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  • Writer's pictureHayley Roy

Embracing Neurodiversity in Interior Design

Updated: Jun 6


There is a lot of conversation in the media about the neurodiverse landscape at the moment. At Harp Design, this topic is especially close to my heart. Scarlett and I are both part of the neurodivergent community, along with many other designers I've had the pleasure of working with over the years. Therefore, I'd like to share what neurodiversity is all about and how you can design your interiors to accommodate the neurodivergent community.



What is Neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity recognizes and celebrates the natural variation in human ways of thinking. It is estimated that about 15% of people, or 1 in 7 employees, in the UK are neurodiverse. Judy Singer, a sociologist with autism, introduced the term “neurodiversity” in the late 1990s. It refers to the belief that certain developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain, including but not limited to autism spectrum disorder, dyspraxia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), social anxiety disorder, and dyslexia. Individuals with these conditions often possess unique strengths.





There are many neurological disorders, for the purpose of this blog I have decided to focus on two of the most well known, ADHD & Autism.


In the workplace, a study of 990 neurodivergent employees and 127 employers found that 65% of people didn’t disclose their neurodiversity to their employer due to fear of discrimination. Additionally, 69% of employers stated that this lack of disclosure made it challenging to make reasonable adjustments. This indicates a need for societal change, as we are currently experiencing a significant shift in understanding and acceptance of these conditions.



Understanding ADHD and Autism

ADHD: Individuals with ADHD often have lower dopamine levels, which leads them to seek thrills, take risks, and exhibit impulsive behavior. They may prefer dramatic interiors that provide a dopamine hit. However, when hyperfocus fades, they need a calm, tranquil space to relax and regroup.



Autism: People with autism often prefer order and can become anxious in social situations. Designing for autism involves creating spaces with clear boundaries and a grid layout for furniture. Rounded corners on furniture for safety and calming effects, and private, secluded areas for alone time are essential. Individuals with autism are highly sensitive to sound and touch.




Translating Neurodiversity into Interior Design


Acoustics: Improving workspace insulation with various acoustic products can help control sound pressure levels. Creating calm zones is crucial for reducing sensory overload. Minimize noise distractions by using rugs, curtains, or sound-absorbing materials to dampen sound. Consider using white noise machines or calming music to create a soothing background ambiance.

Lighting: Lighting and color significantly impact mood, cognitive thinking, and behavior. Soft colors, earth tones, and natural lighting enhance wellbeing and productivity.

Spatial Configuration: Organized and well-defined spaces help neurodivergent individuals process their environment better. Providing storage for non-essential items, using subdividing walls or rooms, and allowing reconfigurable spaces can improve focus. Offering diverse spatial characteristics gives team members options to choose from.

Keep the space clutter-free to reduce distractions and promote a sense of calm. Use storage solutions such as bins, baskets, and shelves to keep items organized and easily accessible.

Materials: Avoiding extreme patterns, overwhelming colors, and visual clutter is vital. Using organic patterns, colors, and natural elements like plants and water can alleviate sensory overload.

Wayfinding: Navigating spaces can be challenging for neurodivergent individuals, who are less likely than neurotypicals to ask for help. Spaces should be easy to navigate, ensuring that users can find their way around without assistance.

Color: Choose colors that are calming and soothing, such as soft blues, greens, or neutrals. Avoid overly bright or stimulating colors.

Functional Layout: Create designated areas for different activities to help with focus and organization. For example, have a specific work area with a desk for concentration and a separate relaxation area for downtime.

Minimalistic Decor: Opt for simple and uncluttered decor to prevent sensory overload. Choose furniture and decor items that are functional and serve a purpose while also adding to the overall aesthetics of the space.

Incorporate Sensory Elements: Consider adding sensory elements like textured rugs, or soft blankets to provide tactile stimulation and promote relaxation.


By implementing these design tips, you can create an environment that supports focus, organization, and well-being for individuals with ADHD and Autism.


If you need further assistance in this area or want to speak to a professional, we'd love to help you! Feel free to email me at hayley.roy@harpdesign.co.uk.



Warm regards,



Hayley Roy DIPMAN

Owner and Designer at Harp Design















There is a lot of chat in the media about the neurodiverse landscape at the moment. Scarlett and I at Harp Design are both in the neurodivergent camp, as well as many other designers that I have worked with over the years, so it's a little bit close to my heart! Therefore I'd like to share with you what it's all about and how you can design your interior to accomodate the neurodivergent community.


What is Neurodiversity?


Neurodiversity recognises and celebrates the natural variation in human ways of thinking. It is estimated that about 15% of people, or 1 in 7 employees, in the UK are neurodiverse. Judy Singer, a sociologist with autism, began using “ neurodiversity ” in the latter part of the 1990s. It refers to the belief that certain developmental disorders are normal variations in the brain. Such disabilities such as, but are not limited to - autism spectrum disorder, dispraxia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, social anxiety disorder, and dyslexia. People who have these features also have particular strengths. When it comes to the workplace, a study of 990 neurodivergent employees and 127 employers found that 65% of people didn ’t want to tell their employer about being neurodiverse for fear of discrimination and 69% of employers said that this lack of disclosure made it difficult for them to make reasonable adjustments. This tells us that the landscape has to change, as a society, we are currently undergoing a massive shift in thinking where these conditions are becoming more understood and accepted than ever before.



Acoustics – Better insulating the workspace with different types of acoustic products allows manipulation of sound pressure levels. Calm zones should be created. Lighting – Light and color affect our moods, cognitive thinking, and behavior. By adding soft colors and earth tones while utilizing natural lighting, one can improve a sense of wellbeing and promotes productivity.



Spatial configuration – Spaces that are more organized and more defined help the autistic and ADHD mind process. Storage for non-essential items, subdividing walls or rooms, and the ability to reconfigure space allow the autistic mind to focus better. Provide a variety of spatial characters for team members to choose from.



Materials – Extreme patterns, overwhelming colors, and visual clutter can create a high degree of sensory stimulation leading to overload. Utilizing organic patterns, colors, and natural elements (plants, water, and light) can relieve people.



Wayfinding - Navigating spaces can be a challenge for the neurodivengent and they are less likely than a neurotypical to ask for help. Spaces should be easy to navigate through so that the person using the space can easily find their way around with out asking.


If you need further assistance in this area and what to speak to a professional, we'd love to help you :-) email me on hayley.roy@harpdesign.co.uk.


Hayley Roy DIPMAN Owner and Designer at Harp Design





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