Jasmine Sims looking at interior design magazines

Interior Design + Neurodiversity: Creating Inclusive Spaces

Interior Design + Neurodiversity: Creating Inclusive Spaces

Interior design is not just about beauty, but also about creating spaces that are inclusive for all individuals, including those with neurodivergent conditions. Neurodiversity is a term used to describe the range of neurological differences in the human population, including conditions such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and more. By prioritizing neurodiversity in interior design, designers and homeowners can create functional beautiful spaces that are welcoming and accommodating to everyone.

Our interior design studio believes in designing wellness-boosting home environments, and we can no longer do this without consideration for neurodivergence existing alongside neurotypicality. Given that this topic is near and dear to us, and that April is Autism Awareness Month, we are happy to share our learnings-to-date with you. However, we continue to grow in our learning and discipline on this topic. If you’re interested in learning more about this important topic and its intersection with interior design, keep reading.

Understanding Neurodiversity

The recent embrace and celebration of neurodiversity has been heartwarming. As we consider its role in inclusive design, it is important to understand what neurodiversity means and the challenges that neurodivergent individuals face in traditional interior design. 

Neurodiversity is a concept that recognizes that neurological differences are normal and natural variations of the human experience. This means that neurodivergent individuals may have different ways of processing information and interacting with the world around them.

Unfortunately, traditional interior design often does not take into account the needs of neurodivergent individuals. Spaces designed with bright colors, patterns, and textures can be overwhelming for those with sensory processing difficulties. Harsh lighting and poor acoustics can also be problematic for individuals with sensory sensitivity. Additionally, rigid and inflexible layouts create barriers for individuals with mobility issues or those who require additional space for their assistive devices.

Design for Inclusion

There are several factors to consider when creating inclusive environments:

Color, pattern, and texture

Using neutral colors and simple patterns or solids can help to avoid overwhelming the senses. Additionally, incorporating different textures can provide tactile stimulation.

Lighting and acoustics 

Natural light reigns supreme, so leverage whenever possible and avoid harsh fluorescent lighting that can be overstimulating. Consider sound-absorbing materials to reduce echo and background noise.

Dining Room Design with Vintage Pieces

Layout and organization 

Create flexible spaces that can be adapted to different needs. Use clear signage and organization systems to help individuals navigate the space.

Incorporating assistive technology

Consider the needs of individuals who use assistive devices and incorporate technology that can be used by individuals with different abilities.

Case Studies 

One thing we’re loving is that there are now examples of spaces that have been designed with neurodivergent individuals in mind. Two come to mind for me: 

  • The Cedars School in Greenock, Scotland, is a school for children with autism that was designed with a focus on creating a calming environment. The school features muted colors, natural materials, and sound-absorbing materials to reduce noise levels. The layout of the school is flexible and includes sensory rooms for students who need a quiet space.
  • Another example is the SENSES Coworking Space in Montreal, Canada, which was designed to be a comfortable and inclusive workspace for individuals with sensory processing difficulties. The space features soft lighting, sound-absorbing materials, and neutral colors to create a calming environment. The layout is flexible, and the space includes a sensory room for individuals who need a quiet space.

Best Practices for Inclusive Design

Here are a few things we’re doing at Sims + Co. Design to create truly inclusive spaces:

Collaboration with neurodivergent individuals

During the early phases of the design engagements with our clients, we are being intentional about learning about our clients and their specific needs. When possible, we are involving individuals with neurodivergent conditions (including kids) in the design process to ensure that their needs are being met.

Flexibility and adaptability

We are creating multi-use, functional spaces that can be adapted to different needs.

Neurodivergent Bedroom Design

Avoiding stereotypes

We are asking a lot of questions. Day by day, we are increasing our acumen about interior design for special needs and we are not generalizing any of our clients’ experiences nor our design solutions for them.

Ongoing learning and adaptation

We’re continuously evaluating our effectiveness in designing these spaces and evolving our approach over time.

As we continue to learn more about neurodiversity, it is essential that we prioritize creating spaces that are accessible and accommodating to all individuals, regardless of their neurological differences or similarities. I’m excited to see this growing body of knowledge take hold within the interior design community.

What our

Clients are saying

“I moved into a new house and had no idea how to decorate my bedroom. Jasmine was there to help me with every step of the process. She made sure to understand my preferences with color schemes and aesthetics, and she provided me with multiple options to choose from. Whenever I had questions, she was always communicative and I never felt uncomfortable reaching out to her.

Now I have an amazing space that I love. Thank you, Jasmine!”

Jessica, Charlotte NC

“Jasmine helped take out so much confusion and overwhelm in planning out a move into my new townhome. She is thorough, efficient and a pleasure to work with! It was my first time working with an interior designer, and I'm grateful I found Jasmine. Trust her process and you will not be disappointed!”

Frank, Durham, NC

“Working with Jasmine was amazing. Everything from design to implementation was spot on. My style as we discussed was brought to life.”

Donald, Charlotte NC

“I literally sleep better having beautiful design surrounding me. Thank you Jasmine for your amazing vision and deliberate execution!”

Ray, Washington DC

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