terrazzo floor design
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234 Fayetteville St Terrazzo Floor

In-House Client: 
Empire Properties

The lobby of 234 Fayetteville Street is a small space with little room for decor to make it distinctive. The building’s owner decided to take advantage of the floor space to create an art installation that pays homage to its history as the location of Raleigh’s first telephone exchange in 1879.

terrazzo floor design

The inspiration for the floor design was the cover art for a program celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first telephone in Raleigh. I recreated the artwork and adapted the design to fit the space. The original plan included two additional panels that I created illustrations for that complement the main panel design. The additional panels were later dropped and the main panel dimensions were narrowed to better fit the space. The panel is roughly 4 feet wide and 8 feet high.

I gathered reference images for the types of phones depicted in the drawing as well as the eagle at the top and began by drawing those elements in Illustrator. Then I worked on recreating the border design and resizing it to the taller and narrower dimensions that the floor panel would be. I font typefaces similar to the text in the program and the wording was changed to fit our purposes. I sampled colors from the original artwork to begin a colored mockup of the design for approval from the Empire Team. There were a few rounds of revisions to simplify the design for the final use for the manufacturer to create the brass outlines for the installation. Once the outline version was approved, I exported it as a CAD file for their designer to create the outlines for the installation.

The Empire team worked with the manufacturer, David Allen Co. and their artist Vickie Wilson and to select the aggregate mixes that matched the colors in my design. The manufacturer then created samples for the team to select the final color mixes to be used.

With the aggregate mixes chosen, we wanted to create a life-size mockup of the design to get a sense of who it would look like recreated in terrazzo. Vickie Wilson started on a to-scale drawing to work out how the gradient from sky to clouds would be rendered. It was a time consuming process that ultimately wouldn't be a true mockup. I took her renderings of the clouds and began to create the mockup in Adobe Illustrator.

I began by tracing sections of the aggregate in the samples the manufacturer had made and sampling their colors to make my own “aggregate” mixes. I used the Astute Graphics Space Fill plugin for Adobe Illustrator to create aggregate clusters. The plugin allowed me to populate areas of the design with multiple copies of the aggregate clusters I drew.

I divided the elements in the design into sections in order to create the color gradients in the design. For the clouds, for example, I colored them with a gradient and cut each cloud layer into sections. I filled those shapes using a mix of the “aggregates” I had created. The resulting mockup really gave us good insight into how the design would look. I printed out several sections to-scale to evaluate them with our team at Empire. When the mock-up had been approved, I worked with the artist Vickie Wilson to create a paint-by-numbers style diagram for her to follow as she mixed the epoxy resin colors and aggregate mixes to apply to the floor design during installation. Having the realistic mockup ended up changing Vickie’s approach to plan the installation. Since I had used gradients as the background color for the aggregate mixes, she decided to create some color mixes with the paint colors to simulate the gradients. I had also mixed some darker and lighter colored aggregates to create some darker areas and to give a more natural look to the color changes in the mockup. She decided to use the same approach during installation. In the end the mockup ended up being a pretty accurate representation of how the final design looked once installed!

With the newly installed floor design, the lobby needed a directory to match. I used the same border design and telephone illustration that appeared on the floor. The serif text in the directory is the same typeface I chose to be used in the street address that was inlaid in the terrazzo at the entrance of the building. 

I also consulted on the paint colors for the walls and trim and suggested the ceiling be painted the same light blue shade as the sky in the artwork. And with that and the addition of a new (reclaimed) brass and glass door, the transformation of the lobby was complete.

Chase Nichols
Empire Properties
Dave Nicolay
Empire Properties
David Allen Co., Inc
Terrazzo Manufacturing & Installation
Patrick Nerz
Empire Properties
Vickie Wilson
Terrazzo Artist
Amy Lyons
In-House Graphic Designer
original illustration, mockup, and finished floor
close ups of portions of the final floor design
completed lobby floor renovation and lobby directory
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