Better sit down for this, Baltimore

Home: Pottery Barn has named a squat little sofa for the home of the Orioles, but you may have to go to the home of the Yankees to find one.

January 27, 2002|By Jaimee Rose | Jaimee Rose,Special to the Sun

We probably should be flattered.

Pottery Barn -- outpost of yuppie mallville, castle of style, bearer of absolutely no resemblance whatsoever to a barn -- has named a new sofa "the Baltimore," just like us. It's a boxy little thing, with round arms and short legs, and comes upholstered in four different shades of velvet -- including Oriole-esque orange.

It's soft yet firm, hip and classic at the same time, costs $1,399, and is incredibly ironic considering this: There is no Pottery Barn store in Baltimore proper. There's one in Towson Town Center -- a wisp of a thing, which, of course, does not carry the Baltimore sofa. The Baltimore sofa, in fact, is displayed only in select Pottery Barn stores, none of which are in Maryland, Washington, or Virginia. An informal phone survey turned up our sofa at the Lincoln Center Pottery Barn in New York City, but it has since been sold.

All shucks and gratitude aside, it's a little tough to see exactly how our city inspired this couch. It would never make it up the staircase of a rowhouse, is much too expensive to sit on while picking crabs, and we're pretty sure the Hon would hate it (more on that later).

Pottery Barn, based in San Francisco, likes to name sofas after cities other than its own. There's the Manhattan: a slick leather number that looks like it belongs in a Soho cafe. There's the Charleston, all pillows and curved arms, dripping with elegance and Southern charm. And now, the Baltimore.

To what, exactly, does our city owe this fine distinction? "We have lots of meetings around here," explains Pottery Barn spokesperson Leigh Oshirak. "They're called product development. That's where ideas are tossed out and inspiration comes from."

At one meeting, the name of this particular sofa was discussed.

"Someone just tossed out the name," she says, "and it seemed to resonate with the group, and so 'the Baltimore' it was."

Really, and was Mayor Martin O'Malley consulted? Which color would he choose anyway? "The mayor's not aware of [the sofa]," says O'Malley spokesman Tony White, who would not agree to interrupt the mayor's busy schedule to ask him about upholstery. "He's got a city to run."

Hrrmph.

Well, what about that Oriole orange, called "paprika" in Pottery Barnese, would it look good in the Orioles' offices? "It's good looking. I like it," says Susan Leahy, who happens to be redecorating Oriole headquarters right now. "It looks like a nice lounge sofa, but with the look that we're going with, which is a little more tailored, it wouldn't work."

Leahy, however, can see the city in the sofa. Specifically, she sees a rowhouse under renovation.

The couch "is a very traditional style that's upbeat, almost like '40s classic contemporary restyled," says the Westminster interior designer. "That's what people are doing with the rowhouses -- keeping the form, but making them more upbeat and comfortable to live in."

Leahy, in fact, thinks the sofa is perfect for a rowhouse -- perhaps in Federal Hill or Fells Point. We're thinking one of the city's Fish Out of Water sculptures might make a nice accent.

Pottery Barn defines the sofa, which it introduced last summer, like this: "Time honored silhouettes rounded off for comfort and great looks define our Baltimore collection. The wide, low-set arms, T-shaped seat cushions, and plush, velvet upholstery make every inch of the sofa inviting."

Every inch of Baltimore (the city) inviting? Don't the people at Pottery Barn watch reruns of Homicide, Life on the Street? The description goes on: "The high-density foam core seat cushions are wrapped in fiber, feather, and down."

Anything truly named after Baltimore really should be wrapped in Formstone.

The Baltimore sofa, apparently, is a winter-themed piece. It was featured on Pottery Barn's Web site (www.potterybarn.com) until recently, when the company unveiled its new blue-hued spring collection. (Might we suggest they try making the Baltimore Sofa in blue, Chesapeake blue to be exact?) Pottery Barn spokesperson Oshirak says the sofa will be available through March, though, so apparently our city and our sofa aren't totally passe yet.

Let's ask the Hon what she thinks of her city's sofa.

Denise Whiting, who owns Cafe Hon in Hampden, was as close as we could get.

"It reminds me of the Flexsteel sofa that my mother had," she says. "It was just a very square, boxy, tan sofa with kind of a whitish color running through it. That's the first thing that comes to mind."

OK, well, do you think the Hon would choose this sofa? "Oh, heavens no," Whiting says. "Maybe if it came in leopard print, or hot pink with ostrich feathers."

Do you see the city in the sofa? "I keep looking at it. I keep trying to find it. Maybe somebody saw it in the wrinkles of the velvet or something," she says. "To me, it looks very square and boxy, and I think Baltimore is a little more unique and creative."

Besides, she says, "if they really want it to be a Baltimore sofa, they're spelling it wrong. It's B-A-W-L-M-E-R."

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