You’re probably most familiar with Alexandra Hedison from her turn on the third season of The L Word as Dylan, and for her former relationship with Ellen DeGeneres. This summer, Hedison, who also appeared on ABC’s Prey with a pre-Will & Grace Debra Messing and on Fox’s L.A. Firefighters, returns to the tube as co-host of a new show on A&E called Designing Blind.
A home makeover series, Designing Blind has a twist: The designer, Eric Brun-Sanglard, is blind. Eric B., as he is known, lost his sight due to CMV Retinitis nearly 10 years ago. He was then a creative director for an advertising agency with clients such as Chanel, Hermes and Christian Dior. After losing his sight, he began to remodel his Hollywood Hills home and discovered that he has a knack for design, which has turned into a thriving business.
In each episode of Designing Blind, Eric designs one room in a couple’s house or apartment. Hedison is his co-host and what A&E calls Eric’s “sighted assistant.” At the start of each half-hour program, Hedison drives Eric to the initial meet-and-greet appointment with the couple whose room will be redesigned. The couples have not been told in advance that Eric is blind; that tidbit is sprung on them shortly after they meet Eric and Hedison.
As expected, the homeowners are surprised by this news, and most comment that they’d never heard of a blind designer. The show uses the “confessional” gimmick that is done to death on reality shows to allow us to hear their “real feelings.” (The confessional is used at other times as well, most effectively when it’s just Hedison rolling her eyes in amusement.)
Though some remain skeptical, the homeowners agree to allow the project to proceed, then talk with Hedison and Eric to discuss the room in its current state and what they hope for its redesign.
The participants’ assumptions about disability and sight are tested when Hedison gives them blindfolds to wear. Eric and Hedison then take them on a “feel trip” where the blindfolded duo can experience some of what Eric has learned about energy, feel, sound, smell and space. In the first few episodes, the participants visit a Japanese tea garden, the beach and a petting zoo to test out their non-sight senses.
While they are blindfolded, Eric hands each couple everyday objects to get a sense of color. To distinguish between different shades of red, for instance, he has couple Kat and Bruce take turns holding a toy fire truck and a brick, and asks them which feels better and invokes the image they want as an accent color for their room. Yvette and Colin choose a shade of green from among an artichoke, a bowl of colored water representing the Caribbean sea, and green cotton candy.
The men and women are also blindfolded during the shopping trips. In these, Eric asks them to choose gifts for each other, feeling the differences between three different stools, lamps, sofas and, with parents-to-be Colin and Yvette, changing tables.
Hedison plays navigator on the shopping excursions and “feel trips” and acts as translator when necessary. Eric, born and raised in France, speaks heavily accented English. Hedison also expounds a bit on why Eric is good at what he does.
Viewers see just a bit of the actual redecorating. With this half-hour show, the emphasis is more on the sensory decision-making processes than the room’s physical transformation. So home improvement junkies may be disappointed by not seeing more of the work itself.
Once the work is completed, the blindfolds come off and the homeowners appear ecstatic and surprised with the results. Several comment that the finished room surpass their wildest dreams.