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Sensory Perception: Eduardo Xol

On Extreme Makeover: Home Edition – and in his life – designer Eduardo Xol creates spaces that appeal to the senses, and to his own notion of what living well is really about.

eduardo xol

Think abundance, and the first things that come to mind might be financial wealth and material goods. Ask Eduardo Xol, the designer best known for his work on ABC’s award-winning Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, what he thinks about abundance, and he’s more apt to focus on the experiential world — sounds, smells, textures and tastes — than on the material one.

That’s not surprising coming from a guy who’s committed his life to the pursuit of beauty, creativity and personal expression. His new book, Extreme Entertaining Made Simple (Celebra, 2008), combines the former pop star’s flair for composition and performance with his passion for design. And his ongoing TV gig allows him to put into practice his compassionate nature before his favorite sort of audience: regular folks.

Now in his fifth season on the show, Xol (pronounced “soul”) spends much of his time zigzagging across the country, surprising families in need with new homes — an experience that, in some ways, has brought the 42-year-old East Los Angeles native full circle.

Growing up in a family of modest means in a tough part of town, Xol thrived amid parents and siblings who always encouraged him to follow his dreams. “We supported each other in growing individually and then growing together, and there was always enough, no matter what,” he recalls. “When you have an abundance of love and good energy around you, everything else sort of falls into place.”

A keyboard and percussion prodigy, Xol performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra at the tender age of 11. Later, after studying theatre arts at UCLA, he moved to Mexico and dove headfirst into the entertainment industry, making a name for himself as a music producer and composer, pop star (Edi Xol), and telenovela heartthrob.

Despite his run of success in Latin America, Xol returned to the United States in 1998 with the intention of retiring from the business. His father, however, would have none of it. “My dad happened to be retiring, and he reminded me that it was his time to retire, not mine,” he recalls. “He pushed me to jump back in and do something else.”

Xol had developed an appreciation for gardening as a child while helping his grandmother tend to her roses, and while he explored his options, he spent time with his father in the garden, cultivating bonsai — and a new career.

“I started taking on little gardening and landscaping projects that led to bigger ones, and before I knew it, I had a group of clients,” Xol says. “I thought, ‘I have a landscaping design business that’s growing by itself.’ It was the weirdest thing, but it was one of those times when I knew I was being guided on the right path. I loved what I was doing.”

In 2003, impressed by what they’d seen and heard of Xol and his design firm (XOL:Design in L.A.), the producers of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition contacted him and offered him an audition. Soon after, Xol joined the show’s design team in the middle of its second season. “When I saw the show, I knew it was my next step,” he recalls. “It’s one of the most gratifying things I’ve done.”

The show has helped Xol refine his own design philosophy. During his first season, Xol and his colleagues faced the challenge of designing a home for a blind man who wanted a sense of independence. “This is when I started forming my philosophy about designing for the senses,” he says. By bringing sounds, smells, textures and even tastes into the home, they were able to help the man feel comfortable and safe in his space.

“Designing for the senses is about creating an environment that is balanced in every way,” Xol explains. “Design is supposed to be meant for better living, and for me, it’s about lifestyle. Like music, it’s a composition of it all.”

Xol, whose work is now evolving into lifestyle and event design, explains the fundamentals of his approach in his two recent books, Home Sense: Simple Solutions to Enhance Where and How You Live (Collins Living, 2007) and Extreme Entertaining Made Simple. The latter includes his latest music project: a collection of songs created for the different events outlined in the book. “The CD was a perfect way — and a perfect excuse — for me to get back into music,” he says.

With all of his design, music and TV projects, Xol maintains a hectic schedule. Yet he understands that to stay on top of his game, he has to take care of himself. He prioritizes sleep and eating well, and to de-stress, he organizes. “When everything is in place in my environment, and I can light a candle, listen to music and have a glass of wine, I’m great.”

Xol also takes time to enjoy his success. “I feel like I have abundance everywhere right now, and for me, the best way of celebrating it is doing whatever I can to share it with others.”

Video Extra! See the behind-the-scenes footage from our photo shoot with Eduardo Xol at experiencelife.com/videos.

Jamie Martin is an Experience Life senior editor.

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