Shortly after I moved to Orlando, I learned I lived near the Tiffany museum.
“Cool!” I thought, imagining cases loaded with glimmering unaffordable jewelry.
Not THAT Tiffany, the locals corrected, Tiffany as in those leaded-glass, art-deco lamps.
I soon learned that the eponymous lamps, for which Louis C. Tiffany is most well known, are not actually his most impressive work. He even designed a bejeweled chapel.
Arguably the artist's most important work of art, my tour guide told me as I toured the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art in Winter Park, Fla., which houses the Tiffany collection, was his country home, Laurelton Hall.
The museum's public affairs officer said the genius of Laurelton Hall lay in how Tiffany integrated nature into his home design.
The director of the museum himself, Laurence Ruggiero, showed me the parts of the museum that pay tribute to Laurelton Hall.
Tiffany finished the Oyster Bay, Long Island home in 1905. It burned down in 1957, but parts were salvaged and reassembled at the Morse Museum. The recreated rooms and outdoor spaces capture what the late 19th and early 20th century artist ostensibly did best: Make nature more perfect.
Ruggiero led me to the dining room, where a great transom bearing leaded-glass wisteria vines lines the wall below the ceiling, mimicking wisteria hanging from the eaves.
At Laurelton Hall, real wisteria grew just beyond the glass panels, I learn.
“Wisteria doesn't look so good all the time,” Ruggiero said, “so Tiffany made better wisteria.”
Now that summer is almost here, I asked Ruggiero to show me more lessons from Laurelton Hall that the rest of us could adopt as we try to connect our indoors to our outdoors:
• Landscape first. Tiffany designed the landscape on his property first, then built the house.
• Bring water indoors. A waterway ran all through the house and the 5,000-acre grounds, creating outdoor fountains and an indoor stream, which visitors had to step over in the entryway.
• Rough up the edges. Cantilevered — as opposed to straight — exterior walls allowed the house's structure to intrude into nature, making overhangs that formed outdoor rooms, porches and patios.
• Invite the light. Large windows with no drapes or blinds and skylights made Laurelton Hall feel open on all sides. Views spilled onto gardens and terraces that extended the interior.
• Add seasonal greens. Tiffany kept large greenhouses and rotated an abundance of plants and flowers throughout the mansion with the seasons.
• Connect the dots. Putting the same foliage on both sides of a window was another way Tiffany merged the inside and out. “If he planted tulips outside the window, he would also have tulips lining the window inside,” said Ruggieri.
Syndicated columnist and speaker Marni Jameson is the author of “House of Havoc” and “The House Always Wins” (Da Capo Press). Contact her through www.marnijameson.com.