The house renovation created for autistic people — with sensory features in its design

The front of The Martins which has been newly renovated and shows a brick structure with a sign in front of the house with the name on it and parking spots
The Martins in Northamptonshire has been renovated to provide suitable accommodation for people with autism (Image credit: NHS Foundation Trust)

The NHS has redesigned two ‘crisis houses’ to create a better environment for residents with autism — with its layout, electrics, colours and textures all tailored to their needs in a crisis. 

"The Martins" and “The Warren” in Northampton were designed by the Northamptonshire Health NHS Foundation Trust (NHFT) to serve as crisis houses.

These are a short-term places for people experiencing a mental health crisis to stay without the need for hospitalisation. The house is kitted out with care facilities and, thanks to a grant, has recently been tailored with designs particularly suited to residents with autism.

The unique house renovation was funded by the Department of Health and Social Care for £240,000 with some interesting design features those renovating a house with a family with similar needs might want to consider.

Homes equipped to enhance the sensory experience

The crisis house at The Martins will have a range of equipment to enhance the sensory experience for its residents. This includes sensory boards, special mirrors, aroma diffusers, bean bags, projectors, sequin boards, and more. 

Signs have also been installed on doors and drawers, making it easier and clearer for residents to know what exactly is inside them.

Simba Kapishe, the Crisis Houses Manager, said she was delighted to get funding for the project: “We’ve seen an increase in people with autism using the service, so we’re really excited to get this funding and creating a more welcoming space which caters for their needs."

During a visit to one of its hospitals in January, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak hailed the NHS trust as "trailblazing" for their exceptional work. This recognition highlights the dedication and innovative approach taken by The Martins in providing high-quality care and support to those in need.

The living room inside The Martins is in a shade of pink and shows a sofa and a table

Coloured lighting in the house can help residents relax (Image credit: NHS Foundation Trust)

Rooms painted in pastel colours with dimmable lights

The walls inside The Martins were painted in pastel shades, for example soft hues of light pink to help the sensory experience of those staying there.

Energy-efficient lighting fixtures were also added, which emit a range of colours to adapt for the needs of different individuals. Dimmer switches to adjust the intensity of the lighting have also been included to tailor this for residents too.

Painting the walls with these soft pastel colours and the installation of sensory lighting was a collaborative effort led by one of the residents at the crisis house, Kirsty Pope. Pope was thrilled with progress of the project, which has been in development for several months, following a sensory audit of the home. 

This was carried out to identify specific adaptations that would be needed.

The living room painted in light colours looks out onto the outside via the large window

The living room painted in pastel yellow with different coloured sofas (Image credit: NHS Foundation Trust)

A sensory garden with 'immersive' flowers and foliage

A separate facility called "The Warren", which is also a part of the NHS Trust, is also being altered in a similar way to "The Martins", although this home will also include a vibrant sensory garden. 

This garden space aims to offer a comforting environment for those using the house. 

The garden will have a diverse array of aromatic plants and flowers, giving a range of smells for visitors to boost their sensory experience. The artist's impressions show various benches for quiet reflections as well as zoning to give residents different experiences from different places in the garden. There are also various walkways through the foliage. 

Alex Pettitt from Topoforma Landscape, who oversaw the garden project, said the goal for the garden was to create an "immersive" garden that allows individuals to find an escape "from where they are emotionally or physically".

The work on the garden and house is expected to be completed later this spring.

Joseph Mullane
News Editor

News Editor Joseph has previously written for Today’s Media and Chambers & Partners, focusing on news for conveyancers and industry professionals.  Joseph has just started his own self build project, building his own home on his family’s farm with planning permission for a timber frame, three-bedroom house in a one-acre field. The foundation work has already begun and he hopes to have the home built in the next year. Prior to this he renovated his family's home as well as doing several DIY projects, including installing a shower, building sheds, and livestock fences and shelters for the farm’s animals. Outside of homebuilding, Joseph loves rugby and has written for Rugby World, the world’s largest rugby magazine.