QUALITY ACOUSTICS: MINIMALIST DESIGN’S BEST FRIEND
Glass walls are in, carpet is out and curtains are sooooo last century. And when was the last time you saw a tablecloth underneath your plate at a restaurant?
Minimalist design and décor may be the trademark of today’s trendiest eateries, but, as any interior designer or architect will tell you, it can play havoc with a venue’s noise levels.
“A simple space with raw materials like wood and concrete can look great, but it will need to have something laid in to it acoustically, otherwise it’s too ‘live’, especially if you add in the noise and movement of people,” says Mark Simpson, director at the architectural and interior design company, Design Office.
He says quality acoustic treatments are minimalist spaces’ best friend.
“If it’s all hard surfaces and there are no acoustic treatments integrated into the design, the space will be so loud, it will just die,” says Paul Kelly, from Paul Kelly Designs
“Everyone’s been in places like that and they are horrible.”
Despite this, acoustic treatments are often one of the first things to be cut from a restaurant’s fit-out or makeover budget.
According to Paul Kelly, it’s because owners can’t always see the economic value of sound absorbing products like acoustic ceiling or wall panels.
“They would rather spend money on kitchen equipment or an expensive sound system,” he says.
“But it’s a false economy: if a venue is too noisy, diners will eat and run, instead of spending that extra money on dessert or an aperitif. “
Kelly says smart operators understand the financial benefits of soundproofing treatments, including the fact that good acoustics will allow more people to fit comfortably into a venue.
Mark Simpson says noise levels – good or bad – can be one of the most memorable things in a restaurant.
“Often when you ask people about their favourite restaurant they name the ones with good acoustics,” he says. “That’s because good acoustics translate into good conversations and a feeling of intimacy.”
One of the restaurants he designed in London had three glass walls.
“We knew it was going to be a nightmare to control the noise reverberation,” he said.
He used ceiling panels with inbuilt perforations – like Knauf's acoustic plasterboard products – to keep a lid on the noise.
“The reason it works is that Knauf products have a high level of perforation on their boards, which means good sound absorption.”
Both designers say restaurateurs need to take into account the fact that it’s more expensive to retrofit acoustics than to install them up front.
It’s also more difficult to integrate changes at a later stage without impacting on the overall design of a place, according to Simpson.
“It can end up looking like an afterthought rather than being an intentional part of the design, and no one wants that.”