Sound advice – acoustics are an integral part of interior design

We regularly invite design and interiors experts to write for our blog. Read the latest guest blog here, on the role acoustics play in interiors

One of the leading trends in interior design is for modernity – clean-cut minimal interiors featuring lots of hard surfaces and few, if any, soft furnishings. However, whilst these sleek schemes may be easy on the eye, they’re not always easy on the ears.

Sound has a strong influence on how you experience a space. A room, be it commercial or domestic, without any acoustic treatment such as acoustic panels in the walls or softer flooring, can be very noisy. Sound waves will reverberate around the room, and without anything soft to absorb them, noise becomes amplified and speech can become difficult to understand. This is particularly poignant in open plan spaces which are typically multifunctional and thus need to be appropriate for socialising, relaxing and everyday ‘living’.

When designing an orangery or new garden room there are a few things which should be considered: the size of the finished space, what its functionality is to be, and how it will be laid out. It’s both a visual and practical science – and whilst soft furnishings play a vital role it’s not just about cushions and curtains. Here are a few pointers to consider when it comes to controlling sound in an open plan space:

  • Consider the overall layout of the room(s), and if there are ‘zones’ for different activities,try to separate noisy activities from quieter ones
  • Avoid giving the whole space an overly high ceiling, especially if the room or part of the room is to be used for dining. A high ceiling can make background noise difficult to control
  • Try to minimise background noise from machinery and air-conditioning with quieter models of appliances
  • Look at the layout of both the room and the furniture. Whilst the preferred focus may be on the TV or feature fireplace, a scheme where the seating is arranged so guests are facing each other may create a more social environment, and is a particularly practical solution for those with hearing issues.
  • Create ‘flow’ throughout the room. Spaces with clear sight lines from one area to another assist  with communication.

Room layout with textured wall feature

Many modern extensions are large, open plan, modern spaces and feature hard surfaces such as, glass, concrete and wood which allow noise to echo and reverberate. As well as considering the above there are some other simple solutions that you can introduce to minimise sound reverberation:

  • Carpets, fabric wall hangings, cushions, rugs, curtains and upholstered furniture all help to absorb noise.
  • Shaped surfaces, such as curves, can also cleverly diffuse sound.
  • On walls, textured acoustic panels made of wool, felt or polyester serve a dual purpose as they can be made to look like pieces of artwork. There are some stunning wallpapers and cork wall finishes being produced which also act as sound absorbers. Many other materials are available to designers where there is a need to minimise ambient noise without compromising on modern decor.
  • When it comes to flooring, by far the easiest and simplest solution is to lay down a carpet with a really good underlay. If you’re a timber flooring fan, under-floor products that help acoustics are available and will make a huge difference.
  • Cork is a also a very popular choice. With over 40 million natural “cushion cells” per cubic centimeter it is a natural sound and thermal insulator and can be used on walls and floors. It is remarkably durable, beautifully quiet and comfortable underfoot. As a natural product, it also warms and enriches an interior.

Textured wall covering

Textured wall covering 2

Cork textured wall covering




This post was contributed by Emile Azan of Chameleon Design Interiors, a multidisciplinary independent interior design practice which prides itself on aiming to exceed customer expectations in design, innovation and levels of service.