Some Design Trends Create Noise Pollution in Homes

Smart-home gadgetry and design trends emphasizing openness are leading to more noise disturbances, such as echoes, inside homes. Some homeowners are even hiring “acoustic consultants” to help alleviate the issues.

A common noise-prone living arrangement is an open floor plan with a minimalist design, where more emptiness and fewer items of furniture enable reverberations inside the home. It can make make it difficult for owners to pick up other sounds—including speech—says Bonnie Schnitta, founder of SoundSense, a New York-based acoustic consulting company. Using sound-absorbing fabric in curtains, behind wall hangings, or under rugs can help, she says. Some homeowners may even add sliding doors to separate open spaces and cancel out reverberating noises.

Design experts say the kitchen is a hub for sound issues. Tile countertops and floors, for example, can reflect rather than absorb sound from Wi-Fi–enabled refrigerators and ovens. “Talking and beeping devices, combined with other noise-emitting items like TVs, phones, and iPads, have created a high-tech racket,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

“Homes have suddenly become more ‘live,’” Steve Haas, an acoustic consultant who works in luxury residences, told the Journal. “It emphasizes the need for better control.”

Some luxury homeowners are spending as much as $20,000 per room for an acoustic consultant to evaluate their home and make individualized recommendations for canceling noise inside their homes, including sound-absorbing ceiling plaster, vinyl noise barriers built into walls or ceilings, or noise-reducing ceiling tiles. Noise levels are important to address when creating a peaceful home, says Paul Masi, an architect based in East Hampton, N.Y., who works with acoustic consultants. “When the sound isn’t reverberating or echoing, it gives the sense of a cozier environment,” Masi says.

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