god Triton cavorting with a harem of mermaids. And stationed reverently in front of the desk is perhaps the Ivas’ most prized possession of all: a mahogany chair, circa 1800, ornamented with solid gold, bronze and designed by Napoleon’s architect Percier.

“It took four men and a lot of elbow grease to get that desk up the stairs. The trees they made that desk and chair from were 200 to 300 years old, which means that the wood is incredibly dense,” Charles said. “The chair alone weighs about 100 pounds.”

Peek through the Ivas’ wardrobe and you’ll see that their admiration for the cherished designer extends far beyond furnishings and décor—most of Charles’ and Diana’s clothing bears the Versace label, too.

“We don’t just collect Versace. Our passion is Versace. It’s a complete love affair,” said Charles, who had personally met Gianni Versace in the mid-1980s when he opened a boutique in Chicago. “Every time I come home and walk into a room adorned with one of these Versace pieces, it brings a smile to my face. That’s what I love about collecting.”

Charles was first bitten by the collecting bug back in 1999, when he scored his first major purchase: a dining room set that includes a King Louis the 16th-style mahogany and bronze table and matching buffet and mirror sold to him by a Toronto gallery. The pride that makes Charles beam with delight every time he sits down at that table underscores a lesson he learned years after passing on an opportunity to buy an Art Deco dining room set by Rhulman that was being sold by a gallery in Paris back in 1978.

“We had an opportunity to buy this dining room set for $36,000, which was beyond our means back then,” said Charles. “Today, however, that set we could have owned is worth approximately half a million dollars. And that demonstrates a point a friend of mine told me a long time ago, that it’s not worth buying new furniture, which only depreciates in value. Well-made antique furniture, on the other hand, consistently goes up in value.”

Over the last 10 years, Diana and Charles have visited numerous galleries and auctions across the globe, including events by Sotheby’s and Christie’s and the first Versace auction of his private collection in 2001. While no Gianni possessions remain that haven’t already been sold off, the Ivas’ are hopeful that coveted pieces formerly owned by the famous designer will eventually be put up for auction by private collectors like themselves—opportunities that Charles and Diana would be quick to capitalize on, depending on the items.

“A lot of our luck in obtaining the rarities we’ve gathered can be credited to being in the right place at the right time,” said Diana, who, along with her husband, works for RE/MAX Elite in Hinsdale—one of the top-selling agencies in the near west suburbs. “Sometimes you’re able to get a bargain on an ultra-expensive antique that another winning bidder reneged on, for instance. Or your low introductory bid ends up being the winner because no other Versace collector was present to compete with you.”

Aside from fortuitous timing, the couple can attribute much of their collecting success to meticulous preparation. Charles is careful to perform his due diligence before bidding on an item. For example, he inspects each piece carefully to discover any flaws, reads up on its history and the artisans and craftsmen involved in creating it, and asks the auction house plenty of questions.

“We take auctions very seriously, and we don’t buy anything impulsively,” said Charles. “Doing our homework is an exhaustive process. But the investment of time and effort is well worth it when we’re able to claim an item that we feel would be a priceless addition to our home—something we’ll never tire of enjoying.”


About The Author

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Lynn Walsh is the President at Walsh Communications, LLC. Walsh Communications is a full-service public relations, marketing and advertising agency for home builders and real estate-related industries.

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