Renovation & Design

Keep it down: acoustic panels absorb sound


Dear Debbie: Our house is filled with music lovers. Unfortunately, we do not all love the same music. Is there a way of decorating that would lower the sound level without the room looking like a padded cell? Dan

Dear Dan: Your challenge rings true with many of us, especially with teenagers in the home. Music plays such an important role in our lives, but what is soothing or meditative or energizing for some can be sheer torture for others. While the dichotomy in taste exists, separate listening rooms will help, and some form of sound absorption will save the day. Long-term use of earphones can be harmful when the volume is turned up high, so let's do what we can inside the room itself.

The object is to inhibit the sound from bouncing around off the hard surfaces -- walls, ceiling, floor and even furniture. Fabric is a great sound absorber, so start by hanging curtains, choose some upholstered furniture and cushions or pillows, and a carpet. Bedding works well, too. If there are two opposing walls, an echo is set up and this is a perfect situation for installing acoustic sound panels. One panel is often enough. Digital Print Specialties created the acoustic panel for this young musician's bedroom wall. The panel is made from 100 per cent thermally bonded polyester fibre, which is 80 per cent recycled fibre and contains no VOC. Panels are covered with acoustically transparent fabrics, which allows the sound to get through to the sound-absorption panel. Images can come from anywhere and are heat-fused into the fabric's fibres. Eco-friendly aqueous based paints provide high colour resolution and the finished product is durable and washable.

The goal is to corral the sound rather than deaden it, so start with these easy steps and you will be pleased with the results. And check out to view personalized tiles, glass, wall coverings and fabrics with your choice of imagery and texture.

Dear Debbie: I have a small office space about 2.4 metres by 2.1 metres (8' x 7') with a low ceiling. My U-shaped desk pretty much fills the room. The light in the room is inadequate for working. Do you have any suggestions about how I can create proper lighting without elevating the heat in the room? Thanks for your help. Jean

Dear Jean: Proper lighting and a good desk chair are key to a healthy work space. You do not say if there is a light source other than a desk lamp. It would be helpful if you had some overhead light to brighten the room. Ambient light will make books, notes and resource material easier to find. You can get a similar effect with a wall sconce that plugs into your desk outlet. To keep the heat down choose LED bulbs for your sconce and desk light. LEDs are environmentally practical -- they burn cool, use very little energy and last a lifetime. Brighten the space by painting the walls and ceiling a pale colour, doesn't have to be white, choose something that makes you feel good such as the palest green, blue or cream. Light bounces off a higher sheen, so go with a satin, rather than matte, finish. Add some colour energy with a small area carpet and a picture on the wall that makes your smile.

Debbie Travis' House to Home column is produced by Debbie Travis and Barbara Dingle. Please email your questions to You can follow Debbie on Twitter at, and visit Debbie's new website,


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