Good Feng Shui
by Tiffany Jarva
photography by John Sinal
Writer Tiffany Jarva had no clue what “good feng shui” was until she bid farewell to clutter and tagged along one evening with a Vancouver feng shui consultant.
In the spring, I clean my apartment, throw out the clutter and feel great. All these years I had no idea I was practising one of the first principles of good feng shui. Granted, I should clear the clutter more often or better yet, not let the clutter accumulate in the first place. So my first feng shui resolution this year? Clear the clutter for good.
Feng shui (pronounced phong shway), the ancient Chinese art of placement, dates back over 3000 years. According to feng shui, the way we place our furniture, the colours we choose and the objects we uphold influence our lives. Whether it’s for architectural, interior design, home decorating, astrological or health purposes, feng shui is appealing because of its emphasis on creating positive living spaces.
Clearing clutter is the first step to creating positive space. Clutter blocks life energy or “ch’i” from flowing through the home and ch’i is best achieved when yin and yang aspects of our home are in balance. Simply put, “yin” is more restful and dark. “Yang” is more active and bright. If balance is not achieved, the energy quality is poor. These age-old theories of yin-yang and ch’i are integral to good feng shui.
a room-to-room feng shui session in Kerrisdale
I decided to learn more about this popular art of placement by watching a feng shui consultant in action. Vancouver-based interior designer and Western feng shui practitioner Rhea Peake agreed to do a two-hour introductory session at a Kerrisdale home with owner Carol—a local clothing designer.
On a crisp evening, we meet in Carol’s very warm and inviting sitting room while Rhea explains the feng shui bagua—a map showing how different areas of the home are connected to different aspects of life. The bagua is based on the I Ching, or Book of Change—the oldest book in Chinese civilization. It is first applied to the property and home, then to the floor plan of the home, and finally to each room of the home. On a micro level, the bagua can be applied to a furniture item such as a table, desk or cabinet. For Carol’s room-to-room session, the bagua is aligned with the entrances to rooms most frequently used.
Each area of the bagua is associated with colour. When trying to enhance a certain area it is important to note certain colours may be appropriate in some rooms and not others. For example, you may want to avoid bright red—very yang—in the area of your home where you like to unwind after a long day.
The Five Elements (Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water) have different properties and work together in creative and destructive cycles. Feng shui tries to promote the creative cycle: wood feeds fire, fire creates ash that becomes new earth, and so on.
the entrance way
In feng shui the entranceway is the most important area of the home after the master bedroom. Upon arriving, Rhea raves that the entrance to Carol’s home is in “perfect balance.” The entry doors open wide without any obstruction so the house feels very welcoming. Another positive feature is not having a staircase in the entry—a rare find. Carol tells us that the former owners were Asian and Rhea confirms the design of the house adheres to basic feng shui principles.
“Entryway staircases are not good feng shui,” Rhea explains, “because the positive ch’i upstairs descends down the stairs and straight out the door any time someone enters the house.” A quick-fix for this common problem is a well-placed mirror that deflects positive ch’i back into the home.
Rhea is also struck by Carol’s entrance-piece altar describing it as a “beautiful, perfect, healing matrix.” Flowers on the left side of the altar circulate and enhance the family’s Wealth and good blessings. A beautiful framed picture of Carol’s young daughter depicts Fame and Reputation, and a painting of Roman gods symbolizes full empowerment, beauty and a touch of playful Creativity. A pair of green candles in Partnership indicates a strong, growing marriage. The lighting above is yang in nature, and a yin pot below in the shadows collects nourishing energy. As Rhea explains this, I begin to realize just how rooted feng shui is in symbolism and appreciate how Rhea stresses that feng shui symbology should be based on one’s own belief systems and mythology.
Rhea excitedly describes Carol as “feng shui intuitive” and I can’t help but wonder if I’m at all feng shui intuitive.
the dining room
Carol has already brought positive ch’i into the Partnership area of the dining room with a pair of white elephants holding up a glass shelf. A decorative red rooster sits on top. To enhance Partnership further, Rhea suggests replacing the rooster with ivy representing Family. Plants are wonderful to promote growth and healthy energy in a home, just as the accents of red in the dining room help to raise energy levels.
Rhea points out how the large beautiful mirror at the end of the dining room table creates twice the abundance and people in the room. Now I’m excited. In the dining room of my own home I have a large mirror reflecting our table on which I try to keep a full bowl of fresh fruit. I hope this means I’ll never go hungry.
the master bedroom
According to Rhea, the master bedroom is the most important room in the home. Let’s face it, we spend a good part of our life sleeping and the bedroom should be more yin in nature to promote relaxation and healing. Rhea suggests warmer, calming colours such as pinks, mochas and apricot. Avoid bright yang-red in the bedroom because it can create arguments.
When Carol purchased the house less than a year ago, the master bedroom was done all in jade-green. “Green,” says Rhea, “is the least complimentary colour. It makes anyone appear sickly and is simply not a romantic colour.” Because the former owners were Asian, Rhea believes green was chosen because jade is such a strong symbol for wealth. To myself, I think how feng shui means different things to different people. It’s an art rather an exact science and reflects many different schools of thought.
Apart from the green, Carol’s bed is positioned nicely. She sleeps against a padded headboard with a solid wall behind her head. Her bed is positioned so she is in view of the door—Rhea refers to this as the “sleeping seat of power.” I’m happy to hear this because my bed is positioned the same way. Avoid placing your bed directly under a window or with your feet pointing directly out the door where ch’i constantly flows in and out.
Symbology in the bedroom is very important. Mirrors are a “no-no” and pictures of people should not be in the bedroom. Books should be contained in bedside tables and TVs are not recommended. If you love to watch TV in bed, contain it in an armoire. Basically, anything that can compete for your partner’s attention should be out of sight.
As with any bathroom, the doors to the master bath should be kept closed at all times. Preferably the bathroom should not be visible from the bed so “thoughts and dreams do not go down the toilet,” explains Rhea. It’s funny because the first thing I ever heard about feng shui was to make sure the bathroom door is closed to hide the view of the toilet. This is especially relevant in my home where the entrance to the bathroom door is directly across from the kitchen.
We finish the session here, and I leave Carol’s feeling pretty good about my sense of feng shui. Later in the week, Carol admits to me that although she’s fascinated by certain elements of the session, she thinks most of her “feng shui intuition” is actually her design ability. “I’m a clothing designer. I have to be material minded all day long,” Carol casually confesses.
I may not make the auspicious bride that Rhea says Carol would in China, but I think I now know how to ease the flow of ch’i in my own little home. After all, while feng shui is based on symbolism, colour and balance, most of it just makes good common sense.
Rhea Peake is a Western feng shui consultant who says Vancouver and Santa Barbara are the best feng shui locations on the West Coast. To learn more about Western feng shui visit www.decorhea.com.