Holllaaadiiiiooooo! We don't always get the feeling of great freedom and wonderful mountain air when we hear an echo.... exactly when our own step echoes at home or when we hear the newsreader twice on the television. Worse still, when we have invited friends to dinner and nobody understands the other, because the voices overlap and reverberate.
What is romantic and even useful in the mountains is not desired for interiors. Room acoustics are crucial for our well-being and stress level. If we want to make ourselves comfortable in our home and relax, or if we want to work in a concentrated office, even a quiet echo can disturb the atmosphere.
This applies to private living areas, offices, kindergartens, classrooms and all rooms in which we want to and must stay.
Often you don't even notice the reason why you feel comfortable in one environment and don't feel good in another place, however beautiful it may be. Sometimes I also have to listen carefully to realize that it's the extended reverberation time that makes a beautifully designed living room so uncomfortable.
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM - THIS ECHO?
Echo is created by all smooth surfaces that reflect the sound waves of our own sounds, speech, and ambient noise. The more so-called sound-reflecting surfaces are present in the room, the more echo is created and the more unpleasant we feel the surroundings. Acoustically hard are large glass surfaces, painted surfaces, tabletops, stone and wooden floors, smooth walls and ceilings.
Absorbent surfaces, on the other hand, such as textiles, soft fabrics or rough surfaces absorb, disperse and absorb sound waves, thereby reducing the reverberation time - the echo.
To let the expert out: the reverberation time is the period of time in which the sound pressure level of a sound event in a room has decreased by 60 dB, i.e. to the thousandth part of the initial sound pressure level. The acoustic quality of a room in terms of speech intelligibility is referred to as audibility. The aim is, therefore, to improve audibility wherever possible.
LESS REVERBERATION = BETTER AUDIBILITY!
But how can you slow down the echo? What to do if it is still reverberant, even though all the furniture is already in the room and everything is ready? After all, you don't want to decorate the walls with egg cartons.
Fortunately, there are small and large measures that are very effective and also look great.
1. CARPET & CARPETING
Anyone who lays carpet over an entire room has already won. The impact sound is then as good as switched off. A large carpet surface is also a very good sound absorber for spoken sound. The higher the pile of the carpet, the more muffled it sounds in the room.
In most luxury hotels you will, therefore, find extremely high pile carpets and rugs in corridors, restaurants, lounges and rooms, because you don't just walk on them like on a soft cloud, but the sounds are dampened well.
Many manufacturers offer extremely robust and hard-wearing carpets and rugs with a high pile. The new generation of contract carpets is even so beautiful that you want them at home.
On smooth floors, single smaller carpets often do more than you think! Even if only a 5 sqm carpet underlines the sofa or a narrow carpet accompanies a sideboard: you will immediately hear the difference.
I was quite surprised how uncomfortable it became with us when our carpet was for one week in the special cleaning. Apart from the fact that the room looked unexpectedly much smaller without this carpet, I heard it reverberate everywhere.
2. OPEN SHELVES
Anyone who is as tidy as I am, would like to have all open compartments with doors and flaps... From the point of view of room acoustics, however, it is even better to leave the compartments open and display the books and lovable & useful things.
3. CURTAINS & WINDOW DECORATIONS
The classic for better room acoustics is, of course, a curtain. Of course, there are interiors where you can't even imagine a "fabric" window decoration. But there's also something for the cool locations: great laser-cut textiles also complement a stricter interior and still create a very good echo brake.
Even simple roller blinds with sound-absorbing fabrics can be very effective against excessively long reverberation times.
4. FURNITURE COVERS
I only say velvet, velvet, velvet. The soft and hard-wearing fabric is currently experiencing its big comeback and is also perfectly suited as upholstery fabric and sound absorber.
The velvet comes in great new colours and I would love to use it to cover our sofa as well...
5. PILLOWS & PLAIDS
Anyone who has upholstered their seating furniture in leather or has rather smooth upholstery fabrics at home can use cushions and plaids to echo the echo on their backs.
A nice contrast to smooth covers is fur cushions or pillows and plaids made of soft fabrics. They are more room-acoustic than you might think.
A great mobile solution for more cosiness and better audibility is a screen made of special sound-absorbing materials or a structured surface. Such a screen simply moves with you - perhaps as a privacy screen on the balcony or in the garden. And it also cuts a fine figure.
7. UNDERSIDES OF THE TABLE TOPS
Anyone who thinks that the echo only crosses the table at the top is wrong. Especially the underside of the smooth table tops is a good reflective surface. If a thin, highly sound-absorbing plate is attached from below, the table's appearance is retained and the room sound is noticeably attenuated.
This is a suitable and highly effective measure, especially for offices and schools.
8. LUMINAIRES & CHANDELIERS
Not only are modern chandeliers back in vogue - but they can also conjure up a sense of cosiness in terms of sound technology. The chandelier arms and fabric shades reduce the echo in a chic way.
Recently there are even chic lamps with a special, sound-absorbing shade! Like the Silenzio 90 pendant lamp by designer Monica Armani, designed for manufacturer Luceplan, and the Under the Bell pendant lamp by Muuto (see below).
9. CABINET DOORS & FURNITURE SURFACES
The new super-thin materials can also be used to retrofit existing cabinet fronts and furniture surfaces. There are ready-made, structured panels that have a very sound-absorbing effect and also conjure up a unique look.
These claddings can be used for living areas, offices and schools. But because the surfaces and patterns are so well done, they are also suitable for private rooms. I like to use them as a style element - a complete cabinet front with appropriate lighting has a great effect.
It can also be used to renovate older cabinets that would otherwise have required new surfaces. I simply stuck a chic high pile carpet on our old wardrobe. Thus the somewhat scratched doors got a new optics and besides, it is not so reverberant any more in the entrance area...
USM also offers acoustic panels for the furniture system. The perforated fronts, sides and rear panels in the desired lacquered surface can be optionally inserted - even retrospectively. They have a fleece backing, are absolutely inconspicuous and help absorb sound.
10. WALL PANELS
With these patterns and shapes, one would like to design a new wall immediately - instead of wallpaper sometimes a wall relief ..... The Greenwood panels from real plants and moss from Freund, which have been conserved in a natural way, are really great.
One of my favourites is the artistic textile creations of Anne Kyyro Quinn. Far too beautiful are these wonderful textile-works-of-art to be used only as echo-killers...
The acoustically effective panels are easy to install anywhere. They are ideal for meeting rooms, kindergartens, doctor's surgeries and anywhere where the audibility needs to be improved.
11. ART FROM ACOUSTIC PANELS
It doesn't always have to be the whole wall - the absorber plates and fabric elements can be cut to the desired size and thus become objects of art.
The wall panels become fabric pictures with different motifs. Company logos can also be printed on the sound absorbers as desired. I have even planned such elements as the headboard of my bed.
12. CEILING PANELS
The new ceiling panels have nothing at all to do with the old retro-cream-white plates of the past, which are littered with holes of different sizes... A lot has happened.
Acoustically effective materials now look so stylish and they come in unexpectedly attractive surfaces. They become a real eye-catcher and sometimes even art.
In many public spaces, appropriate ceiling panels are usually installed during construction to absorb sound. However, individual ceiling panels can also be retrofitted and integrated into the interior design.
With so many beautiful design possibilities for a pleasant and subdued atmosphere, we prefer to leave the yodels and their echoes behind in the mountains, don't we?