Feng shui might seem like outdated superstition to nonbelievers, but here’s the reality: Most of it is really nothing more than good design sense. Long before we were blessed with HGTV, homeowners still had some ancient guidelines for making their home attractive, functional, and joyful. And we can all get behind that, right?
Here are some proven ways to play up your home’s feng shui—and show off your design savvy at the same time.
Tip No. 1: Choose a commanding position
Every room has a “commanding position”—and in feng shui, finding it is the key to happiness and good health. Look for the spot farthest from the door and facing the entrance (usually diagonal). That’s the best location for your bed, desk, or even TV.
“The commanding position aims to put each of us in control of our lives by ensuring that we see what’s coming at us, both literally and metaphorically, whenever possible,” says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng shui expert in New York City.
There’s logic behind this ancient idea. After all, if you can’t see the door while you’re sleeping, are you truly comfortable? When things go bump in the night, you can find comfort in seeing that it’s nothing more than your cat pouncing on a toy mouse. If logistics and layout make this impossible in your space, consider hanging a large mirror to make the door visible at all times.
Cho offers one caveat: Your bed shouldn’t be directly in line with the door. That means if you’re sleeping with your feet pointed toward the door, you’re creating some bad juju. Known as the “coffin position,” it’s considered the position of death. And nobody needs that kind of vibe in their home.
Tip No. 2: Give your entryway good energy
Feng shui is all about energy—banishing the bad vibes and welcoming the good ones. Even if you think this concept of “energy” is mumbo-jumbo (and the idea of hanging crystals makes you want to gag), consider it on more basic terms. Does your home make you feel good? Or does it make you feel unsettled? That’s energy.
And good or bad, energy all starts with your entryway.
“When a home has lush plantings, an attractive door, and an appealing entrance, that’s both good design and good feng shui,” says Kathryn Weber, publisher of the Red Lotus Letter website on feng shui.
Invite good energy indoors by creating a welcoming spot using calming artwork, greenery, and mirrors (but don’t face them toward the door—this pushes the energy right back out the door, according to Weber).
“Careful thought should be brought to the foyer,” she says. “This is the starting point of your arrival at your home, and making it attractive and auspicious-looking brings good energy and attracts good fortune.”
Tip No. 3: Use the elements
Classic feng shui has five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. Balanced properly, they “represent all of nature and restore harmony and balance into our homes,” says Maureen K. Calamia of Re-Nature Feng Shui.
You don’t have to literally put a wood branch in your room to achieve harmonious balance. Using a material, color, or texture that represent that element is just as suitable—think burlap, bamboo, or cotton. There’s no need to procure some earthy organic matter, either. Try terra-cotta planters and salt lamps.
Tip No. 4: Add greenery
We hate to break it to you, but your black thumb—or even your green thumb—might be ushering in a busload of lousy energy. (Sorry.)
“A house that’s either devoid of greenery or overrun by it isn’t good feng shui,” Weber says.
But reconsider adding your favorite plant to your bedroom. Feng shui typically nixes them in sleeping spaces. There are a number of explanations, but basically, experts believe they produce the wrong kind of energy—an awake, alive, growing kind of energy that can affect your sleep.
Tip No. 5: Ditch clutter
Clutter doesn’t just make your house look like a disaster. It’s also bad for your home’s energy. Feng shui enthusiasts will insist you declutter, but as we all know—it’s also just good design sense.
“It’s important to keep a clean and open space so that we can welcome all the energy the universe has for us,” Cho says. “Clutter blocks positive energy from moving freely throughout our spaces.”
Not sure where to start? Employ the Marie Kondo method: Ditch everything that doesn’t make you happy. “Joy” and “positive energy” are synonymous terms—so it makes sense that stress-inducing clutter would be a feng shui no-no.
Tip No. 6: Focus on the people
Design your seating so guests feel comfortable and welcomed. Certain seating arrangements are taboo in feng shui, including chairs facing a couch at a 45-degree angle.
“That angle literally puts people at odds with one another,” Weber says. Face chairs directly toward the sofa to encourage conversation and create a warm, cozy environment.
Another furniture placement rule (if it won’t squish your layout): Pull furniture and chairs away from the wall. Not only is the practice good feng shui, it also makes your living space feel airy and open.
“This allows energy to flow in the home smoothly and is also a good design point,” Weber says. Plus, you won’t have to pull out the couch to access your kitten’s secret hiding spot.
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