The Sound of Mindful Design

Sound as a design aspect is often overlooked, but one of great importance when it comes to our well-being.  In the beginning of being in a place, we easily hear big noises such as traffic, neighbors, televisions, air conditioners, and other sounds of daily living.  When we allow ourselves to settle mindfully in to our space our ears start to pick up on the subtle sounds around us. This is also when we notice what we don’t hear.

Pay attention mindfully to the sounds that you want to add to your outdoor space.

Pay attention mindfully to the sounds that you want to add to your outdoor space.

I’m lucky enough to sit at the lake as I write this.  I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the sounds around me.  I’m noticing many different bird calls and songs from the ones I hear at home. The tall trees are rubbing together in the wind making the sound of a door creaking open.   I love that when I sit on the deck with my morning coffee I can hear the stream down the bank bubble and flow over the rocks. Taking some time to notice what my ears tune into make me realize that the sounds are critical to my ability to relax here.  The big noises I’m used to at home fade away, and these new sounds serve as inspiration for my own backyard living space design. I make note of what sounds I need to incorporate: water, birds, wind.

Listen below.

Listen below.


As a child we had a gravel driveway and I loved the sound it made - it always meant we were home, or company was pulling in.  That crunch of footsteps still echoes in my head when I think back about that house. Those memories led me to add a gravel path through my garden to recreate that sensory experience.  Every evening as I gather herbs, flowers, or veggies I am transported to that place of warmth and family. I am once again five years old with the sun on my face and carefree about life. I didn’t think that one design choice would be as powerful as it has turned out to be.

Crunchy garden gravel path.

Crunchy garden gravel path.

If you live in a city, you may find that the sounds you need are much different.  Perhaps the country is too quiet and you need the sounds of cars and busy lives.  Your love of the sound of tires on wet pavement, the conversations of passersby below your window and the honk of taxis.  These sounds are necessary for you to consider when deciding on a rooftop garden patio, or balcony living area.

Add portable speakers to your outdoor living area.

Add portable speakers to your outdoor living area.


Not all of us have an immediate choice to move to a location with all of our sound needs.  If you are in the market for a new home, make sure it addresses, or has the future ability to add, these sound design elements.  In the meantime, here are a few ideas to incorporate sound into your living space:

Consider adding these sound elements to your outdoor design scape:

  • Windchimes

  • Birdfeeders to attract the birds and their songs

  • A small fountain, bubbler, or other water feature

  • Crunchy walkway gravel or paving pebbles

  • Outdoor speakers for your favorite playlist

To reduce unwanted noise try:

  • Planting trees or hedge rows to absorb sound

  • Adding a tall fence as a sound barrier

  • Oil squeaky door hinges or sliders

  • Install soft close hinges on screen doors

To add background sound to your space consider using:

  • White noise machines

  • Ceiling fans

  • A clock that ticks

  • Recordings of familiar sounds like wind, rain, cars, etc.


songbirds for backyard

Take some time today to listen to your space.  Notice what your ears are telling you, and keep a list of what you love, what you’d like to enhance, and what you’d like to change.  Then take action to move in that mindful direction.

(While this month we are discussing how to create our outside design using our five senses, these concepts also apply to inside our homes as well.  Please reach out if you need help identifying your mindful space needs, both indoors and out. You can also learn more for yourself through my Design From Within self-study program.)