Feng shui design can intimidate beginners. The Chinese art of balanced design has had 6,000 years to mature and has grown to include hundreds, if not thousands, of guidelines and rules. It involves understanding the geographic location and orientation of your home, where the baguas are, the flow of qi energy and so much more. Fortunately, you don’t have to understand all of that to make use of basic feng shui principles to refresh your home and make it a more harmonious living space.
What Is Feng Shui?
While modern Westerners tend to think of feng shui as a system of design, this ancient Chinese art encompasses far more. According to Feng Shui Style, a Santa Clara design firm that specializes in creating harmonious spaces using the principles of feng shui, it’s a method of constructing and optimizing businesses and residences to enhance happiness, abundance and harmony. There are at least four schools of feng shui, which can take a lifetime to master. There are, however, some basic principles you can use to bring harmony and life to your home and surroundings.
The Principle of Yin and Yang in Feng Shui
One of the primary principles of feng shui is the concept of yin and yang. You’re probably familiar with the yin-yang symbol, which is a swirly black-and-white circle. It’s an elegant representation of the Chinese principle of duality — that the entire universe is made up of opposite but interdependent forces: the feminine yin and the masculine yang. Yin is dark, nurturing, cool, passive and soft, while yang is bright, hard, aggressive and active. Feng shui aims to create a harmonious environment by balancing yin and yang elements in a space to achieve the atmosphere you want.
Incorporating Yin and Yang in Your Home
Most people naturally incorporate the principle of balance in their homes. They add soft cushions to hard chairs, choose accent pieces in warm colors to soften a cold, white room, or top a dark, hard stone floor with a brightly patterned rug. Understanding the principles of feng shui — which areas of your home should be focused on yin and where yang energies are beneficial — can help you create energized workspaces, homey kitchens and soothing, bedrooms and baths.
Is Your Home Out of Balance?
Feng shui expert Victor Cheung lays out basic guidelines for evaluating the yin and yang balance of your home. He suggests taking stock of each room including how much use it gets, the brightness in it, the colors and the feelings. Next, consider which energy — yin or yang — is appropriate for the activities of that room of your house. You usually want your bedrooms to reflect restful, quiet and nurturing yin energy, and your kitchen, socializing spaces and workspaces to reflect active, warm and vibrant yang energy. Figure out where your home needs more balance. Is your bedroom too bright and noisy? Is your kitchen cool and dim? Does your living room need a spark to make guests feel welcome? There are remedies for all those ailments and more.
Balancing Yin and Yang in the Kitchen
Kitchens are active, social rooms where work takes place — totally yang spaces — but too much yang can make you feel nervous and unsettle your digestion. Check out these tips to promote warmth, abundance and nurturing energies in your kitchen.
- Choose warm colors to promote yang energy. Yellow is especially auspicious in the kitchen because it is thought to aid digestion.
- Add area lighting to make the kitchen bright and warm and keep window treatments simple to admit natural light.
- Bring living energy into the kitchen with live plants, preferably on an east, south or southeast wall.
- Keep it simple and uncluttered. Clutter is yin. It’s stagnant and traps energy (and there’s a scientific basis for that assertion). Keep counters clear and put trash receptacles out of sight or keep them closed.
- Hang food-related art on the walls or place a mirror where it reflects the stove, amplifying fire energy, which is considered exceptionally lucky.
Creating Energy in Living Areas and Social Spaces
Like kitchens, living rooms should have bright, energetic and welcoming yang. These feng shui tips promote socializing and fun in living rooms and social spaces.
- The ideal shape for the living room is traditional: four walls and four corners. If your living room is oddly shaped, use design tricks to square off the energy. Locate your sofa or another anchor piece of furniture so that it creates a “wall.” If you position your sofa away from the wall, put something heavy behind it to anchor it in the room.
- Accent natural light by keeping window dressings simple. Use scarves to frame windows, for example, and allow the light to enter. Use area lighting to differentiate areas of the room.
- Paint the walls in light colors to maximize the light, but use warm tones. Whites with undertones of peach, yellow or rose bring in warm energy that promotes activity.
- Introduce all the feng shui elements — earth, water, fire, metal and stone — into your living spaces to encourage balance. Plants, artwork and accessories can all help balance the energies in the space.
- Choose artwork that is peaceful, bright or happy. Avoid depressing scenes or those that evoke sadness.
Turn Your Bedroom Into a Sanctuary
Bedrooms are private spaces where we sleep, reflect and refresh. They’re naturally yin, and the more yin elements you introduce, the more restful they’ll be. These feng shui design tips promote a peaceful, refreshing environment in your bedroom sanctuary.
- Choose yin colors for your bedroom. David Daniel Kennedy, author of "Feng Shui for Dummies," suggests using red or pink in moderation to add a spark of romance, but in general, stick to natural colors that promote healing and rest, such as blues, greens and lighter violets, or use rich, warm earth colors, such as copper, coral, peach or terra-cotta, to create a cozy vibe.
- Position the bed as far away from the door as possible, but where you can still see the entrance to the room.
- Choose furniture with rounded or curved edges rather than hard corners and angles. Curves are yin and feminine, promoting rest and peace.
- Screen out the world. This is one room where dark window treatments can work to your benefit by screening out the light and noise of the outside world. If your bedroom must double as an office or workout room, add a lightweight screen to partition off the active area of the room from your sleeping and resting space.
- Create lighting scenes that allow for different activities and use. In the day, encourage natural light and augment it with warm lights in corners and darker areas. In the evening, opt for area lighting in cool colors to promote rest and serenity.
Balancing the yin and yang energies of your home helps you create a warm, inviting home that is a sanctuary from the harsh realities of the world. When you add the right touches of color, texture and light, you transform every room into one that promotes the atmosphere and activity you want to attract.
Deb Powers is a freelance writer with a passion for interior design. She lives with her daughter, granddaughter, three roommates and five cats in a house that’s in a constant state of redecoration.