Sensing energy flow in your home is vital when designing a space. We like to think that arranging our rooms based on our style alone will suffice in creating a nurturing home, but how the energy moves without a stick of furniture in it can make or break our well-being.
Take the living room in this before photo (top). Would it surprise you to learn that the former owner had a lot of health issues? Let’s break down what a Feng Shui consultant is looking for in terms of energy movement in a space and how best to change the flow to hold the energy in a room instead of allowing it to move out lickety-split!
When considering design, it is always good to look at the function of a room and what you are asking the physical body to do in that space. If you are expecting the body to relax in order to eat, to rest, or to engage in stimulating conversation, then the energy of the room must be more yin. In yin energy our guard is down, and we are calm. In this state, we are able to digest our food, to let go of resistance and fall asleep at night and to give ourselves permission to be vulnerable with one another.
In the before image of this room you can count four doorways and a fireplace all of which are pathways for energy to leave the room. What you cannot see in this image is another opening for a hallway leading to the bedrooms and the front door. There also happens to be a window on the front of the house. In Feng Shui, we know that energy moves quickly through doors. We understand that this is how energy enters and leaves a space and must come in vigorously in order to circulate throughout the entire space. Windows also allow for energy to come and go, but to a lesser degree as their openings are typically smaller. I explain to clients that energy in a home moves like a child or animal that has no impediments — fast and furious! Our bodies will not relax in an atmosphere where the energy is moving quickly. We sense the fast-paced flow, and we keep our wits about us in case we have to act quickly. We can do a lot with furnishings to change the yang to yin, but sometimes a space calls for structural changes. In this particular home, the energy was moving in a chaotic pattern. The front and back doors aligned creating a huge energy leak. (The energy rushes in through the front door and out the back taking the wealth with it!) This room is meant to be a place to gather and enjoy the fireplace…uh, with all of those doorways that was a definite no go.
Solution? The first step was to eliminate one of the sets of doors flanking the fireplace. Both sets were overkill and interfered with what we could do with the screen porch that is located directly on the other side of the fireplace. We chose to eliminate the set of doors across from the front door. Energy can still move out of the other door, but with good design we can slow it down by forcing twists and turns around furniture. Next we decided to close up the two big openings to the kitchen and add a pocket door. Many homes now a days have an open concept, and I am not opposed to them, but in this home it just was not a good fit. The owners did not want guests to see a messy kitchen or hear the hubbub during meal preparations. The original fireplace was not aesthetically pleasing to the owners, and the fire box extended onto the back porch chopping the porch in half. It was removed and a new gas fireplace was added coming into the room in about the same footprint as the hearth from the original fireplace, only now with no trace of it on the porch. The porch immediately doubled in size. (Ah yes, another place to gather and connect!) As you can now see, the room already feels more calm. By eliminating heavy traffic patterns, we are inviting the energy to come in and stay awhile. There is less place for the eye and body to go giving them the chance to settle in and relax. From here we start to consider where this room is on the bagua and how best to help its function meet its form. Energy moves faster on the front side of any home and this room being the main room upon entrance must lean towards the yin to balance out that yang placement on the floorplan.
Here is my list of recommendations: • Furnishings to be soft and comforting to the body. • The sofa should have a high back to protect the body from the strong energy of the front door. Place the couch in front of the fireplace leaving adequate room near the kitchen for ease of traffic flow to the exterior porch. • Think about choosing a dark color for the couch so as to ground the energy in the space by drawing the eye to lower half of the room. • Consider using a combination of finishes for the cabinetry to the left of the fireplace as it will be more interesting allowing the eye to linger keeping the energy in the space longer. • The room is small but has high ceilings. To avoid a cluttered look, consider using floating shelves above the base cabinet instead of an upper cabinet on the left side of the fireplace. • The tile on the fireplace is also a place to incorporate more yin energy by choosing something with pattern or interest instead of a neutral palette.
There is more to be done in this home, but the goal of this before and after was to allow you to see, and feel, the difference a little forethought can make. Sometimes when we buy a house we do not consider the flow of it as much as we imagine how we will decorate it. By taking the time to consider how the energy is moving before we start placing our belongings, we increase the likelihood that we will create places in our home that we can relax and enjoy connecting with our loved ones. Home sweet home is not just about what we see when we walk in after a long day’s work. It’s also about how we feel. We want our little slice of heaven to offer us a serene environment that we can relax, kick our shoes off and stay awhile.