Most of interior designers are visualizers, focusing only on visual aspects of their projects. However, it is important to remember that not only the sense of sight, but also the hearing sense has a major impact on how we feel in the interior. Bearing in mind the latter, one can build a profitable design company that focuses on acoustic comfort.
About acoustic comfort in interiors, awareness of this matter among designers, not always fulfilled promises concerning acoustics made by interior design companies, and about the “selling silence” trend, I talk to Paweł Sumiński, the founder of Fluffo brand that offers acoustic panels for residential and office spaces.
TrendNomad.com: What percentage of Polish interior designers do take into account acoustics while choosing furniture and materials for their residential projects?
Paweł Sumiński: Just a small percentage of them do that. Designers specialized in residential projects don’t think that often about acoustic comfort. Their goal is to design an interior that looks good. They usually forget about the sense of hearing.
When one move into a new, an interior-magazine-looking place, soon he or she starts complaining about reverberation. Listening to music or watching television in such place is a torture. There is nothing to muffle sound waves. Echoing sounds disturb householders.
When the project of an interior is finished, an interior designer would not admit that he or she hadn’t thought about acoustics. Usually, irritated private clients must find proper acoustic solutions by themselves. Some of them visit our website and order Fluffo sound absorbing panels. We do what was not done by an interior designer.
At Fluffo, more than 50 percent of orders come from clients with residential spaces designed by interior designers that create acoustic torture chambers.
Do interior designers specialized in office spaces have more knowledge about acoustics?
Yes, definitely. Experienced interior designers usually take acoustic aspects into account right from the beginning of their work. But even here one can make many mistakes. Recently we made a project for a stonemasonry company. All the floors and walls in its new headquarters were covered with a stone, while dividers standing between desks were made of glass. The reverberation was so vexatious, that people couldn’t work in this place.
Keeping offices and public buildings in mind, at the turn of Summer and Fall 2016 we expanded our offer with flame retardant sound absorbing acoustic panels.
At the design fairs, one can notice that more and more furniture companies present their own solutions of how to improve acoustics in an interior. Do they all work the same?
Not every item that is sold as an acoustic solution, can absorb unwanted sounds. Luckily, you don’t have to be a sound expert to be able to recognize empty marketing promises. Distinguishing good and bad acoustic products is quite easy.
If you can blow air into the item and the object absorbs it, then you can be sure that it absorbs noise as well. Otherwise, the item won’t work the way we need.
Items that are sold as acoustics, but made from hard, non-porous materials, e.g. MDF boards, even when are covered with a soft material, won’t absorb the sounds well. Instead, they will bounce them. It’s a waste of money.
What materials do you use to manufacture Fluffo products?
Our acoustic panels designed for residential interiors are made of soft polyurethane foam. Fluffo products dedicated for offices are made of compressed mineral wool. In both cases, raw panels are delivered to us in cut pieces. We cover them with the soft, nice in touch layer of synthetic fiber. We call it Fluffo structure.
Fluffo structure is the same polyamide – so called flock – that we can find in premium class cars, where it is used to cover armrests and glove compartment. While covering flat objects with glue and flock is easy and can be done automatically by machines, covering three-dimensional Fluffo panels is much more difficult and has to be done manually.
There are only a few people in Poland that know exactly how to do this right. We are one of few companies that are able to perfectly cover a three-dimensional foam with the flock. It cost me a lot of time and tears to find the right way of covering three-dimensional objects with the flock.
You did it by yourself?
Yes, completely by myself, with trial and error method. The brand and products are my ideas too. In 2013, just after the start of the company, first panels ordered by clients were produced with my own hands. I was responsible for production, packaging, shipping, marketing, and sales.
Did you also create the color palette?
No. Color palette was created by Agnieszka Kamont. She is an interior designer experienced with dye technics. Her father runs a company that produces plastics. Two years ago she gave us a recipe for powder rose color, as she needed it for one of her clients. She impressed me with her knowledge so I asked her to create the entire Fluffo color palette.
Do acoustic panels cut us from sounds coming from our neighbours?
Wall, floor and desk panels made of foam can turn down noise, improving acoustic comfort in the space, but won’t cut us out from the sounds coming from our surrounding. For an acoustic isolation, we need much more dense and heavy materials than a foam. We don’t have those in our offer. Maybe it will change in the future.
It’s worth mentioning that sounds from our neighbors come not only through the walls but often they use so-called acoustic bridges that are hidden in our ceilings, floors and ventilation ducts. To cut an interior space from all the coming sounds, you would need to cover the entire space with an insulating material. But you should keep in mind that a building needs to breathe.
Semi thick foam is perfect to muffle high and middle tones. In spaces covered with an acoustic foam, you can hear bass sounds over sopranos.
The demand for products that improve acoustics at home will increase. It’s a very strong trend.
In 2013, when I established Fluffo, acoustics wasn’t that popular subject as it is today. I wasn’t sure if my idea will work, but I still wanted to risk. My marketing background and the fact that I like physical work were very helpful.
My initial idea was about soft walls with decorative character. I thought that emotions followed by “hug the wall” slogan will be enough to find clients. But the true is that the expertise about acoustic properties of Fluffo panels done in Acoustic Lab at The Building Research Institute in Warsaw, and positioning Fluffo panels on the market as an acoustic product for interiors determined the success.
Now I hire the team of 10 people. In September, we moved to the new office. The production hall located near Warsaw has over 500 square meters. The previous one had only 120 square meters. Now I can say it loudly: we made it! And more and more people will hear about us.
If you have any questions regarding Fluffo acoustic panels, you can direct them to Paweł Sumiński at email@example.com.
Fluffo was one of the exhibitors at Łódź Design Festival. The 10th edition of the biggest design festival in Poland run in Łódź on Oct. 13th-23rd under the banner of “Identity”. You can find more pictures and videos from this event on my Instagram profile.
Top photography by Grzegorz Sobolewski.
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