Ask Jennifer Adams: How to reduce echoes in your home

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Bare walls and floors of stone or wood are all sound reflectors. To stop echoes, you need to absorb the sound.

Q: My boyfriend and I recently moved into a brand-new two-story house with high ceilings and wood floors. It’s a big house, with plenty of room to start our family. The downside is  echoes. Music plays louder, our dogs’ barking is loud, and the coffee grinder and my boyfriend’s blender in the morning are so loud I can hear them from the bedroom.  Is there some soundproofing or something we can do to fix this?

A:  Congratulations on your new house. Sounds like you will be there for a while, with a family on the way. And you deserve to have the “now” house of your dreams — one without echoes.

Echoes are a common problem, especially when you move into a larger home.  I’ve experienced this, both in my own homes as well as those of my clients. I’m going to guess you don’t quite have enough furniture to fill the place yet, and your beautiful high ceilings and wood floors aren’t helping. Sound travels like a cue ball on a pool table, bouncing around, reflecting off all those smooth, hard surfaces, angles, and tall ceilings.

It’s not really about soundproofing or sound insulation. Bare walls and floors of stone or wood are all sound reflectors. To stop the echoes, you need to absorb the sound. Carpeting works well, but for a variety of reasons, I prefer wood or stone floors. Area rugs and additional furniture with lots of textural fabrics will help by absorbing sound. Bookcases filled with books and decorative art pieces also help absorb sound.

Add lots of throw pillows with nubby fabric and luxurious throw blankets on your sofa and chairs, rug pads under your area rugs, tablecloths on your wood tables, and accessories on your coffee and end tables. In the bedroom, add plenty of comforters and pillows. In bathrooms, choose the fluffiest towels you can find, and washable area rugs. And put artwork on the walls.

If all that doesn’t  eliminate the echoes, shop for acoustic soundproofing foam and tuck it inside large baskets or ceramic urns, behind houseplants, and hidden above tall cabinets, such as freestanding armoires and bookcases.

Look for opportunities to choose an upholstered piece of furniture over a hard-finished one, and soft, round shapes over hard corners. A good example would be a Moroccan leather pouf over a stool made of metal or wood, or upholstered dining chairs instead of wood.

Have a design dilemma? Jennifer Adams is an award-winning designer, writer and TV personality. Send your questions to AskJennifer@JenniferAdams.com or on Twitter: @JenniferAdams. For more design ideas, visit Jennifer’s blog on her website at www.jenniferadams.com.