Some of you may know Sophie Dant, La Fonda’s Gift Shop manager. Many people think we look alike which flatters me since Sophie is so pretty. But what you may not know about her is that she is an avid collector of hearts. Not the real kind, mind you, but the decorative and artistic kind. It’s a collection that will blow your mind. It covers every wall in her Santa Fe home, and it is the subject of a book by author Mary Emmerling called Art of the Heart, with photography by Jim Arndt.Mary is the author of twenty books and splits her time between Santa Fe and Scottsdale. She is the Creative Director at Country Home magazine and host of the Country at Home series on HGTV, as well as a designer and collector. Jim is a nationally recognized editorial photographer with studios in Santa Fe and Minneapolis. Combine these two talented powerhouses with Sophie’s heart collection (90% of the hearts featured in the book are part of Sophie’s collection) and you have a beautiful book perfect for Valentine’s Day.
Sophie started her collection about 30 years ago with a wooden heart she bought as a decoration for the guest bathroom in her new house. She then began collecting a heart from everywhere she traveled. Her friends and family gave them to her as gifts. She has very specific ideas about whether a heart is right for her collection… they must be able to hang on the walls or be worn as jewelry. They must be unique or hand made – she will never purchase a heart that she already has and looks for the truly one-of-a-kind. Her oldest heart is from 1610 and was given to her by her mother. It is an extremely special and rare message box from France. A man would carry one of these in his pocket so if during a dinner party he was attracted by a lady across the very long table, he would write a note to her, place it in the silver heart, and have one of the butlers deliver it to her. If she chose to respond, she would write him a note to give back to him. If she chose not to respond, she was allowed to keep this special heart in case she might eventually want to be courted by the gentleman.
Sophie’s collection contains 1,815 hearts and covers 3 rooms of her home from floor to ceiling. Sometimes when she adds new ones, she has to adjust the spacing, but she knows exactly where each one came from, who made it, etc.
I know what you are wondering? Why hearts? Why collect them? Sophie has several reasons. Every material known to man has had a heart made out of it. They bring back memories of the places she’s visited. But most of all Sophie says, “Everyone has a heart, romantic or not. Everyone can relate to a heart. It’s completely universal all over the world… children, men, women, old people, young people. Everyone has heartbreak, heart joy. We all have a heart and it beats.”
It’s truly a labor of love for Sophie. In fact, she’s already arranged for her collection to go to a museum in Paris, because now that the hearts are together… she never wants to see them split up.
A perfect sentiment for Valentine’s Day.
Art of the Heart is available for purchase in La Fonda’s Gift Shop.