Studies suggest that 1 in 7 (15%) of Brits are neurodivergent – meaning the brain develops, processes information, and responds differently to those who are neurotypical. ADHD, autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia all fall within the spectrum of neurodiversity, and sensory difficulties – where the individual experiences sensitivity to various situations and environments – are very common in many types of neurodivergence.
Most of us experience some level of sensitivity to our home environments – we need certain textures, sounds (or lack thereof), smells and items to help us feel comforted and safe. For neurodivergent individuals, the need for calming and comforting surroundings is heightened, so it’s especially important, when decorating a home with a neurodivergent resident, to take a sensory approach to interior design.
In my book, The Sensory Home (which you can pre-order now), I share tips for designing a home that caters to all five senses – all of which are suitable whether you’re styling for neurodivengent or neurotypical individuals. Read on for a snapshot of what to expect in the book, and three things to bear in mind when planning interior design for neurodivergent individuals.
Interior design for neurodivergent individuals – 3 things to bear in mind
1. Pay particular attention to sensory interior design
Sensory interior design is a decorating and styling strategy that ensures all interior spaces activate the human senses – sight, scent, sound, touch, and taste. By considering all senses when styling a space, you can create somewhere that completely supports the neurodivergent individual and their needs.
Be mindful of the colour palette you choose for the home (blues and greens can have soothing effects whilst other colours, such as red, can be more stimulating and less conducive to relaxation), and pay particular attention to texture. Fill the home with materials that help the neurodivergent individual feel comforted and at peace, and try to limit those which can trigger sensory overload.
Consider also how scents affect the neurodivergent individual, and whether there are any that could be introduced to help create a calming atmosphere, and any that need to be avoided. Also, pay mind to lighting (dimmers are a great idea, as bright lights can trigger sensory overload) and also to sound pollution.
2. Design spaces based on how they’ll be used, not how they’ll look
Of course, you can absolutely make functional spaces look beautiful, but aesthetics should never be the core focus (even when designing for neurotypicals). Consider how everyone in the household uses – or will use – each space, including the kinds of activities that’ll take place, and also the environments that make each household member feel comforted and safe.
If nature is a big source of comfort, incorporate lots of natural textures and plants into your decor. If someone in the household is particularly sensitive to clutter, be sure to factor in lots of storage. Take an intuitive approach, to ensure the whole family feels at home in your home. If that means your home ends up looking a little different to the norm – that’s OK. If it works for you and your household, that’s what matters.
3. Don’t forget the small details
Often, it’s the small things that can make a big difference in ensuring your space is soothing for neurodivergent individuals. Blackout blinds or curtains may be helpful for limiting light pollution, whilst a white noise machine or strategic sound-proofing could prove beneficial, too.
Be mindful when purchasing bedding – a mattress that has too much spring may cause disrupted sleep, as may certain fabrics, and a weighted blanket may be a smart investment for an added feeling of comfort.
If you enjoyed this blog post, read this piece on how to style a home office that works for all five senses.