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Scope out several neighborhoods before you decide on an apartment. Apartments in midtown might have very different noise pollution problems than Chelsea apartments or Murray Hill New York apartments. Every neighborhood has unique sounds, and some may be less troublesome to you than others. Different neighborhoods are noisiest at different times of day too. Be sure to visit the area morning, noon and night to assess noise levels. It almost goes without saying that for maximum quiet, you should never choose an apartment next to a fire station or above a bustling nightclub, and side streets are preferable to wide avenues. When you find a building you like, try to choose an apartment away from elevator banks and the laundry room, and go for a pet-free building if barking dogs grate on your nerves.
It’s no secret that soft surfaces absorb sounds better than hard ones. Insulate yourself from the sounds of the city and your noisy neighbors by filling your space with upholstered furniture and laying carpet with foam pads underneath it. Add floor pillows for extra seating instead of wooden chairs, and hang thick draperies over windows. If one of your neighbors is particularly noisy, line the wall between your apartments with a bookshelf and fill it with books for a simple sound barrier. Consider upholstering walls, too, or hang drapes, decorative rugs or tapestries on them to help absorb sound.
If you’re willing to spend some money, you can take advantage of modern soundproofing technology to help quiet your living space. Specially designed ceiling tiles, sound-absorbing sheetrock and expanding foam insulation are a few options to consider. A soundproofing damping compound can also be applied to walls and floors, then covered with another layer of drywall or flooring for noticeable noise reduction. You might also want to install extra layers of subflooring and special multi-paned windows.
If you can’t drown out the city’s noises entirely, at least give yourself a respite from them with white noise. A sound machine or a babbling fountain can make your space more peaceful and relaxing and give you a pleasant sound to focus on in place of the annoyances beyond your control. Invest in a pair of noise-canceling headphones as well and escape with your favorite music, or use a pair of ear plugs to shut out night noises and facilitate sleep.
Finding some peace in the loud, busy city isn’t impossible. With careful apartment selection, a little extra fabric and some specialized building materials, your home can be a quiet retreat from the city’s non-stop noise and the perfect place to recharge before heading back out into the fray.
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