Scent of a Woman

On a sunny morning in the hills of  Somerset County, renaissance woman Katie Borghese emerges from the back door of her home, ready for her Park Place interview. Waving an effervescent hello, the willowy blonde is accompanied by an unlikely entourage—her 2-year-old son and a flock of young chickens.

Dressed in jeans and an elegant but simple J.Crew silk blouse—and wearing a plain gold wedding band—Borghese is comfortable in her surprisingly understated surroundings on the family’s 15-acre “gentlewoman’s farm.” The unpretentious Cape Cod-style home with an amazing view of Round Valley and Lambertville is surrounded by bedafter bed of bright coral roses and fat blue hydrangeas. In the neatly manicured yard, a yellow balloon is the lone remnant of a child’s party the day before.

During the interview in her library, Borghese sinks into a cushy, chenille-embellished bergere chair—surrounded by a zebra-skin rug, leather sofa, leopard print ottoman, a collection of old books, and, of course, family photos.

You might expect that the wife of 42-year-old Prince Scipione “Skip” Borghese—of the renowned Italian cosmetics family—would lead a lofty life of leisure. You would be wrong.

At age 30, this Borghese is a devoted wife, hands-on mother of three young children, successful business entrepreneur, and passionate supporter of numerous charities. Whether launching a new fragrance line or tending her burgeoning flower garden, she takes pride and pleasure in nurturing from seed to bloom.

A Florida native and the daughter of a physician and an interior designer, Borghese majored in art history at Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, and later interned in New York with interior designer Bunny Williams before meeting her future husband in January 2001.

The couple married in the Borghese Chapel at Santa Maria Maggiore Church in Rome the following September 13, just two days after America’s worst terrorist attack. They had planned an intimate wedding that turned out to be even smaller since American friends were unable to travel to Italy for the ceremony. “Of course, we were disappointed, but knowing that our family was safe and sound was the best wedding gift of all,” Borghese says in her typical upbeat style.

(Among the invited wedding guests was Skip’s younger brother, Prince Lorenzo Borghese, remembered by many women as the season-nine heartthrob on ABC’s The Bachelor.  But we digress…)

Skip Borghese was born in Rome, moved to Paris, and later spent his teenage years in Short Hills. In 1989, he joined the family business, making him the third generation of Borgheses in the beauty industry. Skip is fluent in Italian, French, and English.  “Well, he’s sometimes fluent in English,” Katie quips. She’s been known to chide her husband about his English, and he typically reciprocates by teasing about her Italian. “I studied the language a bit when I attended school in Florence for six months, and I’m still practicing,” she admits. “Lately, my Italian is improving out of necessity.”

Necessity, indeed. These days she travels to Italy several times a year—not for the social visits that were commonplace in the earlier years of her marriage, but to manage business activities as president of Casa di Francesca Home Fragrances.
Katie Borghese established the business a year ago after being inspired by the Borgheses’ world-renowned Princess Marcella Borghese cosmetics line (sold to Revlon decades ago), and Skip’s own business as a consultant for high-end Perlier bath and body products.

“Right now, my husband and I run two independent companies, but we collaborate well because he has the financial background, and I offer the creative insight. His company is his company; but my company is our company,” she says, laughing. “It sounds funny, but it works for us.”

A few years ago, when Skip’s organization began selling home fragrance diffuser products on the Home Shopping Network (HSN), Katie suggested that he start a new home-fragrance line.  Skip agreed, but it was Katie who would initiate the new business.

So, in the summer of 2008, when the Borgheses traveled to Italy, Skip went off to handle business for his Perlier line, and he dropped Katie off with a translator in the hills of Tuscany. “I spent that whole trip visiting perfumers and learning the basics of the business,” she remembers. “I was particularly inspired by tales of Francesca, a spirited Borghese family ancestor who loved to visit Italy’s finest gardens in the 16th century.” Several months later, Casa di Francesca Home Fragrances was launched. During its first year, the business has generated more than $2 million in revenue.

Borghese says test scents regularly radiate throughout the family home as her daughter and two sons, ages 7, 5, and 2, lend their opinions. “Any person whowe live in a creative environment. My home is my laboratory, and my ‘staff of three’ really enjoys smelling all the fragrance combinations—particularly my toddler who has an especially great nose.”

Natirar—A Crown Jewel of Somerset County
Natirar, a bucolic 491-acre estate located in the scenic hills of Somerset County, is a property rich in culture and history. It is graced by extensive areas of lawn and woodland, river access and scenic views, and is home to historic farm buildings, residential structures, and outbuildings dating from the mid-18th through mid-19th centuries.

Many years ago, the resplendent estate was named Natirar, an anagram for the Raritan River, which traverses a section of the acreage. In 1983, the property was purchased by Hassan II, the King of Morocco. In 2003, Somerset County acquired the estate from the king’s family.

Although the Virgin Spa at Natirar is a commercial operation, the Somerset County Park Commission welcomes everyone to participate in the public park’s hiking trails, programs, and facilities.

After Borghese’s family weighs in on the mélange of aromas, her favorites are manufactured in Italy using single-note fragrances and the same high-quality oils chosen by the manufacturers of fine perfumes. She especially likes Mediterranean Lavender in the living room, and Sicilian Pink Grapefruit in the kitchen. She confides that Skip enjoys English Leather (a fragrance she created exclusively for his birthday) in his office.

Casa di Francesca products are available through and the Home Shopping Network, and Borghese already has made a splash as an on-camera pitchwoman.

“When I first established my company, I knew I wanted it to be charity driven. HSN has been a perfect match because, during our first launch, the network agreed to contribute a percentage of proceeds from the broadcast to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.  That was important to me.”

More recently, Casa di Francesca introduced a pink Murano glass vase for its Sicilian Pink Grapefruit fragrance and, later this year, a portion of those proceeds will be contributed to the Breast Cancer Network of Strength.

On October 3, the Borgheses will support another worthy initiative closer to home as they co-host a fund-raiser to benefit the Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center. The Moroccan Fantasia gala will host about 225 guests at the Virgin Spa at Natirar in Peapack-Gladstone. (See sidebar, previous page.)

“Though our lives can be hectic, I try to balance my business and charitable activities with my time at home so that I can be there for my children when they need me,” Borghese says.

“None of us can do it all, and what I do isn’t always perfect. But I believe that, through small acts of kindness every day, you bring happiness to yourself and others. And that will reflect well in your life.”

A Few of Katie Borghese’s Favorite Causes…

borghese-100Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center—Oldwick
Since 1972, Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center has helped improve the quality of life for children and adults who are physically, emotionally, and cognitively challenged. Clients have access to diversified equine programs, including therapeutic riding, therapeutic driving, vaulting, an inclusive day camp, school, vocational programs, and three equine-assisted therapies: physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. The facility operates six days a week, twelve months a year (

Heartworks—Bernardsville and Long Valley
Heartworks originated when a group of Bernardsville women—mostly moms—decided to get together once a month to discuss community needs, share good intentions, and continue the tremendous acts of kindness that sustained so many families for the weeks, months, and years following September 11, 2001. The group is similar to a book club, but instead of reading, members volunteer their time and talent within the community (

St. Jude  Children’s Hospital—Memphis, Tennessee
Discoveries made at St. Jude Children’s Hospital have changed how the world treats kids with cancer and other catastrophic diseases. With research and patient care under one roof, St. Jude enables researchers to make faster scientific strides, and welcomes doctors’ most challenging cases. All patients accepted for treatment at St. Jude are
assisted without regard to their ability to pay (

How Does Your Garden Grow?
golden-leaf-murano-vaseCasa di Francesca offers 25 fragrances to suit any season or décor.  Company president Katie Borghese notes that most products average around $20 to $25, including an Italian-made diffuser bottle. (Top-of-the-line Murano vases, left, are pricier.) “Now it’s affordable to indulge in a lovely home fragrance every day, or try multiple scents throughout the home, just as the various fragrances of a garden complement each other when mixed,” Borghese says.

Riding High:

The Virgin Spa at Natirar
Hosts Equus XVIII:
A Moroccan Fantasia

On October 3, the Virgin Spa at Natirar in Peapack-Gladstone will host a Moroccan-themed gala to raise funds for the Somerset Hills Handicapped Riding Center.

“The work done by the center is so important because it provides emotional support for children and adults with disabilities by inviting them out of their homes and into the fresh air,” says spokesperson Katie Borghese.

“When you give people with disabilities the opportunity to leave their wheelchairs and sit atop a beautiful horse, their perspective of the world changes. Suddenly they can explore nature as they travel down trails where wheelchairs can’t go. This kind of therapy has broad implications for those with spinal cord injuries and even autism.”

The Moroccan Fantasia cocktail party and dinner will be co-chaired by Katie and Skip Borghese and Kelly and Jack Ketterson, and emceed by Emmy-award-winning NBC sportscaster Bruce Beck. The gala will be sponsored by Casa di Francesca Home Fragrances and other community supporters.

The fund-raiser is open to the public, and tickets are $200 each.
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