I wanted to take some time to discuss my favourite element of Interior Design- colour. Now, if you are not familiar with what interior design consist of , you may say that we just choose pretty colours from a Dulux colour chart and voile there we have a scheme. Yes- this does form part of the role, but more thought is taken to ensure the correct mood is created in the space.
In fact, there are 7 key elements which combine to create functional and design led schemes, and with design in Care sector these elements must adhere to the needs of the end user to enable independence, adhere to sensory needs and provide comfort to their environment.
Colour adds personality to an interior and is probably the most important element to consider when designing for those with sensory needs such as Dementia and Autism. Colour can improve the wellbeing of all clients, and to avoid stereotypically clinical and cold environments within Care settings. Lots of research has been carried out to discover what emotions are triggered by colours, to name a few
Red: Aggression and importance
Yellow: Happiness and friendship
Green: Nature and stability
Blue: Serenity and trust
When choosing colours schemes, the understanding of the client needs and use of the space is crucial. Autism is a vast and diverse need state, and one rule cannot always apply to all. However, generally it is wise to avoid over- simulating and heavily chromatic colours, especially in those areas where concentration and focus is required such as classrooms, dining rooms or therapy rooms. Although, feature walls are popular and can assist with zoning and way finding it can also become a distraction if a feature wall is used unnecessarily.
photo credit: contractdesign.com
Personally, I love to use pastel colour schemes when designing for Autism. Colours tend to be intensified when people have Autism and very rarely does this have the opposite effect. Pastel colours such as corals, yellows and warm greys are a fabulous way of adding warmth to a room without being overbearing.
photo credit: designrulz.com
When designing for Dementia, consideration for the visual impairments which can develop should be considered. It is essential to create tonal blocks to ensure people can understand the space around them and avoid confusion or danger. It isn’t a case of red vs yellow since these two colours could have the same LRV (light-reflecting-value). Contrast should come down to a significant difference in LRV.
Differences should be seen in furniture vs the floor and walls so that it can be easily defined where one should sit. On the other hand, little contrast between floor types to avoid confusion and panic for residents when transitioning from room to room.
photo credits: Nellsar.com
Research carried out by Stirling University, as part of their Design & Dementia focus, communicates the importance for contrast within Dementia care environments. Those areas which you want residents to be aware of e.g. toilets, stairs and grab rails etc. should stand out from the background e.g. white vs black. On the same note, those areas which are not of interest to the wellbeing and safety of residents such as staff rooms, commercial kitchens or offices should be of a lower contrast and almost hidden away to avoid confusion for the resident.
It is becoming more of a focus for public spaces such as train stations, healthcare centres or even parks to become more dementia friendly. This idea of contrast can be easily incorporated in all environments, without any noticeability for those who don’t require this method of way-finding but can make a life changing difference for those who do.