Some homes are filled with love. Some homes are made with love. Some homes make you fall in love.
I just left a home that was all that. Casa Feliz, a well-known historic home in Winter Park, Fla., is so romantic that I'm glad I toured it with my husband or I might have gone off with the gardener.
Built in 1929 by architect James Gamble Rogers, the home resembles a Spanish Cortijo or farmhouse, and looks a century older than it is — on purpose. The Casa is so romantic that more than 100 couples celebrate their weddings there each year.
As the architect's granddaughter showed us around the weathered brick estate, a catering staff was preparing for a wedding.
What is it about this place? I wanted to know. And could I bottle some of it and bring it to my house?
I called architectural historian Susan Sully, author of 12 books on Southern architecture, including “Casa Florida,” a look at romantic Spanish architecture in the region, to talk generally about romance in architecture and specifically about how to get more in my house.
“Talk about a place that invites love and happiness,” Sully says about Casa Feliz. “It has every element a romantic home should have. It tells the story of a different time and place. The architect used old materials to cast a spell. And it was made out of passion.”
The original owners asked Rogers to build a 5,500-square-foot, Spanish-style farmhouse while they traveled for a year. Beyond that, Rogers could build the home as he wished. It was an architect's dream, and you can tell Rogers poured his heart into the place.
“But what about those of us who can't commission an architect to build a Spanish Cortijo,” I ask Sully. “Is it too late for romance for us? I mean, for a house, that is?”
“Any style home can be romantic,” she assures me.
“But where does romance come from?” I ask.
She takes me literally. “The word ‘romance,'” she says, “comes from the root word ‘Roman,' and refers to something that has a lost and beautiful past.
“It's an antique silver tea set that has graced a home, and that layers of loving hands have carefully cleaned over years.”
To help me better understand, Sully explains what a romantic home is not. “Unromantic spaces are static environments with no views of the outdoors, all synthetic materials, and the air conditioning or heater running nonstop.