Feng shui theory brings home harmony


Since you're reading a column on interior design, you probably ought to know a bit about feng shui.

Never heard of it? Well, here's a very brief and simplified introduction that may inspire further study.

Feng shui can be defined as a Chinese theory of how one's life is affected by architecture and physical layouts. Some people regard it as plain superstition; others think it's expressive of a universal force; I believe it reflects sound common sense.

Even though feng shui is followed by many non-Chinese, it is radically different from 20th-century design principles as applied the West. Modern architects and designers have been mainly concerned with adapting living and working spaces to accommodate everyday functions. Feng shui also aims to meet users' basic needs, but its notions of placement and form are predicated more on ancient belief systems than on pragmatic considerations. Most of all, feng shui seeks to produce harmonious and balanced environments.

Pretty heady stuff, you may think, but let's see how some of the tenets of feng shui can be applied in today's homes.

We'll begin with the master bedroom. In order for its occupants to achieve peace and security, this room must be situated farthest from the front door of the house. The door to the bedroom should open onto the widest wall in the room. And if that wall happens to be blank, a mirror or a large picture with a three-dimensional effect should be placed upon it.

In the dining room, it's best if the table is oval or round. It must also not be placed too close to the entrance door, or else the diners will eat and run. Feng shui also maintains that the most important person in the room should sit facing the door.

Awkward corners resulting from duct work or other structural necessities have to be given a rounded appearance. Sharp angles are held to be threatening to a home's occupants. Placing plants in front of an obstruction or mirroring it to soften its edges will allow energy to flow more smoothly.

The location of doors and windows is also very important. In a room where the largest door leads to a closet or a dressing area, the users will spend too much time on personal vanity and are likely to experience digestive problems. The solution is to cover such a door with a mirror so it appears as though the door leads somewhere other than these particular spaces.

Even the most non-mystical among us may realize that feng shui does have much in common with contemporary Western concepts of space manipulation. I, for one, often advise clients and readers to use plants and mirrors as camouflage devices and to introduce accessories as harmonizing elements.

This floor plan shows how feng shui principles can be applied in a contemporary bedroom. I would be hard-pressed to come up with a more sensible layout.

Many books have been written about this ancient tradition. I have found Sarah Rossbach's "Interior Design with Feng Shui" (published by E. P. Dutton) to be particularly enlightening in regard to my own field.

Consulting one of these works might well provide insights that cannot be gleaned from the pictures of swank interiors in flashy design magazines. I firmly believe that it makes sense to investigate seemingly exotic design theories, if only as a way of stimulating the imagination.

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