Interior design ideas for better room acoustics
Sound or noise: How we perceive the acoustics in a room depends on many, often unnoticeable factors. Yet the room acoustics is crucial to the interior ambience and the sense of well-being it provides. It should therefore be considered right from the beginning in the architectural and interior design. Elegant acoustic reflectors, the right combination of materials and modern acoustic furniture can improve the room acoustics – and they can be seamlessly integrated into the overall interior decor.
The Wave lampshade from HEY-SIGN not only looks elegant, it also improves room acoustics thanks to its sound-absorbing properties. (Photo: HEY-SIGN)
What influences the acoustic properties of a room?
At first, sound waves spread out evenly through the air. But this changes if they encounter a barrier: They are reflected, absorbed or scattered haphazardly. While hard surfaces, such as concrete or glass, reflect sound back into the room with relatively few losses, soft and porous materials act as sound absorbers. Sound insulation can also stop the waves in a particular way, reducing frequencies that might be perceived as unpleasant, for instance. Sound can therefore be actively controlled.
Most materials combine several of these properties. In addition, interior designers can use different items of furniture, floor coverings and wall decorations to lend a room unique acoustic properties. While most workspaces and home offices should absorb noise, a university lecture theatre is designed for clear speech acoustics. By contrast, restaurants aim to foster an intimate atmosphere around the table – even in large venues. But soundscaping is not just for public rooms like these. It should also be factored in to the design of spacious living rooms with high ceilings. Because even though they may be invisible, sound waves and how they travel help to define the atmosphere in an interior.
The sound-absorbing Beetle wall panels from Sancal Diseño S.L. soak up unpleasant background noise to provide soundproofing and decoration at the same time. (Photo: Sancal Diseño S.L.)
Interior design for optimal room acoustics
Every room is different, and so, too, is the individual perception of sound. Sound specialists may have methods for measuring reverberation, speech transmission, sound insulation and sound clarity. But there are no universal guidelines for how to improve room acoustics. Depending on the intended use and the desired atmosphere, acoustic reflectors, a heavy wool carpet or solid-wood furniture could be the right choice for an individual interior acoustics that creates an ambience of well-being.
Textiles and wall coverings
Sound insulation today has so much more to offer than heavy curtains or egg boxes on the walls of student band rehearsal rooms. But the basic idea is still the same: Textiles, such as carpets, curtains and sofa coverings, absorb sound waves much better than hard surfaces. Wall coverings made from wool felt, jute or recycled polyester have been on-trend for some time. Whisperwool by Tante Lotte Design is made from sustainable Tyrolean sheep’s wool and is characterised by pleasant insulating properties, while the cheerful colours of Beetle by Sancal Diseño make it ideal for the children’s room.
Made of hemp, jute and sisal, the Aline wall panel from Yeseco Oy not only improves the acoustics in a room but also gives the wall a unique character. The triangle-based arrangement draws on the old egg carton idea by using various, often asymmetrically crafted structures to scatter sound waves, which creates a pleasant effect by dampening particularly high or low sound frequencies. And those who prefer an especially natural look can opt for easy-care Iceland moss pictures from styleGREEN to decorate bare walls, with the increased surface area also muffling unwanted noises.
Now a matter of course in large offices, acoustic room dividers are also increasingly finding their way into home offices. As well as providing visual privacy to aid distraction-free working, the mobile units give people on both sides of the partition the benefit of soundproofing. The designs – such as the Divi put.on sound absorber from Ropimex or the Wave acoustic screen from Yeseco Oy – are developed with modern interiors in mind and do not look out of place in domestic living rooms.
In addition to the natural sound-absorbing properties of sofas, tables and the like, more and more manufacturers are specifically developing furniture and interiors objects that provide improved room acoustics. Outwardly rarely distinguishable from normal lamps or seating furniture, these pieces have a greater effect on sound transmission thanks to their surface structure or the materials used. Pendant lamps such as the Wave ceiling object from HEY-SIGN , a lampshade made from corrugated felt with a sound-absorbing effect, are ideal for rooms with high ceilings. One example of a design that is suitable for modern office premises is the BuzziZepp LED Line from Buzzispace , which offers visual as well as acoustic control in open spaces. For home offices, vitAcoustic tambour door cabinets from Vital-Office can provide soundproofing, and the EarChair from Prooff is a reinterpretation of the wing chair, acting like a cocoon to shield against external sounds and other influences. Anyone still unconvinced of the high-quality design of acoustic furniture will certainly find proof in this statement piece.
The “floating” design of the BuzziZepp LED Line from Buzzispace provides impressive soundproofing and was conceived by designer Alain Gilles as an “imaginary island” to visually delineate large open spaces and convey a sense of calm. (Photo: Buzzispace)
A holistic approach to soundscaping
For a long time, we have been surrounded by the expertise of sound engineers in large-scale architecture. Concert halls, cinemas, lobbies and museums rely on optimal room acoustics. The idea has even extended so far that sound is now deliberately used to manage visitor flows, with furniture or surfaces used as sound reflectors. Sound leads the way.
This holistic trend and the focus on noises and sound are now having an impact on smaller spaces too. After all, the atmosphere in domestic living rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms is also partly driven by sound levels. Private conversations at low volume, full-bodied sound for music lovers or noise reduction to aid concentration on work are becoming increasingly important considerations in interior design. Demand from customers has grown, especially as a result of working from home. Manufacturers would be well advised to play an active role in shaping this trend.
Does the topic sound interesting to you in the best sense of the word? Then come to imm cologne 2022 and experience the latest acoustic furniture and interiors trends with all your senses.