After a busy morning on a classic Hobart summers day, I sat down to feed my baby and in the calmness that was created I heard birds singing outside. Ever since its had me think about the relevance of sound in interior design.
Earlier that morning, my business partner Rebecca and I had been on site to view a stunning renovation (check out our blog www.buryandkirkland.wordpress.com to see for yourself) and were passing comment about the effect of hearing traffic from the street below this beautiful home. The owner commented how quickly she had become used to the hum of traffic and Rebecca remarked that “it gave her a sense of enclosure, being tucked away in a beautiful surrounding safe from the world.”
Donald A Norman, in his book The Design of Everyday Things talks about using sound for visibility. “Sound is used when things can’t be made visible and it provides information available in no other way”. His colleague Bill Gaver points out that “Real, natural sound is as essential as visual information because sound tells us about things we can’t see, and it does so while our eyes are occupied elsewhere. Natural sounds reflect the complex interaction of natural objects: hollow or solid, metal or wood, soft or hard, rough or smooth.”
I’m reminded of someone once telling me cosmetic companies spend enormous sums of money getting the ‘click’ on compact cases just right to ensure that its muted sound reflected the contents inside whilst also providing valuable feedback that the lid is actually closed.
I’ve never been a huge fan of imitation floorboards, (albeit there are some great ones on the market suited to a particular purpose), mostly because the sound belies their authenticity. Real floorboards sound real and echo richly. It’s a natural sound that matches my expectation.
Selection of kitchen benchtops can also be put through the sound filter. I’m attracted to the mellow swish of resin based products such as Corian or Hanex. It feels like the sound of the benchtop in action actually affects the way it looks. Marble, granite or composite stone, which are beautiful and have many appropriate applications, sound more like glass and give the product a hardness that is separate to its appearance.
The same also goes for some furniture items. I would rarely specify a glass topped dining table for family use. Whilst it can have a stunning visual effect and is easy to clean, the clanging noise that can be generated by enthusiastic diners is not conducive to a relaxed dining experience.
And who doesn’t love a soft close toilet seat. Some bright spark observed the hideousness that is the seat lid smashing down on the seat and devised a simple mechanism to transform this sound into something that gently notifies us its job is done.
A solid timber door speaks of strength, quality and natural beauty and we all appreciate the generous ‘clunk’ given when closing it.
I am fortunate enough to be related to artist Jade Oakley whose beautiful mobiles adorn the foyer of the new Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne as well as my baby son’s nursery. The mobile’s soft flutter and kinetic energy add gently to the dynamic of his room.
So it’s worth considering what information is being provided by the sounds of your interior and notice the impact of good design going way beyond our sense of sight.