Cover story

Seeing the light: the power of colour contrast

Jacqui Smith, co-director of family-run interior design practice HomeSmiths, throws some light on the importance of colour contrast in care homes

I am an interior designer. I am also an interior designer with a visual impairment. In November 2012 I permanently lost the sight in my left eye due to an attack of acute closed-angle glaucoma. Determined to combine my personal understanding of sight loss with my profession, I have since made interior design for sensory impairment a personal crusade. With visual difficulties often being associated with cognitive decline, dementia-friendly design has been very much part of this crusade. Earlier this year I met with a care operator who turned to me halfway through my pitch presentation and said, with a smile, “You really do care about this, don’t you?”. Yes I do! As we get older, all of us will in some degree experience a change in our visual acuity. Oureyes age just like any other part of our body; the muscles in our eyes become less responsive to changes in light levels, we need more light to see properly and our lenses start to yellow.That makes

certain colours harder to discern. The built environment plays a pivotal role in creating living spaces which support people, helping them to see as best they can, navigate the space they are living in as safely as they can, and keep them independent for as long as possible. Good design has such an incredibly positive impact on both a person’s physical and mental health and wellbeing. It is important to remember that even a slight deterioration of any of our senses can be frightening. Not only can it interfere with our safety and our ability to understand our surroundings, but it can also massively affect our overall comfort and independence. The smallest of changes to the care home environment can make the biggest and most positive impact.

Whether we are designing a care home, an extra care scheme, a sheltered scheme for a housing association or wet room for a private residential client, we apply inclusive design principles. We ensure

homeh recareome ENVIRONMENT

Volume 5 l Issue 4 l July 2020

Seeingthelight:the powerofco

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that colour contrast is achieved, be it floor to skirting, door to architrave, grab rail to tiles, furniture against the floor and so on. We make certain the lighting scheme affords residents plenty of light without glare and that the scheme itself comprises different sources of light, including flexible and dimmable task lighting so levels can be adapted to meet the varied needs of residents.


Henley Manor lounge 12

The team at the Henley launch • July 2020


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