Decorating your home is an art. The furniture, the colors, the artwork, the lighting — you want all of these elements to balance in perfect harmony.
But a harmonious space means more than having the right drapes or perfectly matched linens. A harmonious space should be pleasing to the eye as well as the soul. Most of all, a harmonious space should reduce anxiety and bring about inner harmony, and that’s where the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui comes in.
“Any major energetic unbalance will result in stress,” says Natalia Kaylin, a feng shui consultant based in Massachusetts. “If you feel stressed and unmotivated, or have low energy and disrupted sleep patterns, the probability is high that your environment may be a contributing factor,” she explains.
According to Kaylin, the key to reducing this stress lies in creating balance between Yin and Yang (the two opposing forces discussed in Chinese philosophy) as well as the five Elements, which consist of water, wood, fire, earth and metal. For example, a home with too much Yang (e.g. too much brightness, lots of straight lines, lots of sharp lines) can create a stressful environment. Likewise, too many fire elements (deep reds and triangular shapes) will do the same.
So what can you do to make your living space a more peaceful, stress-free environment? Interior decorator and feng shui enthusiast Vanessa Deleon recommends you consider redesigning. “An incorrectly designed space can just cause more anxiety and stress in your life,” she says. Deleon also explains that colors, furniture placement and even clutter can be contributing factors, so every room in the home can benefit from a feng shui makeover.
"The entrance is the area where energy comes in and distributes throughout the house," says feng shui expert Kaylin, who believes it's also one of the most important spaces in the home. To invite good energy, she recommends reducing all clutter, softening any sharp design features and introducing curved furniture. "If the entrance is small, open up the space by introducing a piece of art with a subject like an ocean, a meadow or a path," she advises. Mirrors work well too, she says, just as long as they're hung on a perpendicular wall from the door.
It's especially important to have a stress-free environment to sleep in, because so much of our time is spent in the bedroom. "The bedroom is where you wind down at night, but it’s also the place where you start every morning," Deleon reminds us. She advises positioning the bed far from the door, and never on the floor. "This keeps the energy from flowing beneath you when you sleep," she says.
As Kaylin adds, "A person’s energy is more open, and therefore very vulnerable in the bedroom." The consultant's recommendation is to keep furniture — especially books and bookshelves — to a minimum. "Too many things in the bedroom equal stress," explains Kaylin, adding that the same rule applies for electronic devices. If you can't completely rid your bedroom of electronic devices, like a cell phone or alarm clock, at least keep them away from your head while you're sleeping.
The Home Office
"De-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter," says Kaylin of the home office. (In fact, that's a rule she recommends throughout the entire home.) "Clutter is vicious, it takes many forms, and is the biggest contributor to stress," she continues. She recommends installing a good filing system to keep clutter at bay. And if you're having trouble staying organized, Kaylin says you might have too many earth elements in the room (square shapes, stone, earthy colors) that need to be balanced with metal elements (metallic colors, sculptures or vases).
Another important factor is the positioning of your desk. Kaylin and Deleon believe it should be situated in a place where your back is against a solid wall as opposed to a wall with a window. And never sit with your back facing a door, as this is an easy way to invite stress into your workspace.
Lastly, rid the room of fluorescent lighting. "The faint humming, unnatural spectrum and subliminal flickering all contribute to a sense of unease and dislocation," warns Kaylin.
The Living Room
This space, like all rooms in the home, will benefit greatly from the right colors. Kaylin likes to avoid colors such as red, orange and black, opting instead for softer pinks, yellows, greens and whites. "Sage green is my favorite," says Kaylin. She also warns against using blue on any northern walls, as feng shui practitioners believe this makes a space cold and unwelcoming.
The right size and shapes of furnishings in your living space play an important role in reducing stress and promoting peacefulness. "Furniture must be proportional to the room size," says Kaylin, who explains that too-large furniture can interrupt the flow and circulation of good energy. She recommends choosing furnishings, wherever possible, that feature round or curvy designs. "We are still part of nature and relate well to more organic, natural and curved shapes," Kaylin says. "They are more natural then straight, sharp lines."
Finally, don't over-decorate your space. According to the expert, too much decoration — and especially too many small objects such as photos and décor items — can "create chaos." Whittle down your decorations to items that "create a warm emotional response," such as vacation photos or soothing paintings. Try to make room for natural objects like plants, too. "We are creatures of nature and still have strong connections with it deeply in our genes," says the expert.
"The best feng shui kitchen design is a triangular design where the stove, refrigerator and sink are placed at the ends of a triangle," says Kaylin. While she acknowledges that this may take some time (and money) to execute, she says it's important if you spend a lot of time in this room.
If this setup still isn't realistic for your home, Deleon suggests shift your appliances so the stove isn't directly opposite from the sink, dishwasher or refrigerator. "The clash of fire and water elements is not good," she says. And if this also isn't a possibility, she recommends keeping your fridge and cabinets stocked at all times. "This implies wealth and abundance," says Deleon.
But above all, remember that your home and personal tastes are unique, so it might take some time to find out what works for you. "Be prepared to change room colors to a more relaxing palette, and to move a few pieces of furniture around to achieve the easiest and the most harmonious flow," says Kaylin. In other words, don't be afraid to experiment — there's really no harm in trying out a few of these feng shui tips.
And if they spark a bit of inner harmony, so be it.