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Today’s design temptation is to swoop into the new house and knock down every wall (structural ones aside, of course). We almost demand open space. We ogle light airy rooms and bi-fold doors and before we know it, we’ve picked up the sledgehammer and down come the walls. And it looks great.
But how does it sound?
This is an issue I encounter regularly. Open plan homes look glorious but if they’re not treated acoustically they can sound terrible. Especially if you are also guilty of hating curtains, but loving glass balustrades, hardwood floors, or worse still, stone floors. All of these elements will factor into a “pinball wizard effect” for sound waves. One dog barks and the noise will ricochet around the space until it finds an open window.
What’s to be done?
Adding fabric into the room will immediately help absorb some of the sound waves and the screaming child or the zealous football fan can be mildly muffled with the help of some curtains, cushions and other upholstered furniture. Textured wallpaper will also help.
Voiles (sheer fabric) will not help a great deal, nor will wooden blinds, but even a simple Roman blind can help. Ideally, however, go for a generous width, interlined, woollen pair of curtains and you will hear the difference immediately.
Have you ever been into a canteen without window treatments? The noise can be unbearable. A client of mine called me to look at theirs when they found the members of staff were no longer using the restaurant due to the clatter of cutlery against crockery and lunchtime gossip.
Some people dislike fabric at windows in these rooms – perhaps for aesthetic reasons – they prefer a cleaner look – or maybe because they fear the odours and inescapable dirt within a restaurant will mean a lot of cleaning bills – but fabric can really help and curtains will do the job.
Or at least part of the job.
In a room the size of a corporate dining room, other acoustic solutions are necessary. Acoustic panels can be hung from the walls or the ceiling and will help to deaden even the booming bragging of a top salesman. What is more, they can look amazing.
Think beyond the white blob clouds that once were the staple for such sound solutions and think instead of textured art. Floral or graphic patterns can be used as a splash of colour, texture and pattern as well as providing a great solution to a headache of a problem. Or think bigger still and incorporate the brand colours or even company logo. A padded felt version might be just the answer.
This might sound like a very corporate solution and you wouldn’t dream of putting acoustic panels in your own home, but think back to medieval times and what solutions designers (let’s give them their due) came up with then. When the walls were cold and the idea of electricity wasn’t even a twinkle, the solution to keeping the aristocracy warm was to surround their beds and cover their walls with panels of fabric. These embroidered panels played a vital role not only in keeping people warm and keeping voices muffled, they were also a chance to tell stories. Tapestry was a great way to tell a heroic tale.
Can you imagine that today? A weaver depicting the story of how Dad cycled across Africa to raise money to build a well or how Mum helps with reading at the local primary school, or your daughter getting her gymnastics medal? Tapestries were yesterday’s Facebook!
Modern day tapestries are essentially pieces of art and similarly are chosen according to your personal taste – be it contemporary or traditional, abstract or pictorial. I recently met Matty Smith of Weavers Bazaar and she produces modern day tapestries that really catch the eye, as well as help with all those sound problems caused by your future rock star practising his drums upstairs.
If you need any help with reconfiguring your house layout or are concerned open plan will mean a noisy future, please give me a call and we can work something out together.
07782 256 444