Making Sound Decisions

It is strangely satisfying to be served a sandwich on a slab of stone. A chunk of slate. The nature-lover in me rejoices!

Friends were in from out of town and I met them at Blue Dahlia Bistro in Westlake. I did enjoy my egg salad tartine on homemade bread served on a rock, but this is not going to be a post about food. This is a post about the features of designing a room with conversation in mind.

Here is the owner of Blue Dahlia, Amy, who was serving customers alongside a multitude of completely professional waitstaff and a trainee.


You see those brown cushions hanging from the ceiling above Amy’s head? Those baffles are for sound absorption. She said that before those were installed and the art canvases hung, you couldn’t carry on a conversation across the table, because of the noise.

How does this relate to your home? Popcorn ceilings.

Did you know that the main reason popcorn ceilings were invented in the 40’s was because of their sound-absorptive qualities? Because echoes get trapped in the lumps and bumps of the ceiling surface, they don’t get reflected back down to the original source; YOU. The more sound-absorptive surfaces there are in a room, including a lumpy-bumpy ceiling, heavy draperies, upholstered furniture, paintings, books, and shaggy carpets, the more muted is the ambient noise level. And the easier it is to carry on conversation without shouting.

Now, in a restaurant, it is important for patrons to be able to converse with their companions, but it is also important to have enough noise in the room so that eaves-dropping becomes more difficult. Think about how creepy it is to carry on a conversation with your table mates, yet realize that every stranger in the room can hear what you say. Yeah, that’s the environment restauranteurs like to avoid creating.

You have a similar challenge in your own home. Clean lines and hard surfaces are stylish for a variety of reasons, including cleanliness and its close relative, allergy-avoidance, but the homeowner has to solve the problem of overly-live rooms in which echoes prevail, making normal conversation a trial. Also, when you have a party in your home, your guests really don’t want to feel that everyone in the room can hear everything they say at all times, so you want just the right amount of ambient noise to make conversation more private.

Some solutions are using window draperies, embracing upholstery, or at least, lots of sofa cushions, and putting area rugs on the floor. Of course, if you have pets like we do, the area rugs can get dirty quickly, so maybe that’s out of the question for you. We are starting to solve our own domestic echo-chamber problem by planning lots of built-in bookshelves and open cabinets to break up the hard walls into lots of little sound-trapping cubbyholes of space.

I am even starting to see drapery walls come back in bedrooms, if you can believe Pinterest. You know those walls that are hung ceiling-to-floor in a curtain for coziness and elegance? That would make a quiet room, for sure.


View from Westbank Drive

Thanks for the great lunch and the amazing service, Blue Dahlia Bistro, and a big thanks for the lesson in sound planning!


It snowed overnight in Texas! Here is my back yard view at dawn’s early light.

You need me to help you sell your home? I am at 512-970-9121. You have a real estate question? I am at 512-970-9121. Also, if you want my search app for your phone which updates from the local multiple listing service every 12 minutes, you can download it: Lynn’s mobile search app

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