Along with our new house comes new wall colors, perhaps new furniture or some special pieces of art to acknowledge an important transition in our lives.
Our openness to a new living experience makes this the perfect time to incorporate feng shui principles into our interior designs. As DeAnna Radaj, a feng shui design practitioner and author of Designing the Life of Your Dreams From the Outside In, explains, “Feng shui is goal-oriented. My clients come to me looking for better health, better relationships and improvements in their careers.”
“I design their homes to help them achieve these goals and they have seen great results. Off the top of my head, I can think of a client who got a job promotion, one who got a new job they really wanted and a single client who then found a partner and got engaged — after I redesigned their homes.”
Results-focused design has been central to traditional feng shui practice since ancient times, when tombs and later whole cities were laid out with an intentional orientation to the shape of the land and the flow of wind and water. Tomb layouts were meant to achieve prosperity in the afterlife, while the feng shui layout of cities would help residents achieve prosperity while still on earth.
When applied to interiors, traditionalists use calculations based on birthdates of occupants in the house, along with the birthdate of the house. The traditional Form and Compass schools of thought of feng shui are still alive and well, although most American designers incorporate elements of various feng shui based on their preferences and the influence of the masters they trained under.
Radaj, of Charlotte, N.C., trained in the Black Hat school. “That’s just the school that I resonated with, with my lifestyle and the approach and what it taught. I like it because it’s a little easier to understand,” she says.
Radaj is reluctant to dish out specifics on feng shui principles because “it’s very specific to a home, its location and the people involved. What applies to one family might not apply to another.” She does, though, reference the bagua board and its importance as a tool in feng shui design — bagua board is used to map out the positioning of objects in your home. “The bagua is an eight-sided figure, divided into nine sections, or nine life areas. Each life area corresponds with a color, shape, symbol.”
Brooklyn, N.Y.-based practitioner Laura Benko uses a simple bedroom chart to illustrate feng shui design principles. “When you are moving into a new home, it’s a great time to think about the feng shui of your space as you begin to decorate,” she says. “One important tenant of this ancient art of placement is the importance of positioning. When you are situated with your back up against a solid wall and you can easily see the entrance to the room, you are in the ‘commanding position.’ ”
Benko underscores the significance of empowerment versus vulnerability when she is designing interiors. “(Use feng shui principles) because they do not let you feel easily startled,” she says. For example, certain positions in a bedroom will give you a clear view to the door. If you must use other positions in the room because of the way the windows or furniture work, place a mirror on the wall opposite the door so you can see it clearly, she suggests.
Counterintuitive to the principle, other positions are not recommended, because they are not in straight alignment with the door (called the direct line of chi), which makes sleeping difficult. These same concepts can be applied to the placement of sofas and chairs in other rooms of the house.
Benko also considers the importance of colors, textures and materials in her work. “Elements from nature like fresh flowers, driftwood and geodes create expansive, lively and fresh energy,” she says. “Also, natural, organic fabrics like silk, linen and cashmere and wool are healthier than synthetics that may contain toxic chemicals and dyes.”
In Benko’s view, using colors and materials to mimic a natural environment aids sleep, relaxation and overall mood. Also, “Nature-related art in the bedroom is a great choice, but instead of fast-moving imagery like crashing waves, go for serene artwork that inspires reflection and relaxation.”
New York City-based feng shui specialist Melissa Stamps also emphasizes materials and especially color in her work. In one living room designed for a Brooklyn couple, she used light maple hardwood floors and a French glass door to create a feeling of space and expansion. “Using monochromatic colors and bold, fun colors and textures gives the room a vibrant and playful mood,” she says. “And because this room is small, adding mirrored furniture adds depth and gives the feeling of a larger room.”
When a real estate investor hired Stamps to design his New Jersey home, she combined Art Deco style with feng shui principles. “I brought harmony and flow by using luminous colors and hardwood floors throughout the space. The modern, sleek furniture has a Zen mood to create a feeling of tranquility.” Splashes of bright orange and red bring in energy, Stamps adds.
For a Washington, D.C. client, Stamps created a “Zen-meets-anime” space. “The clients are both lawyers who wanted an Asian influence in the design. Their focus is on manifesting wealth, so I worked with the bagua color system and used many hues of purple and indigo to activate the flow of abundance. This room has an intimate and dynamic mood because of a yin/yang balance of color, light and furniture position.”
Ultimately, feng shui design is a response to life’s big questions: What plan do I have for my life? How do I want to grow as an individual and in a family? What needs do I have that aren’t being fulfilled?
Radaj attributes feng shui design with having the power to resolve these issues. “My goal is to solve my clients’ problems and pain through the design of their interiors,” she says. “My most recent client moved from Wisconsin to Florida for a new job. Her husband went with her and was looking for work. One of the elements we focused on when designing their house was his career and he soon found a position that fit.”