Feng Shui: Basic Principles & Decorating Tips

Feng Shui – what is it, how does it work, and what should you do (and not do) to create good energy in your home?

I came across Feng Shui many years ago when we bought our first home and I was overwhelmed by figuring out where to put everything. Things had sort of ended up where they first landed and it was a bit of a mess. A friend recommended the book Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life and it seemed like a good tool for getting some direction, so I bought it and started moving things around based on the feng shui principles. It really did feel like it made a difference in the atmosphere of the house; even my husband thought so!

In this post, Interior Designer Rebecca Apelvi of House of Chi in Sweden shares the basic concepts behind Feng Shui, and gives us some easy but powerful decorating tips.

Rebecca, how did you become interested in Feng Shui?

Interior design has always fascinated me: the colors, the shapes, the materials. I have a PhD in sociology, and for 20 years, I worked with people in need of care as a social worker. I got to a point where I wanted to expand my interior design knowledge and learn more about what you can do to make your surroundings improve your health. And that’s exactly what you can do with Feng Shui. I now work as an interior designer in the healthcare field, creating interiors that help support and enhance the health and wellbeing of patients.

What is Feng Shui and How does it work?

Feng Shui literally means wind and water, and the practice dates back as far as 3000 – 6000 years. It is an eastern philosophy where the core principle is that we are affected by everything around us: energy flow, colors, shapes, materials, furniture placement, and curry lines. Feng Shui teaches us how to use all those tools to improve and enhance our health, both at home and at work.

What are curry lines and how do you find them?

Curry lines [named after physician Dr. Curry] is a naturally occurring energetic grid network that exists all over the world. The lines run east to west and north to south, forming a checkerboard pattern with a 12-foot square grid and lines about four inches wide (you can find them by using dowsing rods). These lines emit a radiation that should be avoided, and you want to find out where these lines are in your home so that you can make sure to not sleep or sit for extended periods right above them. The Curry lines increase the intensity of their radiation at night and at the points where they cross, and their intensity is also influenced by the lunar cycles. They can cause issues like sleeping difficulties, headaches, etc. This phenomenon is also known as “geopathic stress”. Just moving the bed off the line can often make a big difference.

What else can create “bad feng shui” in a room?

Bad Feng Shui is all about bad energy, an imbalance between the five elements, yin and yang, not being in a power position when you for example are sleeping, working or eating. Anything that doesn’t add something good. Like negative symbols, or overstuffed homes.

What is a power position and how can you make sure that you are in one?

A power position means placing yourself with something behind you and on your sides (a.k.a. the “armchair position”) and in such a way that you have an overview of the room and door. In the bedroom, this means placing your bed so that you can see the bedroom door from it. Sitting or lying down with your back towards the door / entry to the room creates an inner stress which, if we use the bedroom as an example, can result in poor sleep. Not everyone is affected by this, but if you are, try placing yourself in a power position and see if it makes a difference.

What are the five classical Feng Shui elements?

The 5 elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. They are the building blocks of the universe and a balanced mix of them creates a wonderful flow of chi energy and harmony. But you don’t need to have a fire going to create fire energy in a certain spot, you can use other elements that represent fire. Below are some items and colors that represent each element:

Fire Element

  • Bright red and yellow colors
  • All light (regardless of whether it’s candlelight, a fire, or even artifical light)
  • Children
  • Animals
  • Fur and feathers
  • Triangular shapes
  • Art depicting light, animals, or in the fire element colors
Feng Shui Fire Element: Sandpipers No 4 - Fine art print by Cattie Coyle Photography

Pictured above: Sandpipers No. 4

Animal Art Prints →

Earth Element

  • Brown, beige, and other earth colors
  • Bricks
  • Wood floors
  • Sand
  • Square and rectangular shapes
  • Art with earth element colors
Feng Shui Earth Element: Shallow Water No 13 - Art print by Cattie Coyle Photography in living room

Pictured above: Shallow Water No. 13

Sand and Earth Color Prints →

Metal Element

  • Light pastel colors, gray and white
  • Metal items
  • Rocks (but not too small, small rocks are earth elements)
  • Metal sculptures
  • Art in round and oval shapes, or in the metal element colors
Feng Shui Metal Element: Silver Waves No 2 by Cattie Coyle Photography

Pictured above: Silver Waves No. 2

Gray Art Prints →

Water Element

  • Dark colors, like deep navy and black
  • Water (of course!)
  • Undulating forms, like patterns or curtains
  • Glass
  • Mirrors
  • Reflective surfaces
  • Art depicting lakes and oceans, or in the water element colors
Feng Shui Water Element: Waves - Fine art print by Cattie Coyle Photography in dining room

Pictured above: Waves

Water Art Prints →

Wood Element

  • Green colors
  • Plants and trees
  • Straight vertical shapes
  • Art depicting landscapes and flowers, or in the wood element colors
Feng Shui Wood Element: Agave Americana art print by Cattie Coyle Photography

Pictured above: Agave Americana

Green Art Prints →

Mirrors are big in Feng Shui decor – why is that?

Mirrors activate the chi energy flow and are great for increasing the energy in a room. It’s especially useful to place a mirror in a room without windows, or in a tiny space, since it reflects the surfaces and creates the vision of a larger space. Be careful not to place a mirror facing the inside of your front door though, that makes the new, fresh energy that enters your door bounce right back out. Also pay attention to what the mirror is reflecting. You don’t want it to be something negative, like your neighbors’ trash bin or similar. Also avoid antique mirrors which often have imperfect glass with bubbles and waves, as this creates a skewed and broken image of the reflection.

Is there anything that we should never keep in the house if we want good Feng Shui energy?

Visible knife blades in the kitchen is one example. They symbolize bad energy. Also, too many things lying around. It’s important to keep things organized and stored in their respective places. Any symbol or furniture that does not create good energy for you personally, like art or photos of something that creates an uneasy feeling. Broken or cracked mirrors and dead plants and flowers should also be avoided. Healthy, living plants are a source of good Feng Shui.

Are there some Feng Shui principles that work in every room?

The most important things to keep in mind in any room is how the chi (energy) is flowing, the yin yang balance, to make pointy negative energy (Sha chi) disappear, the placement of the furniture, and that you sit or lie down in a power position. Work with chi energy amplifiers, such as light colors, items from nature, mirrors, scents, and find a good balance between the five elements.

How do you make Sha chi (pointy energy) disappear?

To get rid of Sha chi, place something in front of it, for example a curtain that you can hang from the ceiling, a tall plant in a large round pot or urn, or a large piece of art that covers the sharp corner.

Say you want to create good Feng Shui and positive energy in the bedroom – what should you think about?

You want to have a more yin energy in the bedroom; soft lines and shapes that make you relax and calm down. Use soft muted colors and avoid sharp colors and red, which increases your heart rate. Keep the decor to a minimum and leave all electronics in a different room. Pay attention to the room arrangement and make sure your bed is in a power position. Avoid large mirrors in the bedroom, and don’t place them in a spot where you see your reflection if you wake up during the night. Try to not have your head under a sloping ceiling which can create an oppressive energy. If there is no other place to put the bed, I would either move the bedroom to a different room, or try to create an illusion of a higher ceiling with the help of light and colors.

Pictured above: California Palm Tree & California Palm Trees

How about Feng Shui and art: is there anything in particular you should keep in mind when choosing art?

We are affected by everything around us, including symbols and images in art, so make sure to choose something that you love.

How about placement of art? Are there any Feng Shui principles around that?

Only that is should create harmony. One thing I often see in clients’ houses is that the art is hung too high on the wall.

What is the right height? How high should we hang art?

That is partly a matter of taste, and depends on the person living in the home. But avoid hanging art too high up on the wall, unless you are creating a gallery wall, which can go as high up as you want. (Cattie’s note: The standard recommendation is to hang art so that the center of the piece is 57-60 inches above the floor).

Can you use art to help the Feng Shui energy of a room? For example, if a room needs more water energy, will a picture of the ocean work?

Absolutely, that is perfect!

Pictured above: The Ninth Wave

How about colors? Can green art be used as a wood element?

Yes, definitely! And if you have a room without windows, you can compensate for that by adding art or photography of trees or flowers.

Pictured above: Fox Tail Agave

Finally, Can Feng Shui fix problems with loud neighbors? (asking for a friend!)

That’s a funny question! No, Feng Shui can’t make sound disappear. In that situation, I’d use thick hedges and stone walls. Perhaps the neighbor could use a Feng Shui consultation to help create inner peace? 🙂

If someone wants to learn more about Feng Shui, are there any books or courses that you recommend?

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