If you’ve ever wondered where exiled royalty live, look no further. The parents of Emanuele Filiberto di Savoia, grandson of the last king of Italy, built this stunning stone villa on the shore of Lake Geneva during the family’s exile, and this modern-day castle still remains exactly the same today as it did in the 1970s.
As much as Filiberto loves the villa, he doesn’t live in it long term. He travels often to Italy, where he’s a television star, and to Paris, where he lives with his wife, French actress Clotilde Courau and their two daughters Vittoria and Luisa.
“At more than 1,000 square metres, it’s a very large house, too large for us to live there permanently,” he says. Nevertheless, he still finds the time to return to the villa in Geneva where he spent much of his childhood, a warm, charming home that is the source of many fond memories.
“Some of my favourite recollections of this home are the times I spent here with my grandmother,” Filiberto says. Having spent Christmas holidays with her and much of his youth in this house, he is familiar with every nook and cranny of this villa, which he describes as “late ’70s – very Austin Powers”.
“My mother [was involved in] each phase of the project and the building up of the villa, choosing the furniture and objects, adding her own unique finishing touch,” he recalls. “I personally love the mosaic bathtub and massage table in my bedroom … and I really like how the furniture is integrated into the architecture.”
The architecture is something to behold. Tucked away behind a line of trees by the lake, the villa is all the more surreal for its otherworldly structure – a stone building crafted in staggered tiers and undulating walls. The external form is echoed in the internal layout, with curved walls, doorways and arches. The staircase forms the epicentre of the home around which the internal spaces are organised, and it winds like a helix through the three levels of the villa.
Walking into the home, you pass a veritable gallery of portraits showing the family through several generations, including one of Filiberto’s grandmother Maria Jose, who reigned as the queen consort of Italy for 35 days in 1946 and is affectionately remembered as “the May Queen”. Her son – Filiberto’s father, Vittorio – is also shown alongside the queen and the many other ancestors, whose portraits adorn the walls and showcase their long family history.
Within the stone walls of the villa is an elegant mix of old and new, of the personal and the curated. The 1970s style of the house is enriched by contemporary artworks, sculptures and paintings by Pomodoro, Pistoletto, Arman and Rauschenberg, which are often featured alongside ancient family treasures – collections of books, chinaware, glassware, not to mention the carpets featuring the family coat of arms.
Filiberto’s mother Marina had exquisite taste, and it showed in her choice of furniture, from the dinner table in blue lapis lazuli to the soft wool moquette on the floor. Bright hues of green, orange and blue offer a splash of vibrant colour against the natural walls, while the modern lines and materials of the Kartell chairs strike a vivid contrast against the bamboo and stone within the home.
Rather than try to tame the villa’s quirky architecture, the homeowners made full use of the curves and fluid layout to design a completely unique interior. Even within each level of the villa, the open area is split by internal tiers delineating each space.
The dining table, for example, is set a half level down from the foyer, and is accessed by a gradual carpeted ramp, complete with metal railings. The effect is of a swimming pool or perhaps even the deck of a ship. Next to it, the living area is again sloped downwards, with plump sofas on each wide circular tier, leading to the fireplace in the middle. The effect is visually intriguing as well as cosy, and very intimate.
Filiberto’s bedroom is one of the most stunning rooms in the villa, with a calming blue palette and a large bed oriented towards the window with a view of the lake. His personal bathtub also enjoys the view of the lake, and the blue and silver mosaic creation is so generously sized that it resembles a small pool more than a large tub.
Even so, Filiberto’s favourite piece in the house is the cocktail cabinet in metal and resin. Apart from obvious entertainment reasons, he loves it as it’s truly bespoke.
“It was specifically designed for us. There is no other,” he says. “I think it’s really beautiful and unique.”
As befits royalty, the villa has an impressive swimming pool that stretches from the inside out to the garden terrace.
The outdoor section is your standard millionaire’s fare with a springboard and deck chairs. The indoor part, however, is set within the natural stone walls, with stone earthenware pots and vases and a whimsical marlin hanging on one of the walls. The effect is of a cosy, private cave, and is an ideal setting for entertaining small groups of friends.
The home, which Filiberto describes as “state-of-the-art in its day”, is charmingly retro, a nostalgic throwback to the ‘70s when bold hues and an eccentric mix of forms and textures were celebrated. As the man of the house puts it, “the house is a time capsule that is representative of a specific time. I would change absolutely nothing.”
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