USEFUL TIP: A good way to figure out the energy flow in your house is to imagine a river flowing through it - which areas fill up easily with water and which are left dry?
Throughout my career I have witnessed numerous styles travel in and out of fashion. I have never thought of myself as a designer that actively follows trends but I’ve always been able to differentiate a fad from a classic. However, in this period of retrospective design, trends seem to be more fast and frequent than ever before. The world of design feels saturated with multiple styles and eras being revived and combined. It can feel a bit overwhelming. In order to navigate this, I have found myself returning to my knowledge of design philosophy; the core principles of design that have endured time and transcended ‘trend’.
In our last post Season’s Senses I discussed the Hygge philosophy, this time I want to look at Feng Shui. Feng Shui, at its surface level, came to the attention of the western design world in the 90’s. Instead of gaining popularity on social media like Hygge, it was self-help books that flew off the shelves about how to ‘feng shui your life’. Everyone was doing it, including Bridget Jones. This simplified version packaged for the west felt like a fad, however the true philosophy of Feng Shui withstands.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese discipline dating back thousands of years that translates to ‘wind-water’. It was initially used to identify safe locations where communities would be able to settle, farm and flourish. It was later used to determine the best sites for burial grounds and sacred buildings. It’s primary concern is with the flow of Qi/Chi (氣) “natural energy” in a space and the objects that block it. Traditionally, Feng Shui was treated like a secret art and knowledge was only passed down within families.
FENG SHUI AND INTERIOR DESIGN
Feng Shui is a complex and ancient discipline - one that I am constantly learning about. It would be disingenuous for me to try and explain or simplify all the rules so instead I’d like to share a few of the key ideas that have informed me as a designer over the years.
The first thing to understand about Feng Shui is that it’s largely about balancing components. It’s believed that if we can balance out the natural elements - earth, wood, fire, metal and water - then we can balance the energy within our home, helping us live more harmonious lives. I often refer to this ideology when developing a design as it can be applied to the selection of both materials and colour.
I talk a lot about colour psychology when I discuss interior design. Colour can transform a space and our mood. Similarly, Feng Shui believes that colour is a very powerful tool for harnessing desired energies. Each natural element is represented by a palette of colours. This varies between different schools of Feng Shui however the most common are - Wood: green/brown, Fire: red/dark yellow/orange, Earth: sandy/light brown, Metal: white/grey, Water: blue/black.
Green is believed to be a good colour to activate energy, especially when used in different shades. It connotes health and growth so is suitable for kitchens and bathrooms. Plants are a great way to introduce green throughout a house. Ideal placement for plants are on the inside or outside of corners as it’s believed that the sharp angles give off bad energy. The greenery counters this energy and softens any harsh lines.
Mirrors are a fantastic design tool - especially when it comes to applying Feng Shui to a demanding space. Most homes in the UK aren’t structurally designed to allow for good Feng Shui. For example, narrow hallways, often found in terrace houses, can stifle energy flows. A big mirror is the best way to combat this as they activate energy and extend spaces. Try not to position a mirror where it will directly reflect a door, staircase, loo or any door facing outside (as this would just bounce energy straight back out).
Feng Shui is a lot more meticulous and technical in comparison to Hygge. However, like most design philosophies, Feng Shui, at its heart is about being conscious. It is a belief that habitat and inhabitant are connected beyond geography and the material. In a time that feels so unstable, I believe creating some structure and balance at home is one of the best things we could do for ourselves.