Anna Zabriskie is the owner of Rōan Interiors in Richmond. She works with both residential and commercial clients. “I serve clients whose spaces such as kitchens and baths no longer function for them,” says Anna. “And I serve clients who feel like their environments are not visually appealing, but don’t know where to start.” She has a particular interest in designing for children and adults with sensory processing disorders (SPD) as these present often overlooked challenges. Throughout each project, she pays careful attention to the impacts that the spatial arrangements and finishes have on her clients’ senses.
“Those with SPD process sensory stimuli differently,” explains Anna. “Individuals are hyposensitive (meaning basically they can’t get enough stimuli) or hypersensitive (which means they are experiencing an overload of stimulation).” This impacts any one or a combination of senses including hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste. Sensory processing problems are commonly seen in those with developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder.
Anna’s interest in this area began while in design school when she noticed that none of the curriculum was centered around this population. She understood that the look, feel, and arrangement of their home, school, social, and professional environments was particularly important to these clients’ wellbeing and productivity. Anna sought to understand how design could positively impact those with SPD.
“To ‘design for the senses’ one must be aware that every decision has an effect on the occupants of the space. It is not relegated to those with sensory processing disorders,” says Anna. “Designing for the senses takes in consideration that we are inextricably tied to our environment.” After years of study, she wrote a guide to designers and caregivers to help them easily determine what design choices would be most beneficial to their clients and families. In it, she considers sensitivities to color, sounds, texture, and lighting with the goal of helping children with SPD feel safe in their own homes.
“In addition to the five senses, those with SPD need help with their vestibular input which is the sensation of any change in direction, position, or movement of the head and proprioceptive input which is understanding where your body is in space,” explains Anna. In order to address these requirements, Anna works with caregivers and parents to create sensory rooms based on each child’s needs. “The goal is to offer a space in which each child can learn how to respond to proper stimulation and engage the brain,” says Anna. “This helps with improved information retention and learning self-regulation behaviors.” These sensory rooms encourage vestibular and proprioceptive play as well as fine motor skills development.
“Whether I am designing a home that is yet to be constructed or creating a space specifically for sensory stimulation, my thoughts are geared to how the occupant will engage with their space,” shares Anna. “My interest begins with how they will be affected emotionally, psychologically, and even physiologically. Then I am able to layer principles and elements of design.”
Learn more about Anna’s interior design services at: roaninteriors.com
“I consider Interior Designers to be the gatekeepers to the senses. I specialize in developing spaces that consider how light, color, sound and texture affect the body. Taken a step further, I work with individuals with sensory processing disorders, such as autism to create spaces that are either stimulating or calming.” – Anna Zabriskie