The villa, which overlooks Lake Geneva, has sweeping lawns and gardens with rose-covered trellises. Inside the house, the decor combines Italian antiques, classical art, and rich textiles in colors—ruby, emerald, turquoise, and gold—straight out of a jewel box. Somehow it seems fitting that this sumptuous residence is home to two of the world's leading jewelers, Fawaz Gruosi and Caroline Gruosi-Scheufele.
Fawaz is the founder and designer of , a luxury jewelry and watch brand known for its lavish confections and signature use of black diamonds. Caroline is copresident of , the 151-year-old Swiss firm owned by her family, legendary for its dazzling jewels. The couple married in 1995 (it was her first marriage and his third) and immediately embarked upon the renovation of this house in Prangins, a rural village located midway between the cities of Geneva and Lausanne.
Built in the late 19th century, the villa is typically Swiss, with a white stucco exterior, gambrel roof, and neat shutters. The couple were attracted by its spectacular view of the lake, known locally as Lac Léman, and the snow-topped Alps, visible in the distance. But if the villa was handsome, it was too sedate for their taste—too lacking in romance.
Fawaz was born in Beirut, the son of a Lebanese father and an Italian mother. When he was eight years old, his father died suddenly. His mother moved with her son to Florence, where he lived until he was 23, absorbing the Renaissance-era city's history and art. "I spent all my time eating, breathing, and seeing everything I could," he says. Since then, he has lived all over the world—in London, Saudi Arabia, New York City, and, for the last 30 years, Switzerland. "But Florence," he says, "is always in my heart."
Determined to re-create the atmosphere of a classical Florentine palazzo, the couple refaced the villa's plain white exterior in handmade plaster tinted with terra di Siena, the yellow-brown pigment for which the town of Siena, Italy, is renowned. They hired more than 80 Italian artisans to work on the house, from decorative painters to master carpenters, who restored and installed antique doors from Florentine palaces.
The couple enlisted two friends—, a Milanese architect, and Damiano Lapiccirella, a Florentine antiques dealer—to help with the house. For the most part, though, they decorated the villa themselves. "We wanted a house that was truly reflective of our taste," Fawaz says. "The only problem is that it's taken us 16 years to reach this point, and it's not finished yet."
They agreed on matters of aesthetics. "I love the Florentine style as well, so we never had any arguments in that regard," Caroline says. But when it came to the details, there were differences of opinion—so they opted to divide up the home's rooms and, in any one space, let either husband or wife's vision conquer. Fawaz, who collects 15th- and 16th-century art and antiques, loves to live with his finds, even if—like the spindle-backed chair in his study—they aren't particularly comfortable. He has designed entire rooms around prized acquisitions; a set of 19th-century mahogany apothecary cabinets inspired the library, while the discovery of a length of antique 24-karat gold fringe provided the impetus for the master bedroom's canopy bed.
Caroline, meanwhile, says her priority "was to create a cozy home." She took charge of the living room, an inviting space where the sofas are piled with pillows, the tables are laden with books and family mementos, and soft lamplight casts a flattering glow. She also created one of the villa's more lighthearted rooms: a dressing room where the hand-painted cabinetry is covered with a series of oil portraits of dogs wearing the clothes of old-fashioned gentlemen.
Speaking of dogs, the couple have six: two basset hounds, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, a Bernese mountain dog, a Labrador, and a fox terrier. "If I'm ever reborn, I want to come back as one of my dogs," says Fawaz, describing how the pets are allowed to romp each day through the villa's magnificent gardens, with their fountains, manicured flower beds, and mature apple, pear, and cherry trees. There is also a vegetable garden where Fawaz grows zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, and artichokes for the Italian dinners he cooks for his wife and friends.
The home is such a perfect replica of a Florentine palazzo that friends stop dead in their tracks when they see one of the villa's newest additions: a kitchen with white-lacquer cabinetry and stainless-steel appliances, one of Fawaz's first forays into modern design. But as though to hedge his bets, this modern Medici added one final flourish—a dining area with 18th-century walnut shelves and a 10-foot-long refectory table salvaged from a 400-year-old monastery that cuts right through the center of the minimalist kitchen. "I'm trying," he says with a smile, "to mix it up."