Aesthetics in Decorative Acoustic Panel Design: Function Meets Style

From concert halls to classrooms, exceptional acoustics are a top priority in rooms of all sizes and functions. Using the correct materials to amplify, capture, and nullify noise in these spaces can make the difference between crisp and clear audio and inaudible and unintelligible reverberations.

Humans have been using different techniques to manipulate and dampen sound in such spaces for thousands of years. Acoustic paneling, however, didn’t really take shape until the late 1970s when a wedge of sound-absorbing foam was unveiled at the Audio Engineering Society’s annual meetup in New York.1

This first acoustic panel was bland and basic—a far cry from the acoustic panels decorative and dynamic designers are currently producing. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the contemporary state of acoustic paneling aesthetics and outline some key strategies for developing beautiful, soundproof spaces of any size.

The Fusion of Function and Design

While absorbing, blocking, and closing-in sound is the primary concern of any worthwhile acoustic paneling, modern manufacturers care deeply about aesthetics as well. From keeping sound contained in offices to bottling in the bass in your band’s practice garage, there’s a large variety of applications for contemporary soundproofing materials.

Thus, manufacturers have developed a wide range of acoustic wall panels to fit the design and decibel needs of different spaces. Think about:

  • The classic beige dividers of cubicles in large corporate offices
  • The soft black or red foam lining the walls of your favorite live music venue
  • The spongy corkboard spread around the perimeter of elementary classrooms

These are all different kinds of acoustic paneling tailormade for use in various places. The routine beige of cubicles blends seamlessly into the bright, commercial atmosphere of offices. The dark foam in concert halls absorbs both sound and light, keeping the music and dimness in the venue. And, of course, cork boards in classrooms make displaying students’ work a breeze while simultaneously dampening the ruckus they’re bound to create.

Colorful Acoustic Solutions

Color has a profound effect on the way we perceive a room and can alter our moods after only a short time. For instance, cool ocean tones can have a calming effect and help people decompress from stress and anxiety. From most to least effective, colors that have this calming quality are2:

  • Blue
  • Violet
  • Green

Alternatively, warm hues are said to evoke and amplify feelings of anxiety, anger, and stress. These colors, from the least to most distressing, include2:

  • Yellow
  • Orange
  • Red

The varying effects of these different colors is attributed to the ecological valence theory. In essence, the bucolic shades of our world—the baby blue of a calm sky or the grassy green of a rolling meadow—naturally put us at ease. Meanwhile, nature’s more alarming colors—the hot yellow of a blistering sun or the burning red of a roaring fire—tend to make us uncomfortable and on edge.2

Hence, cool colors are more suited for environments where calmness is key—such as kindergartens, hospitals, and government facilities. Alternatively, warm tones work well in more exhilarating settings—like bars, restaurants, and arcades.

Fabric Wrapped Sound Absorbing Ceiling & Wall Panels are a prime example of an adaptable product that can be suited to any number of environments. For classrooms and clinics, Poseidon tints such as Narwhal and Ecosystem can reduce noise while keeping everyone calm and collected. To get the party started, consider wrapping your walls with fabric from the Purpose collection, such as Strive or Desire.

Soundproofing and Acoustics for Every Application. Browse our Collection!

Creative Panel Placement and Design

After deciding on a color scheme for your space, the next question to address is, where to place sound absorbing panels? The most effective answer is everywhere.

Sound within a room is a lot like water inside a fish tank: if you want it to stay in, you have to make sure it’s fully enclosed on all sides. Thus, the more surface area you cover with your acoustic paneling, the more soundproof your room.

Your acoustic goals can also help you determine where to place your paneling. Are you building a recording studio where sound quality is a top priority? You’ll want floor-to-ceiling coverage. If you’re working with an environment where minimal noise transfer is acceptable, such as a school or office, you can be more selective about where to place your acoustical paneling.

Hexagon acoustic panels made from Envirocoustic Wood Wool allow you to cover as much or as little of your surfaces as you need. Their unique design features:

  • A peel-and-stick adhesive that’s a breeze to install on your own
  • Even sides that quickly align for a beautiful interlocking aesthetic
  • The freedom to install around fixtures, such as lights, without having to make custom cuts into larger boards

These tiles are an exceptional choice for enclosing unique, playful spaces such as children’s museums and kindergarten classrooms. In darker tones, however, they’re also elegant and refined enough to cover walls anywhere from corner offices to fine-dining establishments.

Acoustic Artistry: Beyond Traditional Panels

Just like a Da Vinci, Monet, or Picasso, some decorative acoustic panels are just so unique that they’re instantly recognizable. The Curve Low-Profile Diffusor is one such wall panel.

Its one-of-a-kind bowed design melds charmingly with the refined decor of any high-end restaurant, office, or art gallery. With interchangeable wooden trim and a variety of fabric options available, it can be customized to suit any space.

Additionally, the Curve Low-Profile Diffusor can be mounted either vertically or horizontally to fit any surface. Affix it to walls, across ceilings, or around booths to turn heads and dampen sound from 500Hz to a mere 20kHz.

Strategic Sound Absorption: Where to Place Your Panels

If you can’t cover all your walls from floor to ceiling, you’ll need to identify your space’s primary reflection points and focus your acoustical paneling there.

So, how to reduce echo in a large room or area? In concert venues, for instance, you may want to consider covering the walls closest to the stage. In classrooms, on the other hand, you may want to spread paneling evenly along the lower levels of your walls as sound is liable to come from any direction.

If, for some reason, wall space is limited, there’s another, loftier way of diffusing and absorbing sound in a space: baffles. Baffles hang from overhead and mitigate reverberation off of a space’s ceiling. Ceilings are a common cause of unwanted echo as they’re:

  • Generally made of hard materials that reflect, rather than absorb sound
  • Difficult to line with acoustic tiles as they’re hard to reach and can require special fasteners
  • Often overlooked in favor of a space’s more noticeable areas, such as walls, floors, and doors

Hanging baffles presents a savvy sound-absorbing solution for auditoriums, lecture halls, and other large venues. Place them directly above the source of sounds—such as stages or speakers—to maximize their effectiveness. To maximize your space’s style, choose a panel and fabric that complements your color scheme—or go full avant-garde with the Sonowave Acoustic Ceiling Clouds.

Hiding and Integrating Sound Equipment

For spaces that want to optimize their soundproofing potential while maintaining a seamless look, acoustic paneling offers many creative ways to hide speakers and other audio equipment.

Consider boring cubby holes into your walls that are large enough to fit your subwoofer, soundbars, and other speakers. Then, line your walls with fabric acoustic panels that closely match the color and pattern of your speakers’ faces. Once the lights are low, no one will even know they’re there!

Speaking of turning the lights down low, acoustic paneling can also amplify the aesthetics of your light fixtures. Simply box in any hanging bulbs with panels to both dampen their brightness and get the added bonus of extra baffles in your venue.

Making a Statement with Bold Acoustic Designs

Bold acoustic panel design doesn’t just keep unwanted noise locked in—it also tells others about your business, organization, or space. A unique look differentiates your company from others, and there’s no better place to start that differentiation than in the building where you work.

With their dull walls and cut-and-paste furniture, conference rooms have a particularly bland and boring reputation amongst interior design aficionados. Even the New York Times recently took aim at conventional conference rooms, calling them3:

  • Sterile
  • The least loved room in the office
  • Where countless workers have nodded off, shared eye rolls, or sneaked peeks at cellphones held in their laps

Luckily, not every conference room needs to be so sleepy and sensationless. Interesting acoustic panels in bold tones can elevate the atmosphere in conference rooms and animate meetings. The right paneling can be a conversation piece and help keep your company’s trade secrets behind closed doors.

The Envirocoustic™ Wood Wool Panel is refined enough to be the backdrop for even the most serious of meetings. Its engraved surface comes in over 15 designs and numerous colors, so there’s sure to be a combo to fit the aesthetic and intended mood of your office.

Ensuring Longevity: Maintenance and Care for Decorative Panels

In order to keep your panels as visually striking as the day you installed them, routine care and maintenance is a must.

Most fabric or foam panels can be cleaned with a soft brush on the end of a vacuum, but check the particular panels you purchase for their specific cleaning and care instructions. Moisture is the enemy of many materials, acoustic foams and fabrics included, so avoid harsh chemicals and spillage whenever possible and quickly wipe up any panels that get wet.

While you’re at it, make a habit of periodically inspecting your panels for damage. The sooner you catch small holes or tears, the easier it is to repair, rather than replace, panels.

Create Beautiful, Bespoke Soundproofing Solutions with Panels from Acoustical Surfaces

Modern acoustic paneling comes in a range of colors and designs so you never have to sacrifice style for soundproofing capability. Whether you’re after decorative sound deadening panels for a concert hall, conference room, or kindergarten, there are designs available to set the mood and the sound level you’re looking for.

With a wide variety of materials, panel shapes, and colors to choose from, Acoustical Surfaces is your one-stop shop for all things soundproofing. From essential black foam diffusers to intricately detailed and custom-colored wood fiber acoustic panels, our designs run the gamut. Get in contact today so we can help you pick the perfect panel for your aesthetic and acoustic needs.



  1. Pro Sound News. Acoustics Then and Now.
  2. National Library of Medicine. Interior Color and Psychological Functioning in a University Residence Hall.
  3. The New York Times. Say Goodbye to the Boring Conference Room.

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