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Relying On The Past In Creating A Mood

May 29, 2005
By JEFFREY B. COHEN, Courant Staff Writer

Michele Lyden stood in the middle of the 40,000-square-foot ballroom on top of the result of six weeks of color trials, months of planning and lots of wool that created what she called one of the Connecticut Convention Center's most distinctive features.

Its "historic" carpet.

"It is the largest single repeat in the history of Brintons," said Lyden, head interior designer for the project and an employee of TVS, which is based in Atlanta. Brintons is the international carpet company responsible for the wool beneath Lyden's feet. "They've never done something this big."

And it is big. The pattern on the carpet that fills the ballroom only repeats three and two-fifths times, she said. The pattern itself is 60 feet wide by 130 feet long, and each repeat of the pattern is built with five carpet panels 12 feet wide and 130 feet long.

The carpet is but one of the details large and small that fell to Lyden and her team, from no-fingerprint-leaving-brushed-steel plumbing hardware, to stylish glass tiles outside of the center's bathrooms, to curves and color and more.

When it comes to colors, Lyden points out the facility's yellows and reds that are used sparingly to both highlight architectural accents and points of interest for the conventiongoer.

"Colors are used in ways that articulate the architecture - they provide way-finding, they provide focal points in the facility, they can give you a sense of vibrancy, a sense of surprise or something fun," she said

She also points out curves throughout the center - a curved "eyebrow," or ceiling piece, that hangs above the entrances to the exhibit hall; matching curved patterns in the carpet below; a curved ceiling above the concession areas.

"Curving is very soft, very, very gentle," Lyden said. "It's graceful, and I think that most people like to see something a little bit soft in their environment."

Lyden got into hospitality because she's got hospitality in her blood, she said. Her father was an entrepreneur in the industry, owning numerous restaurants and a few hotels, she said. Lyden, who is based in Atlanta and has more than 20 years of experience, eventually moved to convention center design - something that offers her a chance to design diverse spaces under one roof.

"Administrative office spaces, an exhibit hall, concessions, a cafe, an art gallery, ballroom, business center, business lounge, hospitality lounges, pre-function areas ..." she said, rattling off the center's spaces. "It brings a lot of different types of disciplines under one umbrella, it keeps it dynamic and interesting."

Also, she said, using public instead of private money means a generally tighter budget that forces designers to "create something really beautiful" while keeping the cost down.

But back to the carpet.

In coming up with a carpet concept, Lyden and her designers wanted something that was both "artwork on the floor" but also linked to the city of Hartford. To achieve that, they looked to the city's maritime history and its merchant waterfront, she said.

Lyden and her staff took those basic images - large sails, masts, rigging - and combined them with the red of a river at sunset.

"It's supposed to have this feeling of a little bit water, a little bit liquid, like light is dancing off of it, like the sun rays are coming down onto the space," she said. "It's not meant to be literal. It really is meant to be a modern interpretation of that imagery.

"Whenever you see something that looks simple and beautiful, most of the time there's a lot of complexity that goes into that piece," she said.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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