Interior Design Is Not Just an Eye for Beauty, but True Creative Vision
A blind man once said, "Design is 1 per cent of what you see and 99 per cent of how you respond to it." Although it is easy to think of interior design as a 100 per cent visual pursuit, the man who said this would likely disagree - and he'd be arguing from experience. Eric Brun-Sanglard, a.k.a. Eric B the Blind Designer, discovered his passion for design around the same time he lost his eyesight, about 14 years ago. Unable to rely on the advantages most of us share, Eric learned to use his other senses to perceive his environment. His success proves the key to great interior design is not just an eye for beauty, but true creative vision.Whether an interior is being planned by an experienced expert, or a first-time homeowner, achieving a look that reflects your own needs and dreams requires a little creative thinking and a willingness to experiment with new ideas. My design studio typically works with generous budgets, and I love guiding clients through full-scale top-to-bottom renovations, but anyone can achieve a high-end impact without having to invest a lot of money. It just takes a little thought - a little vision - and some effort.Amanda Brugel, featured in countless Canadian television hits (including Seed, Paradise Falls and M.V.P.), is a terrific example of someone with the imagination to make the most of her space. I took a visit to Brugel's home (that is to say, me, a producer and a whole camera crew) for Cityline's Feb. 7 episode. A tattoo running down the back of Brugel's neck translates to her motto "light up the darkness," and a reading of her house reflects her desire to bring happiness and life to her blank canvas.The walls of Amanda's home were painted a trendy shade of rich beige, a colour that can be inviting or bland depending on how it is dressed. Luckily the actress had the vision (and a very skilled furniture maker for a grandfather) to put together a collection of large high-impact pieces. She admits she wasn't completely sure that all of these items would work together, with everything from beautiful '50s Art Deco cabinets and armoires, to a life-size stone soldier, but a little faith (and a little white spray paint on a bundle of branches) yielded results that speak for themselves. The groupings bring so much character to her living room the walls don't even need art, so the Brugel family photos can all be collected on one feature wall in the family room, and the simple black frames contrasted with a sophisticated plaid paper to complete the scene.I LOVE SNOOPINGI've previously told you about my early love for rocking chairs and radiators, but when I was growing up I had another, less relatable obsession: vacuum cleaners. While other kids would have probably been riffling through their parents' closets to find presents or candy, I was rummaging around the house looking to play with the famed Electrolux. And it wasn't just my own home where I did my prying, either. I would often embarrass my mother by snooping around other people's homes, trying to see where their Hoover was hidden. Now that I'm a bit older, I sadly don't find vacuuming quite as thrilling. To be perfectly honest, however, I still enjoy a good snoop - I'm glad I can now at least say it's part of my job!So, when I visited Cityline viewer Walter's house, I have to admit it wasn't because anybody twisted my arm to go. My love for investigating people's homes, paired with my belief that a little creative intervention can go a long way, lead me to propose a recurring segment called "Instant Makeover," where I would travel to a viewer's home, search through it top to bottom and make use of their existing items to reinvent one room. I love exploring someone's house with them and helping them get a new perspective on things they already own and finding new ways to use them. I always start the process by purging the room of clutter - editing is very important - and then look to see what lost treasure I can bring in. Quite often, I'll find items even the homeowner has forgotten about, like the time I found a rug buried away in a basement, only to used as the perfect finishing for a Cityline viewer Denise's dining room. Many makeovers later and the extremely popular segment continues on as a favourite of both viewer's and mine alike.Walter, an accountant, showed me a room that he called his home office, but admittedly never really used it to work. Feeling inspired by one of my past projects, Walter got a head start by repainting the room with Benjamin Moore's Classic Gray, one of my design staples, and creating an accent wall with some perfect leftover wallpaper. The room still felt more office than home, however, with a drab filing cabinet and overfilled shelves weighing down one wall, and the desk pushed to the end of the room, creating a cubicle-like environment.Scouring the other rooms in Walter's home (my favourite part of the process), I brought in an underused table lamp from the living room to add brightness, and moved out the filing cabinet to declutter. Pulling the desk away from the wall to the centre of the floor allowed Walter more breathing room both for himself and for a second person during meetings. Rethinking his existing belongings already created a more inviting work space with no money - just some biceps. To polish it all off, affordable decor accessory experts Bouclair provided the accessories, including storage baskets, a mirror to create the illusion of more space, and - the piÃ¨ce de resistance - a beautiful capiz chandelier (one of my favourite go-to materials for a high end look for any budget) dancing in the middle of the room and tying everything together.In each of these cases, the potential was always there to create a beautiful, livable space - it just took a little bit of vision to find it and bring it to the surface. I always suggest its better to have one room completely perfected than a whole house half done. The satisfaction you get from this one space can then inspire you to do even more! Picture your perfect space, snoop around your own home, and keep trying all your options until what you see in front of you matches what you see in your head.And hey, if you can't get it to match, you can always call me in.Yanic Simard, the founder of the Toronto Interior Design Group, appears every two weeks on Cityline (9 a.m. on City) and is the design editor of New Condo Guide. You can contact him at , read his blogs at tidg.ca, or follow him on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Houzz and Pinterest. He appears every two weeks in New in Homes & Condos.