Decorating with Feng Shui

By Nancy Moffett

“Feng shui (pronounced fung-shway) is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics believed to use the laws of both Heaven (astronomy) and Earth (geography) to help one improve life by receiving positive chi. Chi (chee)…refers to ‘energy,’ in the sense of ‘life force,’” according to Wikipedia.

How can you incorporate feng shui in your home decorating in order to create a more harmonious environment? Although the practice of feng shui can be complex and involves many elements, using some of its basic principles can help you make changes that will allow energy to flow freely throughout your home.

Lynda Somach, ASID, interior designer and space planner, says creating flow is the first principle in interior design. “Planning spaces according to their function comes before decorating,” she explains. For instance, being selective in where and how to use color is important to create this flow. “Everything you do must tie together.”

One feng shui principle is to keep energy from rushing through the house and to eliminate blockages of this energy. Energy is lost when the main entry lines up with the back door or a large window. Placing a table, a large plant or a furniture grouping in the pathway between opposing doors redirects energy’s path. Common blockages are cluttered garages and closets near entryways. To clear blockages, clean out and organize areas near the entry, a good exercise for any home, says Somach.

There are five feng shui elements: fire, metal, water, wood and earth. These are represented by specific colors. For instance, soft gold (metal) creates a warm, comfortable feeling, while royal purple represents the positive energy of fire, according to Somach. Green (wood) is a good color for a family room or home office as it represents growth and freshness. Blue and black represent water and evoke calm. Blue in a bedroom helps provide better sleep. Earth represents stability and nourishment. Earth colors are brown, light yellow, beige and other sandy hues. Feng shui recommends using these colors in the center of the home. A common use for color is painting the front door red, which, according to the Chinese, brings good luck. Adding a water element near or in the entry keeps negative energy out.

There are specific areas of the home where these elements should be used, according to Diane Bieri, Manager, Ethan Allen Design Center: fire and earth in the northeast and southwest; metal in the west and northwest; water in the north, southeast and east; and wood in the east and southeast. “Accessories are important for injecting these elements via color and texture into their proper place,” she explains. But they must be balanced. For example, a room with wood paneling, a wood floor and wooden furniture needs to be balanced by removing some wood elements and adding metal, fabric and colors representing other elements to the mix.

Mirrors represent the element of water and can be used to redirect energy, but placement is key, according to Bieri. “Never hang a mirror across from the main entrance as this blocks the flow of chi into the house.” Also, be careful using them in the bedroom. “Never have a mirror opposite the bed as the reflection may frighten you and disturb sleep,” she says. If you have a mirrored area, such as a closet door that you can’t change, cover it with fabric to counteract its negative effect.

Make certain that what a mirror does reflect is something you want to see more than once, such as beautiful collected items or the outdoors, Bieri recommends. Another no-no is hanging a mirror at the end of a long hall. “Mirrors can be put in places other than the center of a wall or above the fireplace. Try using one on a narrow wall to the side of your furniture group—placed so that it reflects the group,” she suggests.

Other bedroom tips include having the bed face the door. “The bed is the most attractive thing in the bedroom and should be what you see first,” Bieri says. And, you should be able to see who’s coming in, both for safety and comfort. Having a solid headboard keeps chi from escaping through slats or other headboard openings. Bieri applies the placement principle to her office as well. “My desk is placed to allow me to see the door. This is a power position in feng shui,” she explains. Employees often visit, so she counteracts any discomfort they may feel with their backs to the door by hanging a mirror that reflects the entrance in their view.

Here’s a great tip for getting started in a room to clear out disturbing elements. Get the family together and empty the room of everything any one of them doesn’t like. “This is a start to bringing serenity and stillness to the space,” Bieri says. By clearing out clutter and establishing clean spaces you build harmony, redirect chi and bring a sense of peace to the room. From there you can work to find and use objects and colors that enhance the feeling of stillness and serenity using feng shui guidelines.

If you’re stuck making decisions about home design, Somach recommends calling a designer for an in-home consultation. “A one-hour consultation at a reasonable cost may save you money in the long run,” she says, “by avoiding buying mistakes.” “Feng shui can definitely help in the arrangement of furniture in a room by concentrating on function,” she explains. She finds people are tweaking their homes these days by painting, adding granite and making other changes for a fresh look. “The goal of any decorating style is to make your space comfortable and functional.”

As for Bieri, she finds that using feng shui principles in her own home has helped her “feel calm, enjoy my life and think straight.”

There are many sites on the internet that address feng shui. and were useful in the writing of this article.

Resources for e-zine:
Ethan Allen Design Center
5064 Hamilton Boulevard
Allentown PA 18106
Linda Somach ASID

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