Hard Surfaces Create Noisy Spaces

Rigid surfaces are excellent sound reflectors.

I recently designed a restaurant/bar where the owners wanted to utilize wood finishes and surfaces throughout. Given my limited involvement as a designer to this project, I was asked only to draw and space plan the building layout and equipment, since they had their own designer on staff.

Since the owner decided on all hard surfaces for this particular restaurant: Wood table tops, wood floors, wood ceilings and beams with open trusses, wood chairs, and wood wainscot, sound never had a chance. The only soft element was a ‘lonely’ seat cushion to sit on in the all wood booth.

When the restaurant opened its doors, customers raved about the new neighborhood eating establishment, but after about a month of being opened customers began to complain about the restaurant being too noisy. Excess noise is a common problem when using only hard surfaces throughout any building, because there is simply nothing to absorb the sound.

To reduce noise in an establishment, there are several different materials and many ways to reduce noise. A very simple recommendation for this particular installation is to add elements that can help absorb sound such as, carpeted areas, attractive acoustical wall panels, draperies, and upholstered booths and chairs. For this particular restaurant, they chose to add acoustical banners up in the ceiling to hang from the trusses. This very simple solution has aided in absorbing the excess noise while adding another design element to the space.