Open the Door to Feng Shui

Posted In Design - 09/15/2016

Love your environment as part of you and it will embrace you with universal peace in return. This is feng shui in its purity.

Feng shui (pronounced fung shway) is not superstition, religion or magic. Literally meaning “wind and water,” it is steeped in a philosophy based on enjoying the benefits from creating harmony and balance around us. An ancient Chinese practice, feng shui began as a system to protect people from climatic and environmental conditions throughout the year, such as harsh winds and untamed waters.

The fundamental principle of Feng Shui can be equated to notions of modern physics: All things contain their own energy. Everything has a life force called chi … and it’s possible to tap into this energy to affect and change our lives.

Thousands of years later, it has developed in complexity and is now used to enhance every area of peoples’ lives. You do not need to become an expert in feng shui to create harmony and balance around you. Simply developing an awareness of how these energies affect your living space will benefit you tremendously.


  • Feng Shui is a blueprint for creating energetic harmony
  • It can be used for interior design but also applies to many other things
  • Guiding concepts are Earth, Fire, Water, Metal, and Wood
  • Works to balance the flow of Chi
  • Consists of two cycles: Constructive and Destructive

Feng Shui Terminology for Beginners

While diving into feng shui, you’re likely to come across some words and concepts that seem unfamiliar. Chi, Bagua, Yin, Yang, and several other non-Western words are used to help describe the concepts and implementation of feng shui. We'll start with a quick refresher on some terms.  However, as we move along, don’t get bogged down by unfamiliar language. Just remember—feng shui is all about balance!

Yin & Yang

Yin & Yang are universal terms to represent opposing forces in balance. While the symbolic representation of these forces is very familiar, the meaning can be elusive. Yin, representing moon, is the dark and feminine energy and Yang, representing sun, is bright and masculine.


The energy of one’s environment should be balanced so it can flow freely and effortlessly, like fresh air. Chi (Qi) enters and leaves rooms through windows and doors; it should never become stuck, stagnant, depleted or too concentrated. To change the energies in your living space, rearrange furniture and décor accessories so your flow is meandering and leisurely. This will produce more favorable energies than if the flow is straight and fast or still and trapped.

The Bagua

In addition to rearranging for a change of flow in your home, you can improve your feng shui with the use of a tool called a Bagua. As far back as Confucius, the Chinese linked a moral order of five virtues — humanity, righteousness, decorum, wisdom and good faith — with the natural order, as symbolized by the five elements -- wood, metal, fire, water and earth. Each of these virtues is represented by an element and associated with a life aspiration (such as career or family), a color and a compass direction, as mapped on the Bagua. Use this to improve different aspects of your life.

For example, let’s say you want to improve your career. The virtue you want to focus on is wisdom, the color to use is black, the element is water and the direction is north. One solution to energize your career aspiration would be to place an aquarium with black and gold fish (eight gold and one black is an auspicious combination) in the north sector of your living room or home office.

To use the Bagua, first determine the orientation of your home, using a compass if necessary. Superimpose the Bagua’s eight trigrams on your home, room, garden or office and look for clues about the interrelationship of what is happening in your life as it relates to your environment.

Once you know where each sector lies in relation to your own home, you can change your life aspirations by applying an appropriate element and color in the right location or removing an element or color that’s in the wrong location. The elements can be represented physically or symbolically … red drapery or a triangle-shaped object can add a strong fire element to your living space.

What is Bad Feng Shui?

The flow of your living space affects your energy outside. If you’re trying to attain a goal but keep getting blocked, look at how you’re treating the nooks and corners in your living space: They may be causing obstacles to your energy flow.

Look for "poison arrows" that may be disrupting your home by blocking good chi. These include exposed beams and open bookshelves. Soften these harmful edges by placing a plant in front of them, sandpapering the edges to "blunt" the blade, or arranging your books to sit flush with the edge so the blades disappear.

The Elements

Chinese traditions incorporate concepts of balance much more deeply than Western societies. The concept of Earthly elements such as Earth, wood, fire, metal, and water are all used as proxies to help conceptualize balance—as well as many abstract characteristics of such. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though! All you need to know to get started with feng shui is that each of these elements is used as part of an overall balance and that each embodies certain design motifs and material preferences.


This element is primarily active, masculine yang energy and associated with growth, the season of Spring, and all things related to new beginnings. Spaces designs to embody Wood energy is characterized by living plants, natural wood materials, and artistic representations of things such as trees.


Primarily Yin (feminine, receptive) but can also be expressed in an active form when properly balanced. Earth represents a stable center point representative of the transition between seasons. Earth can be characterized by colors such as yellow, brown, and tan as well as design elements such as stones, salt lamps, and small zen gardens.


This element is Yin primarily, though can be expressed as concepts of rivers and more aggressive flows of energy where it takes on an active masculine presence. As one might expect, this element is expressed with colors of blues and aquas and anything that contains water. Fish tanks, small fountains, or even artwork depicting bodies of water all work to empower water in your home.


Fire is the most masculine element incorporated in feng shui and is almost always best expressed in masculine energy. It is characterized by reds, deep yellows, and orange colors as well as candles, fireplaces, and bright lighting. It’s nourished by wood, as one might guess, and can be counter-balanced by water energies—also as one might expect. Overall, fire should represent the energetic center of your home—rooms like dens, kitchens, or workout rooms.


Metal is associated with periods of slowing down such as Autumn, ends of semesters, evening hours, and similar circumstances where flows of energy are finally settling down. It’s characterized by gray and white colors but can also be expressed in very muted forms of other colors that, when compared to more energetic colors, seem almost plain. Objects such as metal lamps, metal bowls, metal wall art, wind chimes, and metal sculptures are all excellent ways to add metallic energy to your spaces.

Feng Shui Cycles

Feng Shui cycles might be a bit hard to grasp at first. There are two primary cycles in Feng Shui: the constructive cycle and the destructive cycle. Each of these describes relationships between the individual elements in a way that can either increase or decrease the presence of certain elements of energy. See the chart above to understand the relationships and interactions.


The destructive cycle, or particular flows of energetic destruction, are used to lessen or counterbalance the energy of another element. For example, let’s say your entire house is made of wood. Wood walls, wood ceilings, wood flooring, and wood molding. That’s a lot of wood.

That amount of wood will create an imbalance in the overall energetic flow of your home. In order to use feng shui principals to balance things out you’d want to add in objects and colors that embody the metal energy.


The constructive cycle, also called the creating cycle, is about strengthening the energetic presence of certain elements. This can be used to create foundational balances in your home by offsetting existing elements or to accentuate certain energies during periods of imbalance in your life.

For example, you may find that your home has certain metal elements, such as support beams, cabinet hardware, table sets, or maybe even sculptures, that feel a bit out of place—maybe even foreign among other elements. Adding Earth elements and colors to support those energies can help boost that metal energy and create a more harmonious balance.

Quick Feng Shui Tips

The best ways to improve feng shui in your home include removing clutter, rearranging furniture, changing negative decorative features and the use of “cures” such as plants, water, wind chimes, color and crystals.


The energy flow of your home starts at the door. It should be well-defined, clear of clutter, and bright and open. Remove mirrors opposite your entryway door. The mirror will reflect beneficial chi out of your home before it has a chance to enter.


Occasional insomnia might be the result of unbalanced energy in your bedroom. Try the following bedroom ideas, but if your room design doesn’t permit perfect feng shui, be creative.

  • Place your headboard against a wall to ground your power.
  • Place your bed diagonally opposite the door so you have a commanding view of the mouth of the Chi and will be in the best position to receive life-force energy as it enters the room. Sleeping is a vulnerable state, so it’s important that your bedroom be supportive of your being.
  • Do not sleep with your head or feet directly pointed at the door. It’s believed this is a disruptive sleeping position because when a corpse leaves a room it goes feet first. Remember to put your best foot forward … except when you’re asleep.
  • Avoid putting the head of the bed under a window or exposed beam which gives off bad energy. If it must be under a window, keep the curtains drawn.
  • The use of mirrors in your home can create good and bad energy and bedroom mirrors are strictly taboo. Believed to cause infidelity and bad luck, avoid them in this room, particularly opposite the foot of your bed. If you must include them, drape them with cloth or suppress the negative energy with plants or wind chimes.

Living Room

The heart of family life, the living room is where you kick back, relax and enjoy. The energy flow of this all-important room is essential. The living room should be clutter-free and not over-furnished.

  • Arrange furniture to create a leisurely, meandering flow while avoiding blocking pathways.
  • Soft, rounded sofas and chairs with high backs symbolize support in the lives of family members.
  • Hang pictures of friends and family on the east wall to enhance the family and health sector (refer to the Bagua).
  • Place stereo equipment on the west wall to bring extra luck to your home.
  • Dispel negative chi caused by televisions (due to the electrical field they emanate) by hiding them behind entertainment center doors or strategically placed plants.


The energy of the chef is cooked into the food, so it’s important to create a balanced environment. Placing your stove next to or directly opposite your sink or refrigerator will cause a clash between the fire and water elements. Leave space between them and place your stove in the south, rotating your use of each burner to encourage the flow of prosperity.

Dining Room

Enhance the comfort and inviting nature of your dining room with feng shui principals to maximize the ability of this room to help you form bonds and memories with family and friends.  Place portraits of food or a large mirror in your dining area to promote abundance. Consider selecting a round dining table to encourage energy flow and intimacy if the space is small.  Add plants to soften corners and add the element of wood.


Spiky leaves generate "poison arrows." Choose round-leafed varieties instead. Plants are cures for protruding corners and exposed beams.


Fix and repair windows. They affect one’s clarity, so replace broken glass panes and clean the windows. Chi flows through windows even when they’re closed.


If you have long corridors or cramped spaces in your home, paint them white and keep them well lit to ensure a better energy flow.


Natural lighting, as well as artificial lighting, is important. You can enhance light further with mirrors to boost the energy in the home, increase opportunities and broaden possibilities.


Mirrors can correct many problems, but they must be used properly. When placed badly, mirrors can cause problems, especially in the bedroom.

When part of your floor plan is missing a corner, place a mirror on the opposite wall to “create” the missing area.

Use mirrors to open up small, cramped spaces and amplify light. Also make sure they reflect something you want to see more of, such as your garden, trees or light.


A carpet should blend with all the elements of the room, but the ruling element (for example, wood if the room is in the north) should help you choose the color and pattern. A rug can activate healthy energy flow into and through your living space by highlighting specific parts of a room.


Anything made of crystal is good as it acts as a prism and brings in more good chi.

Wind chimes are excellent feng shui tools. Use six or eight rods to enhance good luck, and five rods (preferably made of metal) to "push down" bad energy.

To attract influential people into your life, place a wind chime with six or eight metal rods in the northwest of your living room.


Use the Bagua when choosing colors for your home. For example, if you want to relax, green — associated with the element wood and life aspiration for health and family — is the most soothing color and a great choice for bedrooms. If you have white walls, you can balance out your colors with rugs, pictures, chairs, etc. Avoid too much of any one color.


Place a fish tank in the north sector of your living room or home office to energize the career aspiration, which is governed by water. Place one in the southeast sector to activate the wealth area. The best fish to use are Arowana or goldfish: eight gold and one black or two gold and one black are auspicious combinations.

Pro Tips for Feng Shui Success

Don’t try and change everything at once, start slowly and carefully choose what works best for you. Looking for a good place to start? Remove the clutter. In feng shui, neatness definitely counts.

Any Interior Designer knows that creative inspiration is rarely found au naturale. That is; even the pros have to wade through the Pinterest and Instagram accounts sometimes to come up with a game plan! The key to making your home more feng shui is to start with a basic understanding, and then find your creative inspiration!

Concepts of Feng Shui can be applied at multiple scales. Let’s say you’ve found an incredible new piece of furniture from one of the top designers on the market. You want to showcase this piece in your home, but it’s got a lot of metal on it. Think gigantic hardware with a patinaed top surface. Adding some Wood and Fire elements (Wood strengthens Fire, Fire destroys Metal) can help balance that out.

Create a basic sketch of your home and consider which elements are best suited for which rooms. Remember, you’re trying to create balance. That means not painting your whole interior red, or hanging metal sculptures on every wall. Think of your house as a whole, and each room as separate contributing members of the overall balance. That’s feng shui, in a nutshell.

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