I choose to discuss Feng Shui last in this series for several reasons. One reason is that most people have heard of Feng Shui and already have a preconceived definition. Second, you will see that many of the practices of Universal Design and Biophilia blend seamlessly with Feng Shui practices.
I was able to find dozens of definitions of Feng Shui, but the one that summed it up best was from National Geographic – “Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese art of arranging buildings, objects, and space in an environment to achieve harmony and balance in a way that will bring peace and prosperity”. The term Feng Shui literally means “Wind & Water”. Everything in life is connected. As the Joe Diffie song says, “Cause and effect, Chain of Events, All of this chaos makes perfect sense”. Your outside affects your inside, and conversely, your inside affects your outside. The practice of Feng Shui believes everything has an energy, the “Chi” or “Qi”. You want to do your best to promote positive energy. Energy is contagious – good or bad.
Think of a space that makes you feel uncomfortable or anxious when you are in it. Chances are that many of the principles of Feng Shui are being ignored. If a space has negative energy, people want to move through it quickly. This would be awful for a business or restaurant that wants you to spend your money. The same principles apply to your home. Your visual comfort and physical comfort tend to slow your rhythm and reduce your stress, and then, in turn, they help develop positive energy that spreads within the space.
There are five elements of Feng Shui - water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. You want these elements to be in balance with one another. The easiest way to change a room is to add or move one of the elements. All materials can be classified as one of these five types. These are basic things you would find in nature and when in balance they bring calm, just as spending time outdoors can. This doesn’t mean that we literally need water in a space, but a representation works just as well. Consider a painting of the ocean, blue walls, or soft freeform shapes. Each of the five elements can be represented in countless ways although an overabundance of any of the elements causes an imbalance and discomfort.
Before you even lift a hammer, consider what is already in the space. Clutter breeds a feeling of chaos. Clients come to me looking for more space, but first, we examine if or why they need it. Sorting, purging, and tidying is always the first step. The question is, do you really need 27 breadboards? Open up, let the light, and let the air in. The second thing I do is look at what is filling the space. Does your bedroom have the hand-me-down 80’s oversized heavy wood suite from your Aunt Viv? Is your seating blocking the traffic flow between rooms? Can you move easily about your home? Edit, purge, and re-arrange. And before you put it all back deep clean the room- you’ll be surprised what a deep clean does for your soul.
A great place to start is your entry. It is the first thing you see when returning home and it is also the first thing guests see. A cramped dark entry filled with piles and clutter is not welcoming. Instead of your home recharging you at the end of the day, it robs you of your energy. Your guests feel this too. You want to welcome energy in and an uninviting entry can't do that.
These are some of the basic concepts of Feng Shui that promote comfort and restfulness. Feng Shui can also be used to attract specific types of energy such as love or prosperity. Considerations like placing two nightstands in your bedroom, signifying that you are ready to share your space, or placing your furniture or other items according to the Bagua Map (see link) can strengthen the energy in a certain area. The principles of Feng Shui are meant to improve and direct the flow of a happy home.
Whether you incorporate Feng Shui, Universal Design, or Biophilia when designing, one should never be able to actually define the elements, but rather sense the whole from the sum of its parts. A well-designed space will promote harmony and allow its occupants to thrive.
“The Western Guide to Feng Shui Room by Room” by Terah Kathryn Collins