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The Unheard Element: Unlocking the Significance of Sound Design in Interior Spaces

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

© Astoria Senior Living Residence / Drake + Khan Design

Sound design in interiors is a crucial element that can greatly enhance both the functionality and aesthetics of a space. Whether in a hotel, restaurant, office, or multi-residential setting, the influence of acoustics is undeniable; acting as a powerful tool that shapes one's overall experience.

What is Sound Design?

© Impact Acoustic / Zurich Airport

Sound design is the deliberate and thoughtful manipulation of elements within a space to create a harmonious and engaging auditory environment. It encompasses the careful selection of materials, architectural details, and technology to both enhance functionality and elevate aesthetics. Sound design aims to optimize acoustics, minimize noise pollution, and establish an atmosphere that resonates with the intended purpose of the space. Whether in a bustling office, a tranquil hotel lobby, or a cozy residential living room, sound design plays a pivotal role in shaping one's overall impression of the space. By seamlessly blending functionality and aesthetics, sound design not only ensures a space is acoustically comfortable and efficient but also emotionally appealing, leaving a lasting impression on its occupants or visitors.

Hospitality Design:

© Virgin Hotels, Chicago / Studio Des Iles / Pineapple Audio

In hospitality design, sound design serves several functional purposes:

Noise Control: One of the primary requirements in hotels and restaurants is noise control. Excessive noise can be disruptive to guests and diners, leading to discomfort and negative reviews. One such example is The Four Seasons Hotel in Kyoto, Japan. Designed by Kokai Studios, the hotel's Brasserie places a strong emphasis on creating a serene and tranquil dining atmosphere for its guests. To ensure a peaceful dining experience, the hotel's restaurant spaces have been thoughtfully designed with sound-absorbing materials. Soft, textured wall panels and ceiling treatments made from sound-absorbing materials such as acoustic fabrics and perforated woodwork help to dampen unwanted noise, creating a calm and intimate ambiance. This careful attention to acoustics allows diners to savor their meals in a peaceful environment, free from the disturbances of external noise, and adds to the overall sensory experience that the Four Seasons is renowned for. Whether enjoying traditional Japanese cuisine or international delicacies, guests can relish their meals in an oasis of tranquility amid the vibrant city of Kyoto.

© Ametsa with Arzak, London / Ab Rogers Design

Privacy: In upscale restaurants, private dining areas are common. Effective sound design ensures that conversations remain confidential and intimate, adding to the overall guest experience.

Sound design also contributes to the aesthetics in the hospitality sector:

Ambiance: The choice of background music or soundscapes can set the desired mood. For instance, a high-end steakhouse might opt for soft jazz to create a sophisticated atmosphere, while a beachfront resort could use natural sounds like ocean waves to establish a relaxed vibe.

© The Fat Duck, England / Bates Smart

Branding: Sound can be an integral part of branding. Iconic restaurants like Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck incorporate unique sounds and music that align with their brand identity.

Office Design

In office design, sound plays a significant role in addressing functional requirements:

© Image Credit : Unika Vaev

Productivity: Open-plan offices are prevalent, but they can be noisy. Sound design solutions, such as acoustic panels and sound masking systems, help reduce distractions and improve productivity. Renowned for their commitment to fostering productive work environments, Google's offices are renowned for using sound management to achieve this goal. Within these innovative workspaces, sound-absorbing materials and the strategic use of white noise are integral components. Carefully chosen materials, such as acoustic panels and fabric-covered surfaces, are strategically placed to minimize sound reflection and absorption, effectively reducing distractions and creating a quieter atmosphere. In addition, white noise systems are employed to further mask unwanted sounds, providing a consistent background hum that helps employees focus. This thoughtful combination of sound-absorbing materials and white noise contributes to the creation of highly productive workspaces where Google's talented teams can ideate, collaborate, and innovate with minimal disruptions, ultimately enhancing the company's renowned culture of creativity and productivity.

Collaboration: Office environments often require spaces for collaboration. Sound design can create acoustically comfortable meeting rooms that enable effective communication without disturbing others.

Sound design also contributes to the aesthetics of office spaces:

Brand Identity: Innovative tech companies may incorporate futuristic soundscapes in their lobbies to reflect their brand's forward-thinking nature.

Employee Well-being: Modern office design emphasizes employee well-being. The incorporation of soothing sounds or biophilic elements like water features can create a more pleasant work environment.

Multi-Residential Design

In multi-residential design, sound design focuses on ensuring residents' comfort and privacy:

Noise Isolation: Effective soundproofing between units is critical to prevent noise transfer. For instance, luxury apartment buildings often invest in double-wall constructions and acoustic insulation to ensure residents enjoy a quiet living environment.

© Union Carbide Condos, Kansas / El Dorado Architects

Shared Spaces: Multi-residential complexes often feature shared amenities like gyms and lounges. Sound design ensures that these spaces can be used without disturbing neighbors.

Sound design can also be employed for aesthetic purposes:

Atmosphere: The choice of background sounds in shared spaces like lobbies can create a welcoming atmosphere and enhance the overall appeal of the building.

© Woven Image / Array Collection

Unique Features: Some high-end residential projects incorporate unique soundscapes or installations as a point of distinction and luxury.


In summary, sound design is an integral part of interior design across various sectors, serving both functional and aesthetic purposes. By carefully considering sound in interior environments, Designers, Architects, and Builders alike can create spaces that are not only visually appealing but also comfortable, functional, and emotionally engaging, ultimately enhancing the overall experience for users and guests.

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