Open-plan living spaces have many advantages for family life and entertaining, and they also increase the opportunity to bring lots of natural light into your home, but they can end up being quite noisy. You may be surprised, however, at how easy it is to reduce sound travel with a few key additions to your furnishings. There are also achievable structural changes you can employ if you’re after a more robust fix for echo in your rooms.
Dress your windows
Large areas of glass, such as big windows and glazed doors, act as bouncing-off points for sound to travel in an open-plan room. Introducing curtains will help to deaden the noise. A sheer fabric works really well, as it won’t totally block the light or views.
For maximum sound-muffling, curtains work better than blinds, simply because there’s so much more fabric involved. Take a look at this example – a ceiling-to-floor solution in a substantial fabric that can be pushed back to make the most of the light when needed.
Another way to deaden sound is to cover hard floors with rugs. Here, the use of a rug in the living space is a practical solution that both minimises noise and helps define the seating area, making it feel more intimate.
When choosing your rug, the thicker the pile, the better the soundproofing will be, so a cut-pile rug will tend to work better than a flat-weave design.
Break it up
If you can, try to break up your open-plan space a little to create designated zones. This will also help to contain noise. Here, the tunnel fire in a freestanding wall maintains a visual connection with the space beyond while breaking up the room to create a more intimate living area.
If you want to incorporate a feature like this, do bear in mind that you’ll need to position the fire so you can create a flue, which will need to go through the ceiling or an external wall.
Add a storage wall
A timber-clad wall in the middle of this large room works beautifully to separate the kitchen from the living area. Something like this can be created as a freestanding structure or a bespoke piece of furniture, making it a relatively easy and cost-effective solution to break up the space, as you won’t require any structural elements.
Fit a feature screen
If you can’t bring yourself to divide the space with something permanent, a nice alternative is to introduce a screen as a buffer between zones. It won’t be as effective as a solid structure, but it will help to diffuse the noise slightly. The louvred screen in this image works to create a glimpse of the living space beyond.
Clad your walls
Large, flat, hard surfaces can amplify sound, so adding texture will help you reduce this effect. Lining one of your walls with timber cladding, as in this living space, not only makes for an interesting feature, it does the sound-dampening job, too. It’s as simple as using a wooden flooring material on the walls instead. For a more traditional look, painted timber cladding works equally well.
Often, walls aren’t completely flat, so you’ll first need to add timber battens to the surface onto which you’re going fit your cladding. A good flooring contractor or joiner could fit this kind of finish or, if you’re pretty confident at DIY, you could have a go yourself.
Bring texture to your ceiling
Just like walls, a large expanse of ceiling will encourage the spread of sound, so try adding a textured surface here, too. In this example, the ceiling and walls have been clad with timber boards painted white.
Fashion fabric panels
If timber’s not your style, consider cladding one of your walls with some form of acoustic material. These padded fabric panels will be very effective at deadening sound. You can also buy off-the-shelf acoustic panel systems, which can be fixed to your walls and are easy to install yourself.
Go soft underfoot
Hard floor surfaces, such as tiles, are not ideal when it comes to controlling noise, so consider something like Marmoleum instead, which is a durable and practical finish in a kitchen. It has natural anti-bacterial properties and it’s also soft underfoot, meaning it will absorb the clunk and clatter of cooking.