They gasp at the doorway

The Baltimore Sun

A woman born to antiques dealers and steeped in classical music has the hippest office in town, backstage at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

It's a thoroughly modern maestra who officially takes over this week at the BSO, and Marin Alsop's dressing room/office says it all: sleek glass desk; chocolate leather sofa rimmed in chrome; curvy, retro polka-dot chairs; grasscloth wallpaper; floor lamp swathed in silk.

The Meyerhoff turns 25 this year, and the conductor's suite looked a little long in the tooth, with drab gray carpeting, mauvey-pink carpet on one wall and stained dropped ceilings.

"Marin described it as a gas station rest stop. She was terrified of it," said designer Steve Appel, who redid the space at the urging of Style magazine. (The makeover is featured in the October issue.)

Alsop wasn't quite that blunt in a brief phone interview the other day, but she said a face-lift was in order.

"It was fine, but it looked tired and kind of outdated," she said. "And now it is vital and hip, and it's got a lot of energy and it's just great. ... When people walk in, they react as though it's Alice in Wonderland. You open this door, and it's so unexpected."

Appel, co-owner of Nouveau Contemporary Goods and lead designer with the newly formed Whitehead and Appel Design Studio, worked closely with Alsop on the project. She described her tastes as "a hybrid, really. My parents are antiques dealers, so I love that style, but lately I've really embraced contemporary architecture and contemporary design."

The result is something that's modern but not cold, Appel said. "It's not ultramodern, like plastic tables and mirrors and glass," he said. "It's very warm. Beautiful, beautiful rug -- like, chocolate rug with organic, green leaves in it. It's got a lot of texture in it."

Appel declined to put a dollar value on the makeover, to which Karen Henry Interiors, Floors Etc., Gramophone and Jones Lighting Specialists also contributed.

"It was a few years' season tickets," he said. "Maybe about 25."

Hitting the bricks

A chain-link fence just went up on one side of the State House. The enclosure will not, I'm told, be used to detain lawmakers until they consent to Gov. Martin O'Malley's tax package.

It's to secure construction equipment and materials for contractors, who tomorrow will start replacing the 45-year-old brick walkways around the State House, which have become a trip hazard.

Cost of the project: $1.4 million, or the amount O'Malley's 6-cent sales tax will generate on your next $23 million purchase.

High heels not advised

For Day 3 of Governor O'Malley's tax show, reporters got this advisory from his office. "Note: For tomorrow's press conference, reporters and photographers should wear flat shoes (sneakers recommended) and pants."

Have the media been scuffing the laminate on all those kitchen table tours?

Day 3, however, wasn't slated for a kitchen but Gardel's, a Baltimore nightclub. The governor's office declined to explain the sneakers directive in advance, but the reason became clear soon enough.

Friday's news conference took place on the roof of Gardel's. The spot offered a view of the Alex. Brown building, whose sale last year would have generated $2.4 million in tax revenue but for a loophole O'Malley wants to close. Only catch to that picture-perfect location: Officials and reporters had to climb a metal ladder to get there.

State Sen. Catherine Pugh was among those who didn't get the memo, arriving in a skirt and 2 1/2 -inch patent leather heels. Pugh made the climb anyway.

"They're the wider heel, so it was actually easy to climb," she said.

Pugh often wears 3-inch heels, and has 4-inchers for "elegant occasions." She picked up the heels habit from her mother, who "always presented a sense of elegance."

"They tease me a lot in Annapolis," she said. "I put them on like somebody puts on a regular pair of flat shoes. Even campaign in them."

Connect the dots

Baltimore boy makes good -- finally. The New Yorker has a piece on Millard Kaufman, who grew up in the city, graduated from Johns Hopkins, moved to New York, served in WWII, became a screenwriter and now, at 90, has his first novel published. Bowl of Cherries is set in the fictional Iraqi town of Coprolibad, whose name translates to Dung City. Now, it's on to a second novel. ... links to an Associated Press article about state Sen. Ulysses Currie collapsing the other day during a lawmakers' breakfast with the governor, who was presenting his tax plan. "And no, I won't make jokes about Senator Currie fainting after hearing the Governor's budget plan," the site says. "Oh wait, I guess I just did." Currie's legislative assistant said the senator is out of the hospital and "is, indeed, doing fine." While the cause of his collapse wasn't clear, the assistant assured me, with a laugh, that the tax plan wasn't to blame. "I'm positive it wasn't."

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