Sounding Off on Loud Restaurant Design

By Stacy Straczynski, Associate Editor

Noise04166x250 Last week, Contract magazine held its annual Interiors Awards dinner at Abe & Arthur’s, a new hip restaurant in the meat packing district of Manhattan. And while the food was great, and the interior design exceptionally swank, the landslide complaint was the noise.

The echoing conversations milled with the music and clatter from the hopping bar downstairs overwhelmed the space so you couldn’t hear what the person next to you was saying! My night was spent yelling into people’s ears to be understood, and my voice was so hoarse the next day that I had to skip out on my usual Friday night rock band lead singer antics and play bass.

While my discomfort with the poor acoustics was echoed by some of the other designers at the event, an article at NYTimes.com today says that we’ll have to get used to the noise—the poor acoustics were most likely designed on purpose.

Get ready everyone: noise is the new black. Many upscale restaurants are now playing with acoustics (high ceilings, hardwood floors, exposed beams, open kitchens, etc.) and incorporating a dose of din into building design. Even luxury, five-star dining establishments are doing away with traditional table cloths, soft carpeting, and curtains to let the sound reverberate more freely.

Noisy-neighbors This irks me to no end. When I go out to eat, whether it’s a top-notch place like the Belmont or a quick-stop at my local diner, I’m going there to not only enjoy a non-microwavable meal, but also to converse with whomever is with me. And with at least 98 percent of my friends and family members now texting each other rather than calling, those moments of human interaction where I get to hear an actual voice seem even more precious.

I don’t see how increased noise could be a boon to restaurants anyway—all it does is frazzle guests and make the dining experience more about trying to hear than about savoring the cuisine. But then again, increased appetite is a direct response to increased stress levels. (Why else would I have been compelled last night to down an entire bag of Chinese fried wontons after my significant other and I had an argument?) Forget cutting edge design—it’s all just a ploy to drive up food bills in a bad economy.

One Comment

  1. No matter how nice the restaurant, if the noise level is high I won't return. Good food, service, ambiance is important, but above all I want a quiet environment, where I can have a pleasant conversation. There is enough stress in life without adding it to dinner. I hope this does not become a trend.

    Cocktails, a quick dinner, noise is fine perhaps even exciting, but for fine dining it should be quiet and relaxed.

    Nancy