I Swear I’m Not Eavesdropping.


We often judge a space space in terms of comfort. The visual decor: furniture, artwork, vegetation, lighting, and knick knacks. And like The Dude, we hope that the rug really ties the room together. But there is a whole other component which is equally important that is often overlooked until it’s too late. This is the element of sound.

Have you been in offices where can clearly hear your neighbor speaking? Do you experience sound transmitting through your office walls? Do they seem to vibrate when your neighbor’s patient is talking?

Think of sound as the third dimension; the volumetric experience of a space. Like a concert hall, when within a room, you are inhabiting sound.   Walk into a room with no furniture and you find that it’s hollow, reflective it echoes. Walk into a room that’s completely filled with egg crates on the walls and ceiling, and like a soundstage the sound is dead. To control the sound in your office, consider all surfaces and how you can get them to absorb sound.

There are three primary principles for managing sound: Absorption - Using non-reflective (soft) surfaces to absorb vibrations Refraction - Using angled (non-planar) surfaces to break up vibrations into different directions Cancellation - Using sound to counteract unwanted sound

Sound can be managed or mitigated by smart office design and decor choices. Here are some easily implemented techniques.

The Rug The rug is the first step to absorb sound in a room. It covers a huge flat surface which otherwise will bounce sound. A hardwood floor will allow sound to reflect within a space. A rug with medium piles will have a significant impact on muffling sound in your office.

Your Couch and Arm Chair The material of your furniture can help to manage sound. Leather, while it looks great, is more reflective than soft fabric. If you must go with leather, consider suede, or use throw pillows and decorative blankets over the backs to help absorb sound.

Bookshelves Bookshelves are effective at eating up unwanted sound. Don’t stack it full with books. Instead, use it to showcase plants, knick-knacks, and a few of your favorite books. Arranged them asymmetrically and they will do a wonderful job of refracting sound. This in turn diminishes the sonic impact.

Artwork Artwork on the walls can be an effective way to break up sound waves. Pictures in frames create some variation to the wall surface with refracts sound waves. Consider using paintings with actual canvas or fabric arts, both of which have a higher absorptive quality.

Acoustic Panels Acoustic panels, easily purchased online, are a great option for sound mitigation if you find that your room is very reflective or your walls vibrate with your neighbors conversation. They can be purchased in a variety of colors and shapes, and are easy to install with a caulk gun and liquid nails. Once installed they provide an interesting texture on the wall and will greatly decrease sound transmission.

The Door The door into your office is a primary source of sound. All doors have a gap at the bottom and have small gaps around the frame. Use self adhesive weather stripping at the frame to close the gap with the door. Install a doorsweep at the bottom of the door. If the door itself is hollow or glass, consider asking your landlord to change it to a solid door. It will make a difference.

Air Vents Air vents into you office provide the largest challenge of sound infiltration into your office. You need them, and you can’t block they, otherwise you will impact your heating and cooling. There are some products that can be installed behind the grills to limit the sound transition, but consult with your landlord or HVAC technician first.

Windows Another unavoidable source of sound infiltration are the windows in your office. Consider using some shading device, like a mecho-shade to help absorb sound. Shear curtains will be another effective material to eliminate some sound.

Sound Machines Last but not least, old and tried but true, the sound machine. Regardless of your success with all the other techniques, you will probably still want to utilize a sound machine.

Construction Enquire about the wall construction of your office. At a minimum the walls separating your office from your neighbor’s should be insulated. Even better the sheetrock utilized should be “Quiet-rock”. If you fortunate enough to build you own office suites, or are renting early while they are still under construction, question your options. With some preplanning, you can greatly reduce sound transmission between walls.