Music and interior design aren’t all that different from each other. They combine various elements (and sometimes unexpected pairings) into beautiful and harmonious melodies. Just as there are different genres of music, from rock to pop to jazz, there are different styles of interior design, from Georgian to Southwestern to contemporary. In this interior design glossary, I am reviewing the notes that go into creating a music room for your home. We will review the history, benefits, and design considerations for composing the perfect space to practice, listen, and unwind.
My Personal History and Experience With Music Rooms
My Connection to Music Rooms
When I was growing up in Austin, Texas, we had a small bedroom that we called the music room. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it housed our piano (which my sister played well, and I played badly) and our school band instruments — the flute and the piccolo. Here, we had our weekly music lessons and would gather around as my father played piano in the evenings. He was a beautiful musician who played with Benny Goodman’s orchestra and in bars for money — even as a child during The Depression. My sister inherited his musical talent. I did not. Still, I remember him playing for us as kids during the fancy parties my mom liked to throw.
Now, I have my own children. While their childhood piano lessons didn’t inspire budding musicians, my 16-year-old has started up lessons again. We have a keyboard set up in our den, and I love listening to him practice after school. Music brings magic and interest to the home like nothing else can.
Music Rooms are Increasing in Popularity
My interior design firm here in Austin has had a deluge of requests for music room designs in the last year or so. I love designing music rooms, but the uptick had me questioning why music rooms are trending and increasing in popularity. Partly, I believe people began expanding their hobbies during the pandemic lockdown and found comfort in music. Unlike so many modern-day hobbies centered around consumption (shopping, social media scrolling, Netflix binging), music provides a way to create rather than consume. It’s a hobby that can stretch your brain while offering some lively enjoyment to the rest of the home. Even more so than other spaces in the house, a music room’s interior design affects our mood and adds some joy to our daily lives.
We are currently working with a client that was a music performance major in college and has held onto their beautiful piano. Along with the client’s architect, we’ve designed a full entry hall around this baby grand, so it’s the first thing you see as you cross the threshold. The cozy space includes a bench for a small audience, a decorative dropped ceiling for acoustics, and beautiful paneling for the perfect backdrop. It’s a design statement. However, it is also interactive and emotionally connected to the client’s self-identity. Music is powerful!
So, What are Music Rooms?
Music rooms are a type of specialty room designed around playing music. The space should include everything necessary to practice, teach, and perform music in the home, as well as creative storage solutions for sheet music, instruments, and other supplies. The dedicated music room should be separated from other areas of the home and be well insulated so as not to disturb those quietly reading in the study across the hall. Additional design considerations, like acoustics, need to be accounted for, as each aspect of the music room should support the musician, enhance the tonal quality, and create a beautiful ambiance for the audience.
A Brief History of Music Rooms in Interior Design
Music rooms have been around for centuries but reached their peak popularity during the Victorian Era. They became a staple of Victorian houses and were typically positioned toward the front of the home off the main entry hallway. Victorian designers and architects considered the musician first and the audience second, prioritizing the placement of the piano and “stage” for optimum sound quality. While the rest of the Victorian home may have featured rich colors and decorative textiles, the music room was styled with more understated colors and accents to not distract from the music. As an added final touch, many Victorian music rooms included a door harp at the entrance that would chime a collection of bells as you entered the space. Today, designers see a reinvigoration of the music room, with many homeowners requesting spaces to practice and listen.
Popular Types of Music Rooms
The most common instrument designers design for is the piano. For obvious reasons, pianos require a designated space for their size and furniture-like appearance. However, the piano has also been ingrained in the social fabric of the home since its invention in the 17th century. It is a social instrument that invites gathering.
The second most common instrument designers design for is the guitar, along with other smaller stringed instruments like cellos and harps. Whether you’re more rock n’ roll or acoustic, guitars are attractive statement pieces to hang on the wall and easy to host an impromptu performance.
Benefits of Music Rooms
Dedicated Space to Create
Music rooms provide a dedicated space to practice, separate from the rest of the home. Like any hobby or trade, it is easier to immerse yourself in your work when you have the proper environment and tools at hand.
Room to Disconnect and Unwind
Our modern homes are full of distractions, including our computers, phones, and smart TVs. Music rooms provide a place to disconnect, unwind, and enjoy the wonders of the analog world.
Chance for Teaching and Gathering
While we design music rooms around the musician, these aren’t isolated areas. Instead, music rooms accommodate space for teaching, gathering, and socializing.
Sense of Comfort
Music is connected to memories. When I listen to my children practice, I’m reminded of the times I spent playing piano with my sister or listening to my father. I believe music rooms are rising in popularity because of the comfort they offer, which is the biggest interior design trend in my book.
Design Considerations for Music Rooms
Music rooms have unique design considerations, including sound, ventilation, and temperature. The space needs to function for the musician, properly house the instruments, and not disturb the whole house — unless they want to open the doors to let the sweet melodies flow freely.
Acoustics are arguably the most crucial design consideration for music rooms. First, consider methods of soundproofing the space. If starting from scratch, ensure the room is well insulated. If working with an existing area, consider options like acoustic wall panels, which can actually be quite stylish and beautiful. Invest in lush textiles to absorb sound and create a welcoming feel, including plush rugs, heavy drapes, and even decorative tapestries. Finally, install a solid core door to be able to shut the space off during practice sessions and open it up for entertainment.
Instruments must be stored at the proper temperature and humidity level to preserve their integrity. Consider investing in an independent AC system to control your music room temperature.
Lighting will bring your music room composition together. The space needs task lighting for reading sheet music and ambient lighting to set the mood for your romantic jazz performance.
Easy Instrument Access
It might sound obvious, but don’t banish your instruments to a music room closet. Keeping your instruments displayed as part of the decor will increase your motivation to practice. Use hidden storage for music books and additional supplies.
Victorian music rooms prioritized the musician first, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t add additional seating to accommodate guests for an at-home concert. Incorporate cozy chairs or a small sofa so your household can join in as you play.
Choose a musical theme to inspire your practice. I’m not saying to be too on the nose but think about subtle ways to incorporate your music preferences. For example, you could create a punk interior design scheme reminiscent of your garage band days or design a classically timeless room for concertos.
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Amity Worrel is an award-winning interior designer based in Austin, Texas. She has worked on high-end interior design projects for celebrities and tastemakers in NYC, LA, and the Bahamas. In 2008, Amity decided to bring her passion for diverse design back to her hometown of Austin. Her spaces pull from timeless design concepts ranging from coastal contemporary to cozy cottage to Austin eclectic. Emotional connections, functional flow, and a touch of humor remain central to every interior design scheme. Her work has been published in national and local publications, including The Wall Street Journal, House Beautiful, HGTV Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Austin Home. In her free time, she loves perusing estate sales and diving into design history. Learn more about Amity.