The Hard and Soft of It: Hardening of Homes in North America

At some point in the 1970s or 1980s, there came a grandiose design scheme called “open concept”.  This truly changed the way our homes functioned.  The open concept designer trends became wildly popular – and yet not a single consideration was made for the acoustical sacrifice that comes along with these aesthetic changes.  



Ponder this quote: “When we come home, it’s supposed to be our sanctuary.  What’s happened is, we’ve gone on this amazing technological revolution where everything around us is technology but often the compromise in the design is that the sound hasn’t been considered, so you’ve got this massive orchestra at home.” 
My recently passed father-in-law, John, certainly felt the effects of this acoustical "orchestra" while living in our home.  When my daughter would serve meals on our quartz kitchen island, John would cringe at the sound of the dishware clanking on the hard surface.  Switching to a more sound-absorbent countertop surface would have made a world of difference for him.  His sound-sensitive ears were further affected by the presence of hard surfaces and fixtures throughout our home which created, in his eyes, one large acoustical nightmare.  Ultimately, we decided to make a change to promote a more peaceful home environment.
We began our renovation by tackling the great room.  We covered our hardwood floors with carpet.  We replaced our leather furniture with fabric furniture.  We removed our wood blinds and replaced them with cloth blinds.  We insisted on only placing canvas-wrapped art.  In considering our desire for a quieter home, the acoustical factor of our re-design truly did influence our decisions.  

Post-renovation, we received comments on how tranquil our home environment has become.  The truth of the matter is, we have softened our home.  We have removed every ode to modern-day “hard” design aesthetics and transformed our home into our own place of solitude.
In addition, I believe the kitchen is one of the most important spaces that desperately needs to function properly.  As one of the most frequently used horizontal surfaces in the home, the kitchen countertop should be designed to be functional.  Does the function and attributes of a hard, shiny countertop surface make an impact on the eyes and ears?  Absolutely.  Would a seamless, integrated work surface – such as DuPont™ Corian® - reduce visual and acoustical strain?  Without question. Surfaces such as Corian® have the capability to truly transform the acoustics of a room. 
When it’s all said and done, the design community is, at large, continuing to place their focus on the “wow-factor” designs that are found on TV and in magazines.  If we can simply begin to speak about “softer” design aesthetics and ask each homeowner if these factors are important to them, we can stop the unnecessary “hardening of the homes” in North America.
This floor-to-ceiling wall art functions
beautifully as a large acoustical panel.

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