When the Barbours moved into their newly completed Casa Feliz in 1933, they must have enjoyed a sense of great anticipation as they awaited the shipment of the furniture selected to warm their home. Mrs. Noyes, the wife of the talented artist George Noyes, had been commissioned by the Barbours to travel to Spain in search of 17th century antiques. Her ample budget and sense of style were evident when the dark, heavily carved chairs, benches and tables, old world tapestries and religious paintings and artifacts began arriving to help her create the interior of a Spanish cortijo or farm house. Nationally recognized photographer, Harold Haliday Costain, who chronicled most of the architectural creations of James Gamble Rogers II, was hired to photograph the rich interiors.
The wonderful original pieces of furniture were sold or dispersed through the community when the Barbours left Casa Feliz, so Costain’s pictoral study became invaluable when we undertook the somewhat daunting task of furnishing the house anew. Our budget was not ample and no one tripped off to Spain, but when our furnishings began arriving, slowly and mostly one piece at a time from Georgia, North Carolina, estate sales and local antique stores we experienced, I’m certain, the same sense of excitement that the Barbours did initially.
A generous board member donated our first acquisition, a large, Welsh hall piece that made its way from the country home of Beatles’ great, Paul McCartney, through Boston and into our entrance hall! An 18th century bookcase from Scotland along with two barley twist chairs are also located there.
The Library contains the only piece of furniture original to the house – a 17th century hall bench that Rollins College returned to Casa Feliz to honor Polly and Thaddeus Seymour who were so instrumental in preserving the house. A small Spanish chest, an English serving cart and an 18th century tapestry also warm this room. Over the fireplace hangs an oil painting of Casa Feliz on its original site done by local artist, Don Sondag Jr.
A rich garden scene tapestry hangs above the large period sideboard that dominates the Living Room or Parlor. Lion heads (a theme introduced at the front door) and Conquistadore are carved in this piece. ”Madonna of the Flowers,” the painting over the fireplace, is a reproduction of the original done by artist George Noyes. Two low seated Prince of Wales chairs flank the bay window. The barley twist gate leg table came from a Connecticut estate sale and was purchased at Orlando Museum of Art’s annual antique show. Tucked in the corner of the fireplace wall is a communion storage cabinet. It is beautifully carved with a bird design.
Almost identical to the original one is the long, narrow Dining Room table we found locally. Its underside is braced with graceful metal arms enhancing its design as well as its weight. A side table with uniquely carved wood pulls sits under the high window. Once we install the heavily carved Welsh plate rack located for us in New York, this room will be complete.
Because of its scale, the Garden Room (garage/carriage house) was a bit of a challenge. We were fortunate to find an imposing armoire from Egypt. It had been fitted with a decorative antique iron gate thus creating an interesting wine cabinet. Our wine collection is ordinary, but the amphoras within are quite unique. Indian rugs decorate the wall and floor and a Chinese red buffet makes a useful serving table. The conversation piece in this room is a Turkish farm “sled”. When pulled behind oxen, this large slab of wood with its sharp bone and stone separates wheat from the chaff. Overhead in this room, a Byzantine lantern makes interesting shadow patterns on high walls.
We are most grateful to members, friends and visitors who have so embraced the history and significance that they have sought out or relinquished treasures to enhance its re-creation. Lucy Standridge, a local designer and true friend to Casa Feliz has been invaluable in helping us create our own, yet appropriate version for this “happy home.”