I am working with a client who is requesting I be knowledgeable on the use of feng shui in interior design. I have not been able to find much information on this subject as it relates to the interior environment. Please help. Answer: The term feng shui translates to wind and water. The Chinese have literally laid out their cities according to the principles of feng shui as early as the Han dynasty, dating back about 2,000 years ago. It is known as the "art of placement" and commands harmony with the surroundings. The art seeks to improve the flow of energy in the environment, thus improving the flow of energy in the human being. If there is a balance of energy -- or "chi" as the Chinese refer to this energy -- then health, wealth and happiness are sure to follow 1.
Much of the aspects of feng shui are used today and are based on good sense and rational thinking according to the architects and designers that implement its characteristics in their work.
In California, leading architects take the feng shui principles into account when designing homes. Their use and location of color is very important in implementing the philosophy. Deep, rich reds and purples represent power, while black is used as good luck and to attract prosperity. Green represents a sense of growth, where bright red refers to a hot-tempered, sweaty mood. Many of these color beliefs are present and universal in our perceptions of color today.
When evaluating placement, a master bedroom is one of the most important rooms in the home. Mirrors should not be used in the bedrooms, as they bring bad luck, especially if they face the bed. The foot of the bed should not face the door, because it takes away from our sense of security and being cradled. Instead we would feel exposed and vulnerable 2.
Feng shui philosophy references nine different aspects of life: wealth, health, fame, partnership, children, helpful people, career, knowledge and family. Each one of these aspects has a corresponding physical space within any environment, including a house, a specific room within a house, an office, a lot, a table and so on. If there is a change made to the physical space, then there will be a change -- good or bad -- in the corresponding life aspect 3.
Feng shui uses several basic ideas to create harmony and direct chi.
• Mirrors -- create the illusion of light and space. If someone is seated with their back toward the door, a mirror can make them feel more comfortable, because they can see the reflection of who is entering. Mirrors can be used to draw in images of water, such as a lake which is equated with drawing in wealth.
• Water -- views, fountains, streams and aquariums all bring good chi into a house.
• Entrances -- Do not place front and back entrances in a direct line with one another. Whatever comes into the house, energy, wealth, good fortune, etc., can flow out of the house.
• Hallways -- Energy is more intense and faster in long, narrow hallways. Hanging crystals can disperse the energy and slow it down; a flower arrangement or furniture also will slow down the flow of energy.
• Furniture arrangement -- should lead to comfort and hospitality. Living room seating should be arranged to foster conversation. Arrange furniture so people can sit with a windowless wall behind them for support and protection.
• The knife edge or the warrior's arrow -- A projecting corner pointing at someone's back creates a physical and emotional threat. Soften the corner with a screen.
• Plants -- Where a plant thrives, so will the occupants of the house. Fish and other living things help the flow of good chi, as well. • Wind chimes -- The sound is an uplifting force and they moderate energy flow.
• Wealth corner -- Place things of value here, or physical representations of what you want to achieve in your life.
• Color -- Each life aspect and its corresponding physical space has an associated color. Red can activate any area. Yellow represents longevity and green symbolizes growth 4.
These are just a few of the feng shui principles that relate to the use of good design principles, which always will give a sense of harmony within the environment you are creating.
Further reading of books and articles listed at your local library and book stores or information on the Internet, may provide details you are looking for to design your client's home. Feng shui and good design go hand in hand to provide integrity and quality to the environments in which we live and work. You will find the relationship of good design to happy home owners (your customers) if you employ the use of feng shui in all your designs.
Footnotes 1, 2, 3, 4: "Living in Harmony," Diane Wintraub Calmenson, Interiors & Sources magazine, pages 58 to 60, March 1995, Volume 7, Number 40.
Editor's Note: This is a continuing series of articles written by Sharon L. Anderson which will answer some of the many questions we receive at Draperies & Window Coverings, as well as questions Anderson has encountered in her own business.
Sharon L. Anderson, Associate Member, Interior Design Educator's Council (IDEC), has more than 14 years experience as a commercial and residential design professional. She has taught numerous courses at colleges and universities throughout Southern California and is a published author and frequent public speaker.