How to Soften Your Open Concept Home

Last weekend I attended Professional Day at the first annual DAAX show in Winnipeg, where I was inspired by a presentation from Mike Hetherman, President and CEO of Willis, a North American distributor for world-class building products such as Corian and Zodiaq.

Mike’s an engaging speaker and the themes he touched on really resonated with me, so a few of them may sneak in to the blog over the next while. I want to start by reflecting on some things he said about noise as a major cause of stress in our modern lives, and his personal campaign to start bringing softness into our homes. He encouraged the rest of the industry to get involved, so here I am.

I had an aha moment about the noisy downside of modern living while walking through a show home a few years ago. Standing in the mezzanine den I realized I could hear every word spoken on the level below. Not so private, I thought. Not so relaxing, either.

Noise is a major source of stress, and our homes are part of the problem

Mike and his team looked into the major sources of stress in our lives, and noise is one of the biggies. We’re surrounded by it — traffic sounds and the radio on the way to and from work; loud open concept office spaces that challenge our focus throughout the day; noisy restaurants. When we finally come home, do we find relief? Too often, we’re not.

Our homes, too, are literally humming. Dishwashers, microwaves, washers and dryers, televisions , computers, phones and tablets have become common and useful elements of modern life, but all make some degree of sound.

Combine this with our preference for open concept living areas with soaring cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors, granite counters, and uncovered windows and home becomes a veritable echo chamber that offers no real respite from the constant barrage of noise.

In my experience as a Winnipeg interior decorator and colour consultant, most of us use words like warm, welcoming, soothing, sanctuary, and retreat when asked how we want our homes to feel. Yet in our pursuit of open spaces and hard finishes, we may have inadvertently created homes that are actually the opposite in feeling to what we say we want — and the opposite of what we need for our health and well-being.

The good news is that there are simple things you can do to soften sound to calm and quiet even the most cavernous living space.

Five Simple Ways to Soften Your Open Concept Home

  1. Use a larger area rug. When he began his first softening experiment, he placed a slightly larger than standard area rug under his dining table. Adding an extra foot of rug around the perimeter of the table, made the room noticeably quieter while still leaving plenty of beautiful hardwood visible.
  2. Incorporate softer artwork. In Mike’s case, he added a large fabric-wrapped canvas to his dining room wall. It’s a dramatic focal point that serves double duty by containing sound.
  3. Choose a chandelier with a fabric shade to help absorb sound rising up from the dining table.
  4. Install drapes and other soft window coverings that can help absorb sound from inside and outside of your home. They also help with temperature control, keeping out both heat and cold. Drawing the drapes on a cold winter evening is a great way to make a space feel instantly warmer and cozier.
  5. Embrace soft furnishings — think upholstered dining chairs, cozy fabric sofas and chairs,  toss cushions and knitted throws.

Taking a few simple softening measures in his dining room transformed the noise level in the space, and how Mike’s family and guests felt about using it.

How’s the noise level in your home? Is your open concept home finding the balance, or is it inadvertently contributing to the noise stress in your family’s life?

If you’d like help to turn your home into a beautiful and peaceful retreat with the perfect-for-you balance of classic elements, current trends and harmonious colour, contact us to book a Colour and Decor Consultation.

(Interested in reading more about the impact of noise on our health and well-being? Here’s an interesting article I found on the subject.)

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