Hotel Lobby Acoustics Checklist

Acoustic physics is not a simple science. But for hotels, public buildings, special event venues, and even offices, it is crucial to be able to control noise levels to the extent that visitors feel comfortable.

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Restaurants and expansive hotel lobbies can be often be very noisy when there’s a crowd, and individual voices are overly amplified if there is no background noise.

In a nightclub, lively background babble might be desirable, making a space feel inviting and full of energy. In a formal dining room, however, noise from the kitchen and overheard conversations are not in the least pleasant.

In a hotel lobby, there is a need to maintain privacy and confidentiality at the check-in desk, as well as the expectation of quiet conversations in other areas. It is vital to control ambient noise levels and create a warm, welcoming vibe. What follows are a few guidelines to keep in mind when designing for open areas like hotel lobbies, so that your guests and visitors are given as warm (and acoustically sound) welcome as possible.

Hotel Lobby Acoustic Design Principles 101

1. Think acoustics first – not last.  Proper sound control not only reduces unwanted sound transmission, but also improves sound quality. It should not be an afterthought, and modern sound control can be aesthetically pleasing as well.

A pleasant hotel guest experience relies heavily on you, the designer or architect, to incorporate acoustic planning into your early design discussions. If you don’t have the requisite knowledge yourself, work with a specialty consultant.

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2. Calculate the effect of various lobby sounds – these include crowd and traffic noises, doors opening and closing, and group conversations. Concentrate your sound control efforts in the particular areas where they are needed:

  • Lower the ceiling over the reservation desk and check-in counter.
  • Create a calm and quiet “oasis” by wrapping the walls in acoustic covering or panels.
  • Use an acoustic underlayment throughout a space with tile or wood floors.
  • Mitigate the effects of ringing telephones and elevator bells, even the buzz of people talking in the bar with acoustic panels, artwork, carpet, and upholstered seating.

3. Break up a large expanse with a coffered ceiling – varying heights will help to break up sound waves. Add baffles or “wings,” as well as curved sections. Add a barrel vault for unique decor as well as sound control. The goal is to deflect those sound waves and prevent echoes that occur in large, high-ceilinged space.

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Design by: VERDEGO DESIGN, LLC | Photography by: Augusta Quirk Photography

4. Install absorptive panels on a flat ceiling. Sheathe the ceiling with cork or bamboo; float panels of carpet or textured fabric in some areas; use banners or absorbent sheets hung vertically from the ceiling. Add stylish lighted sections to distinguish various functional areas below

5. Use sound-absorptive materials vs too many hard surfaces. Although any fabric is better than hard, slick surfaces, wool will absorb more noise than silk. Soft and thick is generally better than thin.

Recycled PET (plastic) is extremely effective, and is used for sound-suppressing panels that can attach to walls or serve as modular divider walls. Other materials commonly in use include fiberglass, foam and cotton.

Natural cork and sustainable bamboo are both naturally sound absorptive.

6. Break up floor areas with different surfaces. Take a page from airport terminal planning books: visually designate traffic lanes and service areas with hard flooring, substituting softer carpet in seating areas and lounges. Consider repeating the “pattern” on the ceiling as visual signage to direct traffic.

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7. Remember that the wall surface represents the largest square footage of any room. Use sound-absorbing panels on at least 10 to 20 percent of the space. It can be artistic, colorful and textural. Freestanding acoustic partitions are a good way to break up space, add a novel touch, and address the “football field” feel of overly-large spaces.

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8. Incorporate textures and fabric freely to “soak up” some of the noise. Use fabric art rather than mirrors and framed pieces with large areas of glass. Design wall niches to hold art and sculpture instead of allowing long expanses of wall on the same plane. Break up soaring expanses of window glass, no matter how spectacular the view, with columns, drapery panels or hanging decorative banners.

9. Get creative: Employ noise reduction panels or sound-absorbing materials as veneer at registration counters, near elevator banks, and along long hallways. Carpet the floors where possible; it will work wonders, both for interest and for quiet.

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10. Consider modern “sound masking” or white noise systems. As counterintuitive as it might seem, the background “hubbub” can be soothing rather than distracting. It also helps people feel secure when sharing information at the desk or engaging in one-on-one conversation.

11. Don’t forget to check the NRC — Noise Reduction Coefficient — of materials you consider using. Rated between 0 and 1, a higher rating means that more sound is absorbed rather than being reflected back out into the room as noise. Look for ratings between .25 and .85.

12. Use sound isolation principles to create conversation nooks: this is a perfect way to use movable sound-insulated partitions. Reading Rooms and child-friendly areas might have plush carpeting, upholstered walls, visually stimulating but sound-absorbing screening, and a dropped ceiling. Soundproofing is especially important in a business center where both visual and audio distractions must be minimized.

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13. Eco-friendly materials are in. Opt for low-impact, sustainable, and energy-efficient products whenever possible. The materials are readily available – many of the newer synthetics and recycled raw materials are LEED-certified. Remember the principles: soft to the touch, textured, with lots of small surfaces.

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Designer: SpectorGroup

14. Tailor your solutions to the clientele. A boutique hotel in South Beach might warrant a somewhat louder, livelier ambience than an inn in a resort location frequented by seniors. But you’ll still want to stifle those echoes! Remember that there are many choices in addition to traditional carpet, upholstery, and drapes. New age materials, even for ceilings, meet acoustic goals with great style.

15. Finally, employ similar sound-dampening methods not only in the lobby, but throughout the hotel: in restaurants and lounges, workout rooms and work centers, hallways and guest bedrooms. All you’ll hear will be the compliments and the approvals.

Sound principles (pun intended) are employed to tailor noise levels to specific needs; there are many modern ways to do just that.

Keep It Calm in Style

The science of sound control has advanced greatly over the years, but scientists today cannot say for sure whether the perfect acoustics at the site were by design or just a happy accident.

The science has, however, been able to explain how it works. Today it’s possible to select and specify the materials that effectively suppress low-frequency noise and improve audibility of higher-pitch human voices.




7 Restaurants with Great Acoustic Design

Your restaurant can be beautiful, with sleek decor, alluring smells great service and amazing food, but if guests are assaulted by a wall of noise they can be turned off, or worse, turned away.

The 2014 Zagat Boston Restaurants Survey found restaurant noise level to be the number-one irritant about dining out, more irksome than service and price, according to online survey results. Over 70 percent of those surveyed avoid restaurants that are too loud.

Complaints about restaurant noise levels are one of the top comments on popular online review sites. People no longer frequent certain restaurants because they can’t enjoy their time with friends and family members. Whether they find themselves shouting to be heard during their table conversations, or are the unwitting audience in other people’s conversations, acoustical balance matters.

Finding that perfect balance has forced designers and restaurant owners to find unique architectural solutions for their dining areas. Here are 7 restaurants who are tackling the acoustic problem head on.


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At the Oliveto in Oakland, California, olive tree photogaphs adorn the walls, suggesting a comfortable, European-inspired atmosphere. The restaurant owners experienced an acoustical hurdle: they wanted to control the sound level at all times, no matter how many customers were seated at tables. During an overall renovation, the restaurant owners found a solution. They placed absorbent tiles to the ceiling to create a passive acoustic system. Acoustic image panels were installed, consisting of an iPad-controlled sound system. Multiple settings allow the restaurant to sound more lively during low occupancy shifts, and turn down sound levels when the restaurant is filled with guests.

COV Wayzata


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Restaurants with an open design, while stylish, can cause problems with competing noise, especially if the restaurant also features a bar and open kitchen. This was one of the issues facing COV Wayzata in Minnesota. So they tackled this problem from various angles. First, they raised the ceiling. The restaurant combined acoustic panels along with wooden slats to absorb as well as disperse the sound. They left the kitchen and bar areas as-is with an open design plan to use the sound generated in those spaces, creating a white noise in the room and balancing the distribution of sound activity.

Gage Lounge

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The Gage Lounge in Houston, Texas features high industrial ceilings with modern furniture and accents. This large open space, while perfect for socializing and live events, proved to be very loud. Sound is an important factor in setting the mood at Gage, so EchoPanel Simple Baffles were installed over the bar to help cancel out some of the noise for servers, but allow the rest of the lounge to enjoy the atmosphere at full volume.

Bistro Boudin


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The Fisherman’s Wharf in California combines ultimate dining in San Francisco with West Coast tradition – and great sourdough bread! The views of Alcatraz are breathtaking here, yet the noise levels in the main restaurant were less desirable. To deal with the amount of noise bouncing off the ceiling from guests, they took a different approach and changed the floor. The restaurant added a metal deck with sound absorbing properties, which allowed them to control the acoustic levels in the space.


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Offering glitz and a hip atmosphere, the Hakkasan offers Cantonese cuisine in a relaxing environment. The restaurant’s kitchen is featured at the forefront of the space, giving diners the feeling that their food is always hot, fresh, and carefully prepared. This poses an acoustical issue, with competing noise of the pots, pans, and kitchen staff echoing into the other spaces. To tackle this reverberation issue, the Hakkasan restaurant placed in sound-absorbing duct liner boards into the ceiling.


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The Comal in Berkeley, California provides modern interpretations of Mexican cuisine in the artistic district in East Bay. The welcoming, industrial atmosphere features wooden walls and concrete in a large open space. The height of the space and materials used caused acoustical problems, as the concrete has a reflective surface for sound that, making the space sound louder. They turned to using acoustical sound equipment to help layer music over the conversational noise, creating a better sound level in the space.

Boba Latte


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The Boba Latte, a hot spot in Richardson, Texas had a problem controlling noise in a space predisposed to echoing. With a minimalistic, white-on-white design they needed a space that could support casual conversations, but also quiet enough to allow customers to relax and enjoy their time. Vee tiles from Kirei’s EchoPanel Acoustics collection were installed to an entire wall, transforming it from a usual white wall to a dramatic accent that doubled as a sound absorber.

It has long been a role of the design industry to come up with creative, but efficient, solutions to create the kind of restaurant experience people want to spend money on.

Finding acoustic balance in a busy environment like a restaurant is certainly a challenge, but we’re excited to see the kind of design that takes acoustics into consideration. You can check out a few of our other blogs on acoustic design solutions, in a variety of places, by clicking below:

Office Acoustics: The Definitive Guide to Addressing Workplace Noise Issues

23 Decorative Acoustic Ideas


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10 Hotels from Around the World Using Natural Products

1. Hotel Indigo, Sarasota, Florida

Hotel Indigo, located in Sarasota, Florida offers guests a comfortable oasis near the beach. The light, breezy design provides a calm atmosphere and “natural welcome.” The coconut shell mosaic tiles made from reclaimed coconut shells accent the coastal beach surroundings of the hotel. It is the perfect place for a peaceful, beach getaway.

Hotel Indigo

Image from Hotel Indigo, Sarasota


2. Maya Boutique Hotel, Valais, Switzerland

The Maya Boutique Hotel, made of straw, is located in the heart of the Swiss Alps, surrounded by breathtaking views. This self-sufficient hotel puts guests at one with nature in a place of natural solitude and peace. “The Maya Boutique Hotel is a eulogy to respect and protect our precious nature, through the low impact it has in its breathtaking environment.” Complete with solar panels and a wood oven, the Maya Boutique Hotel provides a relaxed environment for guests to relax and renew.

Maya Boutique Hotel

Image from Maya Boutique Hotel


3. Kokopelli’s Cave, Farmington, New Mexico

Kokopelli’s Cave might just be one of the most unusual bed and breakfasts ever. This peculiar B&B overlooking the La Plata river is actually built into the Tertiary Ojo Alamo sandstone in New Mexico. The cave offers a beautiful view of sunset over the river and the four states that make up the four corners: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. Kokopelli’s Cave is the perfect place for a unique, very down-to-earth getaway.

Kokopelli’s Cave

Image from Kokopelli’s Cave


4. Ecorkhotel, Evora – Suites and Spa, Evora, Portugal

Ecorkhotel, as its name suggests, is located in an area known for cork forests and is made of cork. Cork acts as a thermic and acoustic isolator, making it energy efficient and bringing guests closer to the nature surrounding the hotel. The Ecorkhotel offers guests a chance to relax and enjoy in its modernly designed building. The light, airy feel of the hotel and soothing ambiance allow guests to rest and unwind.


Image from Ecorkhotel


5. Palacio de Sal, Uyuni, Potosi, Bolivia

The Palacio de Sal is an exotic hotel in Bolivia made entirely of salt. The salt makes up the building itself and nearly everything in the building. Local artisans pack the salt tightly together to create furniture and decor around the hotel. The salt must be replaced fairly regularly, which provides locals with jobs. Salt is very accessible in this area because the hotel is located in the world’s largest salt flat. The salt also purifies the air, improving the environmental impact of the building. The Palacio de Sal is a rare site demanding attention for its innovative use of salt.

Palacio de Sal

Image from Palacio de Sal


6. Hotel de Glace, Quebec, Canada

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec, Canada offers new and returning guests a unique experience each year. Made entirely of ice, the Hotel de Glace is redesigned every year to keep guests coming back for more. The theme for 2017 is The Northern Perspectives, which allows guests to explore the magnificence and splendor of the North Pole.

Hotel de Glace

Image from Hotel de Glace


7. Natur Residence Dolomitenhof, South Tyrol, Italy

This cozy and elegant hotel in South Tyrol, Italy offers guests a comfortable stay in an apartment style room. The hotel boasts a “feel well factor” made possible by natural air distribution, natural building materials, and local wood used to make furniture in the hotel. Staying in the lovely Natur Residence Dolomitenhof is sure to please both visitors and the environment.

Natur Residence Dolomitenhof

Image from Natur Residence Dolomitenhof


8. Bardessono Inn and Spa, Yountville, California

Located in the heart of wine country the Bardessono Inn and Spa is a go-to destination for luxury travelers. Committed to helping guests have a mindful visit, the staff encourage guests to immerse themselves in the “deep green.” Many of the woods throughout the hotel and spa are from salvaged trees. Guests can enjoy the luxuries knowing that no off-site energy is needed to procure them. This inn and spa is truly the perfect California getaway.


Image from Bardessono Inn and Spa


8. Hotel Monte Mulini, Istria, Croatia

Hotel Monte Mulini, which incorporates locally quarried stone into its building, is a great choice for a beach getaway. Guests enjoy serene views while relaxing almost anywhere on site. From the beach and pool area to the spa, there are plenty of choices for relaxation and rejuvenation.

Hotel Monte Mulini

Image from Hotel Monte Mulini


9. I Resort, Nha Trang, Vietnam

The I Resort, which is made of wood, stone, and coconut leaves, offers guests a tranquil place to get away. Settled in scenic Nha Trang, the I Resort is committed to providing a peaceful place for visitors in a natural environment. None of the wooden structures in the hotel have screws or glue, but instead are pieced together by a special kind of joint. Stone from the local quarries makes the spa experience unique to Vietnam. The thatched roof provides shelter from the sun in keeping with the tone of the resort. I Resort is the perfect place for a guests to experience true Vietnamese architecture and design while enjoying being pampered by the staff.

I Resort

Image from I Resort


10. Glen Oaks Big Sur, Big Sur, California

Glen Oaks Big Sur is a gorgeous place for a high-class getaway with an outdoor vibe. Guests will feel like they are camping, but with all of the luxuries of home. The cabin style rooms blend in perfectly with the redwood trees surrounding them. The features in each room, including natural Kirei board in each bathroom, make guests feel as if they are at one with nature. Glen Oaks Big Sur is the perfect place for outdoor-loving travelers.

Glen Oaks Big Sur

Image by James Hall Photography


Hotel Interior Design Trends

Hotel guests now demand the ultimate, personalized experience, and the state of hospitality design both encourages and reflects this desire. To that end, hotel interior design trends are changing, moving away from cookie cutter designs and opulent surroundings to high-tech, green, innovative boutique-inspired interiors. While some things will never change, hotels will always have lobbies and beds, – you’ll also find that a number of hotels are beginning to change the way these areas are used to better suit their guest’s desires. Green design principles, spa-style bathrooms, modular room design, destination restaurants and lobbies as co-working spaces all are trends transforming hotel design before our eyes, not to mention robot concierges, mobile check in and your phone becoming your key.

Multi-Purpose Lobbies

Hotel Interior Design Trends

Lobbies are no longer just for checking in. Not only are they the first place you see when you enter the hotel, increasingly they are the place where guests are likely to gather and even conduct informal business. For that reason, you’ll now find hotel lobbies that incorporate a number of different uses into one space.

For example, you’ll now find lounge areas just feet away from dedicated work stations, as well as intimate conversation areas where people can chat. These lobbies are well laid out and constructed to minimize sound, so your conversations can stay private and intimate even within a larger, robust, and busy space.

Lots of Green Design

Hotel Interior Design Trends 1

Green interior design is nothing new in the residential sector, but it’s just getting off the ground a far as hotel interior design trends go. Green design means incorporating a number of different sustainable elements into the building’s construction and interiors. Examples may include using bamboo in place of hardwood, maximizing light through larger windows rather than electricity, and installing water conservation appliances in the bathrooms.

Particularly in areas where energy usage is high, green design appeals to guests as it helps to keep hotel bills down, and allows the industry to showcase its environmental side at the same time. Therefore you can expect to see more hotels putting an emphasis on sustainability throughout their rooms, from timers or lights to an increase in plant life for a better quality of air.

Spa-Style Bathrooms


Many people associate hotels with luxury, and this trend isn’t going away any time soon. That’s why so many are now beginning to offer spa-style bathrooms in every suite in place of the standard full bathroom.

The spa-style bathroom includes numerous features to make you feel pampered and relaxed during your stay. These include things such as whirlpool and air bath tubs, massaging body jets in the shower, steam, and wide open spaces that allow you ample room to move around and encourages use by more than one person at a time.

Newer Bedroom Designs


The bedroom is the heart of the hotel industry, and with the way that people use hotels and conduct business their changing, so does the hotel interior design of the bedroom as well. Gone is the standard bed with side table configuration. Instead, hotels are now offering more multi-purpose bedrooms, with conversation areas, work stations, and sofas for relaxing.

Today’s hotel bedroom is more about finding a home away from home than it is simply a place to sleep at night. With this comes a wide range of different amenities all tucked away into the suite. From fully equipped galley kitchens to small lounge areas with flat screen TVs and Wi-Fi, the hotel bedroom is the place to live out your dreams.

Technologically Enhanced


Hotels everywhere are going hi-tech throughout their design. It’s not enough to simply have Wi-Fi available; Smart features are also turning up nearly everywhere. Dim switches, control your room’s temperature, and operate the entertainment center all from a single hub. Work stations and charging stations can be found nearly everywhere in the hotels these days to give you a chance to plug in from anywhere you go.

Texture and Depth


Once upon a time, you could find a number of different patterns and finishes throughout hotels. These patterns may have been rich and luxurious or they may have been sleek and minimalist, but whatever they looked like, they’re being universally overlooked these days for a variety of different textures and materials that can give depth to the design. Pops of bold color, natural materials and fibers, and spaces that invite you to explore with your senses are what’s hot in hotel interior design right now.

Unique Experiences


Hotels want repeat business, and they want you to want to return as well. To that end, there is a lot of emphasis these days on creating repeat business within the hotel industry through unique and personalized designs. Themed bedrooms that encourage you to stay again and again as no two are alike are a big draw for some hotels. In others, pop-ups and modular designs that allow you to change how things are viewed and explored to suit your particular needs are also beginning to attract a lot of attention. Hotels are beginning to seek new ways to find out their guests’ needs, then meet them like never before so this is an experience that you want to repeat – and soon.

Destination Restaurants


While the restaurant attached to the hotel was once there mainly for convenience sake, today’s hotels are turning their restaurants into destinations all their own. By coming up with more unique and creative menu ideas and pushing the envelope of haute cuisine, hotel restaurants begin to attract guests solely for the chance of eating there. To that end, the interior design of the hotel restaurant must match the rest of the hotel. Cutting edge materials, technologies, and lounge areas where people can come and work or relax during their stay can all be expected there.

Local Art


It’s becoming more common for hotels to begin featuring local artists’ work throughout the hotel. This emphasis on supporting the local community, as well as on bringing fresh, undiscovered work to the area gives hotels a unique and different perspective than older hotels full of staid or fussy designs.

Expect to find rooms painted in avant garde designs by local artisans, as well as furniture made by local craftsman, in addition to the more traditional sculpture and framed art you may be expecting.

Super Conference Rooms


With more companies conducting business right inside the hotel, it’s not enough to simply have a conference room; that conference room needs to meet all of the company’s needs. This means a focus on insulating the room from outside sound to create the perfect environment to conduct business, wiring the room for numerous types of technology, and arranging different tables or viewing stations so that businesses can conduct meetings of any kind with ease.

Take a New Look at the Hotel Industry

Hotel interior design trends are continuously changing to keep up with their guests’ needs and demands. To that end, you can expect to see more hotels moving in the direction of providing a unique experience that caters to everyone of your needs – even if you haven’t thought of them yet.

Take a new look at the hotel industry and hotel interiors to find a whole new world of hospitality. You may also find a new destination that you want to retreat to even more than your own living room.