Interior design is a powerful tool that aims to engage end-users on many different levels, including acoustics.
As designers, we use subtle cues to create memorable and enjoyable experiences. We frequently talk about the “feel” of a space, but what about the sound? Sound impacts our experience of space in subtle but profound ways. In coffee shops, the sound of espresso shots being poured and background chatter can help with focus, described by designers alike as “ambient noise” (Think coffitivity). Meanwhile, the way in which coliseums reverberate cheers can affect the outcomes of sporting events. Who doesn’t love a good home team advantage?
Michael Kimmelman recently explored sound’s role as an architectural material in an article for the New York Times titled Dear Architects: Sound Matters. “Sound may be invisible or only unconsciously perceived, but that doesn’t make it any less an architectural material than wood, glass, concrete, stone or light. “ Kimmelman goes on to say, “Acoustics can act in deep, visceral ways, not unlike music (think of the sound of an empty house). And while it’s sometimes hard to pin down exactly how, there is often a correlation between the function of a place or an object and the sound we expect it to make.”
Interior finishes and furniture can be used to magnify or dampen sound to help reinforce the function of a space. For example, in a recent project at KSA, designers created a space Founder’s Corner for VCU student entrepreneurs to help grow and develop their business. The space is shared by multiple businesses and the dynamic uses of the space lead our designers to specify carpet as the floor covering and plush lounge seating to help dampen the sounds of entrepreneurial activity.
In contrast, our work at the new Short Pump Premiere ABC Store called for traditional materials for the casework and hard floor coverings to withstand the foot traffic of shoppers. Our designers used this as an opportunity to hang sound absorbing panels whose form echoes tin ceilings, while their function acoustically balances the space.
The truth is, mastering the acoustics in your interior can be difficult. It takes an understanding of an organization’s goals and a lot of interior design experience to get it right. Is your space too loud or visually noisy? Reach out to us, we’d love to help you create a change of space.