Most Annoying Restaurant Design Trend

Editors' Pick

Open kitchens, wood or cement floors, no tablecloths and unfinished ceilings—the industrial-chic design trend of recent years has created an unfortunate consequence: high-decibel dining. Unlike the more formal days, when restaurants came with carpeting, curtains, padded banquettes and table coverings, these raw surfaces create reverberation, echoes—and difficult conversation. Herb Heiserman, an architect and managing principal at Streetsense, the design, strategy and real estate firm in Bethesda, says that in response, manufacturers and decorators are turning to techniques and materials with better sound absorption, while still keeping up the look. Those include wool felt products for floors, walls and ceilings, and panels made from the fibers of organic basalt, a volcanic rock that absorbs sound and resists moisture. Still, some patrons like the buzz. “People like being around energy,” Heiserman says. “They like being part of a scene.”


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