Town & Country (USA)

The Good STUFF

- David Netto

“Bob and I were going to the Picasso Museum in Paris, and there was a little shop we walked past in the Marais,” says Maria Hummer-Tuttle, recalling how she came to possess the only plaster console by Frédéric Méchiche I’ve ever seen besides my own. “I did not know about him before,” she says about the exceptiona­lly talented and somewhat below-the-radar designer, who died last year.“But I knew we were looking at something special.”

Such moments led to Objects of Desire, a highly personal book about the three houses Hummer-Tuttle shares with her husband Robert, former ambassador to the Court of St. James. Objects is an invitation, with exquisite photograph­y by Miguel Flores-Vianna, to view environmen­ts gorgeous enough to make you think this is a book about beautiful rooms. But turn the pages and read the poetic text, and you will find more than that; this is a journal of collecting as a shared experience of marriage.

The idea began during one of the recent L.A. fires, when Hummer-Tuttle, preparing to evacuate, put a few dear things by the front door.“I looked at what I had gathered, and it was nothing practical. Only objects.” For someone with high executive capabiliti­es (St. James is no less work for the ambassador’s wife), she has an emotionall­y perceptive relationsh­ip to things. “I have read of certain objects being called the offspring of the heart,” one section begins. The point here is not the fancy but the memory of how cold the flea market was that morning, the changing light of rooms, the children’s drawings, the love of home.

Was collecting as a couple always easy? “Over time, our taste has come together. We bought a house when we were first married, and on move-in day there were two trucks unloading in the driveway. If we didn’t both like something, it went back on the truck,” Hummer-Tuttle recalls.“Not a lot came into the house!” It ended well—and brought us the world of these pages.

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