Gill Jackson has been working in interior design for 30 years. Along with her team, she’s helping make Baycroft homes practical, welcoming and stylish for dementia residents. We asked her how she goes about it.
What do you do?
We work with care homes to design and develop their interiors. We offer what we call a ‘turnkey’ solution – making sure everything within the building is to the client’s brief and for the benefit of everyone in the home.
We’re based in Stamford in Lincolnshire. But the nature of the job means we’re always out and about. We’re a small team of five but work with an outside company called Countrywide to help with projects.
With Baycroft we’ve been working at Great Baddow and Orpington so there’s been lots of travelling down to the South East.
For me, I love to create an environment that looks homely. I avoid anything garish. You do sometimes see homes where they’ve put up big signs and neon and things like that. I believe that’s the wrong interpretation of what can help people in care homes.
What kind of things do you look at?
We specialise in creating interiors that assist people living with dementia. So there are lots of factors to be considered.
It might mean avoiding contrast in floors so that people can move through a building on their own. That helps stop the feeling that, for instance, they’re walking into a black hole. Plus, if they see a sharp change in the flooring but they’re partially sighted they might struggle to understand what’s happening.
Similarly, it might mean improving the contrast in critical surfaces – such as the wall to the floor, or the doors to the wall – so that people can see clearly where everything is.
Or it could be a case of looking at the lighting. For people with dementia, the lux level needs to be greater.
We also make sure that the clusters people live in are kept to a domestic scale. So you wouldn’t, for example, have a restaurant with 30 people in it. Instead, you’d have a small-scale lounge or kitchen area with a maximum of 10 people – creating a more natural, domestic environment.
How do you adapt the environment for multiple people?
It can be tricky – of course everyone with dementia is at different levels and has slightly different symptoms. But there are measures that are relevant for all.
For those with dementia, we try to ensure furniture fabrics are really tactile – a velvet-type fabric, or material with a raised pattern. And the colour is important too. If the colour contrasts with the floor then people can see where the seating is.
Kitchen cupboards, too. We make sure they’re see-through so people can tell what’s stored inside and avoid any confusion from forgetting which cupboard is which. It’s simple things like that which really help people.
But I believe you should always design for the majority and then amend for the minority. Otherwise you’ll scale your design down to one person and that’s not the right way to do things.
What’s your favourite thing about the job?
My favourite thing is when I see a resident safely ensconced and really enjoying their environment.
We had a proud moment a few weeks ago. Part of our task with Baycroft is that each home should have a children’s room. So that when kids come to visit their grandparents they’re not bored and they actually enjoy coming. We put in Lego walls, Space Invaders machines and the chef has pizza mornings – the kids are really involved in everything.
At the Orpington home recently, a resident’s daughter was there with her little boy. He’d said to her that the home was such a cool place to visit and that he loved coming to visit his granddad now.
It brought together three generations that wouldn’t necessarily have been happy together otherwise. That’s an incredibly gratifying feeling.
Gill Jackson is an interior designer at Gill Jackson Healthcare Consultants.