Using sensorial design to build “feel-good places”

Published on October 09, 2017

Eric Brun-Sanglard, Interior Designer of The Blind Designer, Inc., will be part of a special panel at the Quality of Life Conference on 16 October 2017 that will focus on seniors and “Designing Life Through the Ages.”

Eric Brun-SanglardHow would you define sensorial design and how does it impact people’s well-being?

Eric Brun-Sanglard: Sensorial design involves taking all of your senses into account when you design something and making sure they are all in harmony. Sometimes you enter a place, and it may be beautiful but you don’t want to stay. Other places you never want to leave. That’s when your own vibration is at the same intensity as the space. It’s like music. Some music may move you to tears, make you laugh, or get you dancing.

Colors, they’re like vitamins – giving me different energy. They reflect a certain vibration, and even if I’m blind, I can sense it. My process includes working with my clients to understand what colors make them feel good.

We are also affected by smells. Woods, fabrics, leathers and metals all have different smells. Touch is crucial too. I have my clients touch everything. You may think you want a glass-top table, but you have to think about how it will feel in the sun if it’s near a window or when the weather is cold. As a designer, I have to pay attention to everything, because there’s a huge difference between living in a home and living in a showroom.

Can you tell us how your professional life shifted when you became blind at the age of 33?

E.B-S.: Becoming an interior designer was really an act of survival. Before I lost my eye sight, the doctors told me I was going to die. It was the beginning of the end, and I prepared myself to die. Then when I lost my eye sight, I slowly realized I was actually going to live. But how was I going to survive? How was I going to pay my medical bills and earn a living? It sounds quite superficial. But I was in the midst of remodeling my home in the Hollywood Hills; I had lost my job in advertising; and now I was blind. How was I going to figure out a way to function and build a new life? I started with classes at the Braille Institute. I had to put first things first, and that also meant finishing my house so I could sell it and pay off my medical bills.

I discovered that I didn’t need an architect or a designer to complete the project. I began feeling things – touching, listening and using all my other senses. By touching the materials, I could visualize how the space should really function. The craftsmen liked the challenge of working with a blind designer. They got very excited about the project. And I felt good in this house. There were healthy vibrations, helping my body and my fight for life.

One project led to another after I sold my house. I was designing feel-good places and wanted to touch as many people’s lives as possible. I was finally doing something that was good for me physically, emotionally, spiritually…. Remodeling my home was like remodeling myself at every level, and I became healthier. An act of survival had become a new business and a new life.

As seniors’ senses change over the years, they face different quality of life challenges. What differences have you observed compared with the other clients you work with?

E.B-S.: Sensorial design has to be safe and feel good, and both of these elements become even more important for seniors. When I work with seniors, I reverse my process. I start with the practical side and then focus on the design. That means listening to them to understand how we can make their day-to-day life easier.

The spaces have to be easy to navigate, functional and logical. This may involve removing glass, when there are dangerous angles. Sinks, countertops, coffee tables and even chairs need to be at the right height. There is no point in having a beautiful armchair if you can’t get out of it. We also try to create spaces to instill habits, for example, so seniors can always find their keys.

At the Quality of Life Conference, you’ll be taking part in a panel discussion that focuses on seniors and “Designing Life Through the Ages.” Can you give us a glimpse into what you will be talking about at the conference?

E.B-S.: When you change your surroundings, or remodel the environment you’re living in, it has a tremendous impact on your mental and physical well-being. It can be positive, but it can also be negative if done poorly.

To help my clients design their lives through the ages, I have to understand what’s going on in their lives. I use my own life story to find solutions. When I make myself vulnerable, people share more, then we can come up with the solutions together.

We have all experienced challenges to varying degrees, but I want my clients to know that no matter what there is hope, there is a solution, and their life matters. They can still enjoy new things and discover new sensations.

From my own journey, I have learned that sight isn’t necessary. I’m probably happier today. I judge a surrounding by what it feels like, not what it tries to look like. I feel more alive today than ever before.


Read Eric Brun-Sanglard's full biography.

Eric Brun-Sanglard will participate on the Panel Discussion focused on Seniors: “Designing Life Through the Ages.” that will take place on October 16, 2017, at 4:15 pm London Time.