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  • Writer's pictureAdam Thomas Consultancy

Life Skills Training Kitchen, Chelmsford

Adam advises Joanne Jeyes of Crocus Design, and Freedom by Symphony supplier Blaines Interiors in Norfolk on the design of a life skills training kitchen for Independence Project Ltd

When Andrew Denny of Independence Project Ltd and Independence Clubs CIC discussed the idea of creating a new accessible life skills training kitchen with Joanne Jeyes of Crocus Interior Design, Joanne was immediately excited by the opportunity to bring a design element into a functional space. Her son attends the Project, affectionately called the Base by its members, where students learn about a wide range of life skills in a fun, engaging and relaxed environment. The Base only opened in March 2022, but one look at the social media feeds of the project show the impact it's making on the community.

The brief from Andrew was to "make the kitchen 'feel like home' and be somewhere that doesn't look or feel like a college or day centre." They also wanted the fully inclusive and flexible kitchen to have the wow factor, and fit within a tight budget! This sounded like a big ask, but it was familiar territory to Adam, who has designed accessible multi-occupational kitchen spaces for schools, colleges and universities across the nation.

Adam inspired Joanne from the start to believe that the project was realistic, and chatted with her about ways in which to make the kitchen suitable for as many different users as possible. He recommended that she go to a Freedom by Symphony dealer to see their kitchens and find out more. Joanne visited Blaines Interiors, a Freedom by Symphony supplier in Norfolk whose operations manager, Anthony Elsey, worked with Joanne and Adam to design a kitchen that met the brief.

After a long search for funding support, the kitchen was ultimately 50% funded by a grant from the local Levelling Up Fund, with the Independence Project coming up with the balance. Careful design choices were needed to meet the budget, along with plenty of help from the team at Blaines.

Symphony kitchen finishes 'Urban White' and 'Turin Dark Walnut' were selected for the new kitchen, Jo helped advise on a colour scheme for the walls that would be suitable for users affected by autism. The finished kitchen certainly ticks all the boxes, offering young adults fantastic opportunities to practise socialising and learn new skills.

Andrew says, "Jo's networking skills and enthusiasm and Adam's kitchen design knowledge were absolutely essential in getting this kitchen done. It has given me the confidence that we can now actively consider inviting wheelchair users to get involved at the Project. It's difficult to create a kitchen that meets every access need, but we've definitely done that. Right down to the colour scheme that's calming and restful for people affected by autism. I would never have thought about all these details, but they are really, really beneficial. And we're so happy with the new kitchen space. It's safe to use and, importantly, it's not clinical looking. I'm really proud that we were able to pull this off. Now we're looking at the rest of the building to see how we can make other areas more accessible."

The Independence Project provides day care, day services, support and opportunities for children and young adults with learning disabilities and autism, and tries to ensure that members learn while having fun in a safe environment.

With plenty of indoor activities, days out and holidays, the ultimate goal is to see the people they support achieve independence!

The Independence Project is on a mission to highlight the difficulties that people face across Essex and make a difference, whilst positively impacting individuals’ lives and their families.

Their team of experts and specialists are passionate about offering the best support and care for the Project's members. And their members clearly have a lot of fun and friends!

You can learn more about The Independence Project using this link.

Joanne contributed to this project free of charge as she has a personal connection to it. She runs her own interior design and content creation business, and is especially interested in creating dementia-friendly homes. Visit her Crocus Interior Design and Media web site using this link.

As a keen cook himself, Adam wishes all the students at The Base many years of fun as they learn about cooking and independent living. If you have a challenging accessible or inclusive kitchen design project, feel free to get in touch with Adam and have a chat. Adam says, "It's fantastic to see the gang at The Base getting so much out of their new space. Check out the moves in the new kitchen (below)!


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