Eric B.- The Blind Designer
By Mimi Rohr/ Gamma
Blind Designer Eric Brun-Sanglard sees what other people can't even imagine. This inspired him to launch a career in home design after becoming blind more than 10 years ago.

The French born Brun-Sanglard, - who refers to himself as Eric B.- was a successful creative director in the advertising business, regularly jetting between Los Angeles, New York and Paris when he was gripped by an HIV related eye ailment, Cytomegalovirus Retinitis (CMV). Despite efforts at treating the disease, Brun-Sanglard lost his vision by November 1995.

The disease was potentially deadly. "Losing my sight was not about becoming blind, but preparing for the end. I had a bigger war to fight." Brun-Sanglard's fight lasted into 1996 when the inhibitor drugs became available his disease went into remission. "Being blind became a new life I had to endure, but being blind wasn't so huge anymore."

"I didn't want to fight my way back into my old life," said Brun-Sanglard. "Reinventing myself into someone else became a way of avoiding comparing my new life and old life."

Brun-Sanglard's home became a refuge. "I wanted to create a safe place where I would feel serene and protected." Brun-Sanglard began remodeling his home.

Soon after, Brun-Sanglard had to sell his home to help pay his medical expenses and move into more modest digs. Looking for a fixer-upper to live in, Brun-Sanglard ended up with two properties, which he and a partner fixed up and sold. It was so successful that they created their own company, Eclipse Design, in 1998.

In 2001, Brun-Sanglard discovered that his partner had been embezzling money, plunging the company into debt. He was forced to sell his home to pay the company's debt and start over.

Today, at the age of 43, Brun-Sanglard works with the aid of his assistant Ron Tremblay. Brun-Sanglard starts his projects by walking through the space, getting a feel for the room. When you are blind, the other senses become more acute, he explained. He continues to explore the room feeling the textures of the walls, the features of the room while Tremblay relays details and colors, making notes for Brun-Sanglard. Tremblay then produces raised blueprints on a specialized machine from which Brun-Sanglard works.

Tremblay - who jokingly refers to himself as the seeing-eye designer - said, "Eric is a great guy to work with. It's fascinating to watch him work. He has amazing intuition and an amazing sense of detail...Because he is blind, it gives me the opportunity to participate in ways I couldn't with a sighted designer."

The hardest part of being a blind designer is "to convince people I can do their house," said Brun-Sanglard. The best publicity has been people seeing the houses that he has done on his own for sale.

Brun-Sanglard's lack of sight was not a deterrent for actress Virginia Madsen, whose recent work includes starring roles in Sideways and Firewall. Madsen has hired Brun-Sanglard to do her garden. "I knew Eric would know how to meld my taste with a contemporary theme. Being blind was secondary," said Madsen. "Being blind makes all the other senses more acute. Eric knows where the sun falls and where the breeze will blow on your face at night."

"I'm always one step ahead," said Brun-Sanglard. "I have a tendency to always be in the future. It scares me to sit still too long." Next on his agenda is a television show "Designing Blind," due to air next September. The reality show will focus on the experience of taking couples through the design process blindfolded.

"I want to show the world that you can do something useful even if you are blind," said Brun-Sanglard. He is a mentor in the blind community. He hopes teaching and sharing his experience with inspire others. "We all go through hard times. We have a choice to be a victim or learn and grow from it."

"I have a virus that should kill me," said Brun-Sanglard. "I have no time... If I stop reinventing myself constantly I will die."

Eric B.'s website is at

Mimi Rohr © 2006