Feng shui is the practice of arranging the pieces your living space to create balance with the natural world and establish harmony between you and your environment. If you are new to feng shui, here is a quick primer to get you up to speed.
Feng Shui 101
One of the central concepts in feng shui is qi (or chi)—the energy that connects all living things. Devotees of feng shui believe that by arranging your furniture in a way that allows your qi to flow uninhibited through your home, you can improve your overall quality of life.
There are several principles in feng shui that allow or encourage the free movement of qi, including strict rules about where (or where not) to place furniture to the use of auspicious colours. Although there are different schools of feng shui offering variations on these principles, three of the essential principles are common throughout: the command position, the bagua map, and the five elements.
The command position is the spot in the room where you can best deal with whatever life throws at you. You command position should always be the point farthest from the door, with good view of the door, but not in direct line with the door. This will allow you the widest view of the room and the fullest awareness of anything or anyone approaching, putting you in control.
The command position is especially critical when you are decorating your office, living room, or bedroom where you are most vulnerable, and is where you would place your most important piece of furniture; your sofa, desk, or bed, for example.
The bagua map is a three-by-three grid that is placed over the floor plan of your home to match each area with a different category of your life. The eight outer boxes of the bagua map represent wealth, fame, love, family, children, knowledge, career, and helpful people, while a ninth box in the center represents you. If you need improvement in any of the eight areas, you would use the appropriate feng shui principles in the corresponding location in your home.
The five element system is a holistic way of understanding the living world and is the basis of traditional Chinese medicine. In feng shui, the five element system is a tool used by practitioners to adjust the energy of a space. And, because it is relatively easy to understand, it is often where beginners start when they explore feng shui for the first time.
Feng Shui in Real Life
Later in this post, we’ll break down the five elements, one-by-one, and show you some practical ways to use them in your design. First, though, we recently sat down (virtually) for a conversation with Andrea Tiopo, a Winnipeg-based real estate professional, entrepreneur, and design enthusiast. During our chat, Andrea, who is one of our style ambassadors, shared some great information including the details about her latest project and how folowing feng shui principles has helped her to be more intentional in her design.
Welcome, Andrea. How would you describe your style?
My personal interior design style is a mix between Wabi Sabi and Parisian/Scandinavian/Modern French, all while being mindful of feng shui practices in my design choices.
When did you become interested in feng shui?
My interest in feng shui started back in 2018, one year after I moved into my home. I wanted to be more intentional with the placement of certain pieces I had in my home, so I started doing research online. Not knowing about Feng Shui practices, it was interesting to find that I already placed certain items in my home based off of my own intuition. However, there were certain elements I needed to incorporate to really allow the chi to flow properly throughout the space.
Once you made those changes, how did it affect your life?
It really made a huge difference in how I felt coming home after a long workday. I truly felt zen in my own space, and that is an incredible feeling.
Can you share with us a couple feng shui “dos and don’ts” that you follow in your own home?
Do incorporate the five elements—earth, fire, water, metal, wood—whether it be through objects or symbols. Slow down the chi by having artwork that allows you to stop and reflect. Don’t mix your workspace with your bedroom or rest areas; find other places to work, like your kitchen or living room.
Another important point is to not let your home become unorganized and cluttered—this does not allow the chi to flow freely throughout the space. I believe that having a tidy space helps with your overall productivity—especially if you are working from home—so I try to make sure that my space is clean which allows me to think clearer and make better decisions.
Tell us about your latest decorating project. What room are you tackling?
Right now, I am in the middle of redesigning my living room to reflect my current style and incorporate pieces that inspire me. Most of my pieces were purchased in 2017 with a tighter budget and no idea of what style I was going for.
What new pieces will you be adding and why did you choose them?
I will be adding the Caladeron sofa and two matching chairs, as well as the Cariton coffee table and Caronwell area rug. I love the elegance of the sofa and chairs, but I also chose these pieces because the items do not go with my current style. I prefer more neutral or warmer pieces, whereas these ones are on the cooler side. I plan to warm up the cooler pieces in the room with the wood finish coffee table.
We can’t wait to see the finished room! How will you be incorporating feng shui principles?
The sofa will be up against a solid wall which represents stability. I will ensure that all five elements are incorporated in the space and I plan to place specific items in each energy centre of the room.
How can someone who is new to feng shui learn more the principles you've mentioned?
For someone who is just getting started with Feng Shui, I would recommend reading the book “Feng Shui Your Life” by Jayme Barrett, or “Feng Shui That Makes Sense” by Cathleen McCandless.
What are three easy changes someone could make today?
One, start by going through cupboards, closets, and bedrooms and getting rid of clutter. Clutter is stagnant energy and does not allow the chi to flow. Two, bring light into your home. Natural light can instantly make us happier and feel more positive. Three, use mirrors to help expand a space, but be mindful of what it is reflecting. Is it a stack of bills—in other words, more clutter—or a beautiful view?
Do you have any final advice?
Take the time to learn and understand feng shui practices. You will become more intentional with the placement of the items in your home to ensure it feels good to you and the energy flows.
The Five Elements of Feng Shui
Representing the patterns of all natural things, the five elements are fire, earth, metal, wood, and water; each with its own set of defining characteristics and each with the ability to create, destroy, or control one another through balance and imbalance. Once you start to explore the five elements and begin to understand what they do, you’ll see how subtly increasing or decreasing their presence can shift the energy and/or bring balance to your space.
Fire is the element associated with passion, expression, warmth, and inspiration, so it probably won’t surprise you that the colour for fire is red, or that its shape is the triangle. Adding this element to your home is a lot of fun because it’s all about that fiery energy—pops of red (and orange), zig zags, animal prints, and bold geometrics—as well as actual “fire,” which can be in the form of lighting, candles, and, of course, a fireplace or fire feature.
Take care when adding fire to your space. An overabundance can present as anger, impulsiveness or aggression; whereas emotional coldness, poor self-esteem and lack of vision are a sign of too little fire.
Earth brings forth feelings of being grounded, as well as emotional stability and physical strength. It is represented by warm earth tones, square or rectangular shapes, and low or flat surfaces (literally “down to earth”). Along with adding natural materials like clay and earthenware, you can increase this element in your room by adding crystals, landscape images, or an earth-toned rug to define and ground the space.
An overabundance of earth in a space can leave you bored, sluggish, or overly serious, while too little can make you flighty, disorganized, or unfocused.
Metal is the element responsible for logic, focus, precision, and mental clarity. It is represented by objects made of metal, rocks and stones, and round or oval shapes. Its colours are white, grey, light pastels, and metallics. To add more of this element to your space, consider accent pieces like metal trays, lamps, and vases, or a marble-topped table like the Mercer, above.
When too much of this element is in the mix, you might feel overly critical, talkative, and quick to pass judgement; not enough could leave you quiet and excessively cautious.
Wood is associated with growth, vitality, flexibility, inventiveness, and kindness. To give your space more wood energy, use columnar shapes (think tree trunks), houseplants and flowers, natural fibers like cotton and linen, blues and greens, and wood furniture. The Dakota End Table, above, is a very literal interpretation of how to incorporate the wood element into your room, but that’s a big part of its charm. Long curtains and vertically striped wallpaper can also be used to represent wood.
Avoid using too much of this element in your design—excessive wood in a space can feel overwhelming, stubborn, or inflexible. On the other hand, too little wood can produce feelings of stagnancy or a lack of creativity
Water, our final element, promotes insight, inspiration, and wisdom. Black or deep, dark tones, reflective surfaces, and wavy or free-form shapes all represent this spiritual, emotional element. Adding touches of black is one of the easiest ways to add this element to a room, but you can also use mirrors, fountains or fish tanks, images or water, or objects with an undulating wavy pattern, like the Medlin table lamp above.
When there’s too much of this element in a space, you can feel overly social, overwhelmed, or like you are emotionally drowning. Too little water can produce feelings of loneliness, isolation, and a lack of sympathy.
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