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 Im 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 architects granddaughter showed us around the weathered brick estate, a catering staff was preparing for a wedding. Love was in the air, and weakness was in my knees.
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 about romance in architecture and how to get more in my house.
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.
So wait! Its not flowers and chocolate and candles and diamonds?
Its a richly storied past.
To think Ive had the wrong expectation all these years!
Its an antique silver tea set that has graced a home, and that layers of loving hands have carefully cleaned over years.
Think of all the relationships that might have been saved if people only realized.
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.
Like my office, I say.
Unromantic homes are perfect and pretentious, she continues. They put on airs rather than tell stories. They dont invite you to sit down in your nightgown and daydream.
Romantic interiors beckon you to let your hair down and surrender to your senses.
Ahh, romance. I surrender.
Here, says Sully, are the qualities romantic homes share:
• Access to nature. A romantic home has to be sensual, and part of that means seeing the outdoors, Sully says. Many romantic houses have center courtyards. They have French doors that open to gardens and balconies, terraces and big windows that open up the house and connect you to nature. Being in a room with French doors opening to the outdoors and the sound of a fountain is very romantic. If you cant pull that off, put a small garden or fountain outside a window.
• Age. Romantic houses are old or look old. All of us resonate with history and the past, Sully said. Thats why old houses feel romantic in a way that new homes dont. When Casa Feliz was built more than 80 years ago, the architect endeavored to make it look a century older by using distressed materials. He re-used brick before that was fashionable. He deliberately added crumbling outdoor arches. In newer homes, furnishings with patina, antiques and heirlooms can introduce that dreamy dimension.
• Natural materials. Reclaimed wood, chipped ceramic tiles, worn handles, faded fabrics all exude a sense of a lost and beautiful past.
• Imperfection. Materials crafted by hand also feel nostalgic. The curved Spanish roof tiles at Casa Feliz are beautifully inconsistent because they were shaped by peasant workers molding the clay over their thighs.
Older, natural, imperfect with stories to tell. Romance I think its possible.