History of Design: Feng Shui
In this series we explore various design elements and the history behind them. We often see these details used throughout homes and commercial spaces but rarely stop to ponder their origins. Join us as we investigate one of the oldest forms of interior design — Feng Shui. We’ll look at some of the principles and the intent behind this tradition.
Perhaps the first known instance of conscious interior design is Feng Shui. Far beyond patterns and style, Feng Shui is rooted in the deeper meaning of the placement of buildings or home, the objects within and how we interact with them. Feng Shui, literally meaning “wind” and “water” in Chinese, is part of an ancient Chinese philosophy of nature — the delicate balance of yin and yang, light and dark, nature and its inhabitants. The practice of Feng Shui was born out of the desire to create an environment that allows physical objects to interact harmoniously with nature and the five elements — water, wood, fire, earth and metal. Each of these elements is connected to a color, compass direction, season, smell and sound. By understanding these elements and how they interact with one another, laws of Feng Shui were created.
Location and direction
These laws govern spatial arrangement and orientation, i.e. a floor plan — so not only where a chair resides in a room, but which direction (north, south, east, west) it faces. The reason for this specific placement is to encourage the flow of positive energy, or Chi, throughout a home. This positive energy, as opposed to Sha, or hard energy, is believed to bring good fortune and maximum harmony to a home and its occupants.
This optimal placement begins with the physical building. The slope of the ground on which you are going to build should not exceed 45 degrees and should not be near a power station. If your home is near a source of energy, like a power station, mirrors placed on the exterior of your home are said to reflect that negative energy away from the home. The layout of your home in relation to your street and neighborhood is also said to affect the overall energy. Lucky for us in Summit County, winding streets, hillsides and mountains help slow down the Chi.
Moving into the interior of the home, the entrance should be neat, orderly and clutter-free. A well lit and operating entry is encouraged. In modern day this applies to door handles, hinges and un-fringed front door mats. The back door should not be directly in-line with the front door, so that energy does not enter the home and pass directly through and out the back door. This same rule applies to the staircase. The stairs should not be directly in front of the door, to avoid good energy entering the house and traveling immediately up the stairs, missing the first floor. A spiral staircase can cause the energy to travel upwards too quickly, creating chaos. As in many cultures, the kitchen is the heart of the home. It should not be facing the front door or a bedroom, and should be kept clean and free of dirty dishes or spoiled food. Water signifies wealth, and in the bathroom, wealth should not be washed away, i.e., close the toilet lid before you flush, and keep it closed when not in use. Be sure to keeps faucets and pipes throughout the house in good repair, avoiding leaks. In the bedroom, a calming and relaxing Chi should flow about the room freely. The bed should not be placed directly across from the door, or in front of a window, and your feet should not
face the door.
Avoid disorder and distraction
An overarching theme in Feng Shui is keeping things in working order. This translates to replacing light bulbs when burnt out, repairing ripped draperies and keeping closets organized and free of unnecessary items. A clutter-free physical environment allows for a clutter-free mental space. When you are free from the distraction of dirty dishes and soccer gear piled up at the front door, you can instead focus on yourself or spending quality time with your family.
Think of Feng Shui as house therapy or architectural acupuncture. Creating a home where positive energy easily flows throughout ultimately encourages the families within to flourish. Even if you don’t embrace the energetic reasons behind these rules, it’s easy to see that a tidy and well-maintained space allows for optimum enjoyment.
“Creating a home where positive energy easily flows throughout ultimately encourages the families within to flourish.”
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