You properly have heard of Feng Shui, this ancient Chinese philosophy is all about creating harmonious energy flow within a space by balancing the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). And guess what? Although many people may not realize it, modern interior design elements and Feng Shui principles are very much the same.
Understanding Feng Shui
I’ve always been captivated by the intricate and profound nature of Feng Shui. In fact, one of my first design projects at Curtin architecture school was “The rationale of Feng Shui in Architecture- Six space typologies”
So, what exactly is Feng Shui?
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice that has significantly shaped the field of architecture and interior decor for millennia. Stemming from the foundational Chinese philosophical concept of maintaining harmony between humanity and its surroundings, Feng Shui is a sophisticated system of spatial organization that aims to regulate the flow of energy, or "qi," within man-made environments.
Dating back over 3,000 years, the principles of Feng Shui have guided the design and construction of diverse structures, such as imperial palaces, sacred temples, and private residences. It is grounded in the belief that the proper arrangement and orientation of buildings and interior spaces can create a positive energy flow, consequently enhancing the well-being and fortunes of its inhabitants.
One of the core aspects of Feng Shui is the integration of the five basic elements—wood, fire, earth, metal, and water—each with its unique properties and associations. These elements are thought to interact with and influence one another in a cyclical manner, fostering a delicate balance that must be carefully considered in architectural and interior design.
Additionally, Feng Shui acknowledges the importance of the eight cardinal directions, each linked to specific attributes and symbolisms. For instance, the south is associated with fame and recognition, while the north is connected to career and professional growth. These directional associations play a crucial role in determining the layout of structures and their surrounding landscapes.
The Bagua, an octagonal grid representing various aspects of life such as family, health, and wealth, is another vital component of Feng Shui. By overlaying the Bagua map onto a floor plan, architects and interior designers can optimize spatial arrangements to achieve harmony and balance. This includes the strategic placement of doors, windows, furniture, and decorative elements.
The Bagua: The Bagua map, also known as the Eight Trigrams or the Eight Mansions, is a fundamental concept in traditional Chinese philosophy, primarily in Taoism and feng shui. It is a spatial arrangement of eight symbols, each representing a different aspect of life or nature. The Bagua map is used to analyze and enhance the flow of energy (qi) within spaces, aiming to create harmony between the inhabitants and their surroundings. In architecture and interior design, the Bagua map is often applied to layout planning, the orientation of buildings, and the arrangement of furniture and objects.
In contemporary times, Feng Shui continues to exert a profound influence on architecture and interior design, bridging the gap between traditional wisdom and modern aesthetics. Its principles have transcended cultural boundaries, finding relevance in diverse global contexts as people seek to create living spaces that promote health, prosperity, and positive energy.
Simply, Feng Shui is the art of arranging living spaces in harmony with the natural world, based on the belief that our surroundings affect our well-being. By aligning ourselves with nature's energy, known as 'qi' (pronounced "chi"), we can create positive and healthy environments that even Marie Kondo would be proud of. This balance is achieved through the proper placement of objects and furnishings, as well as the use of colors, materials, and shapes that promote positive energy flow.
The Five Elements of Feng Shui and how to balancing those elements in your Modern Home
1. Wood: Growth and Vitality
Wood represents growth, expansion, and vitality. It is associated with the colors green and brown and can be introduced into your home through plants, wooden furniture, and other natural materials.
- Place healthy plants in your living room, study, or bedroom to promote growth and creativity.
- Choose wooden furniture with clean lines and minimalistic designs to complement the modern aesthetic.
- Use green and brown textiles or wall art to add warmth and energy to your space
2. Fire: Passion and Transformation
Fire symbolizes passion, transformation, and warmth. It relates to the color red and can be brought into your home through lighting, candles, and warm hues.
- Install dimmable lighting to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
- Place candles in strategic locations for an intimate and cozy ambiance.
- Add pops of red or orange through decorative items such as throw pillows, rugs, or artwork.
3. Earth: Stability and Nourishment
Earth represents stability, nourishment, and grounding. It is linked to the colors yellow and brown and can be integrated into your home using natural materials like stone, clay, or ceramics.
- Use ceramic or stone accents, such as vases or sculptures, to create a sense of grounding.
- Incorporate earth-toned colors in your décor, such as beige, tan, or mustard yellow.
- Opt for textured or natural-fiber rugs to bring a sense of warmth and comfort to your space.
4. Metal: Clarity and Discipline
Metal embodies clarity, discipline, and refinement. It is associated with the colors white and metallic shades and can be integrated into your modern home through metallic accents and clean, sleek lines.
- Use metallic accents such as stainless steel, chrome, or brass for fixtures and hardware.
- Incorporate geometric shapes and clean lines through furniture, artwork, or architectural elements.
- Choose white or light gray as the primary color for your walls, complemented by metallic accents.
5. Water: Fluidity and Wisdom
Water represents fluidity, wisdom, and relaxation. It is connected to the colors blue and black and can be introduced into your home through the use of mirrors, glass, and water features.
- Place a small water feature, like a tabletop fountain, in your living area to promote relaxation and tranquility.
- Use mirrors and glass accents to create a sense of spaciousness and flow.
- Incorporate blue and black shades in your décor, such as navy blue throw pillows or black picture frames.
Feng Shui in Modern Interior Design
Fabulous Feng Shui-Compatible Interior Design Trends
Incorporating natural materials like wood, stone, and plants in your design is like giving your space a big hug from Mother Nature. This aligns with the Feng Shui concept of maintaining harmony between our living spaces and the natural world. Cozy up to a wooden coffee table, give your walls some personality with a stone accent wall, or liven up your space with indoor plants like the ever-popular snake plant or peace lily.
Neutral and earthy color palettes are not just for hippies; they're popular in both Feng Shui and Western design. Colors like beige, brown, and soft greens create a calming atmosphere and promote balance.
Settle into a beige sofa, drape your windows with brown curtains, or add a pop of soft green with accent pillows to introduce earth tones into your space.
Open floor plans:
Open-concept designs are like a breath of fresh air for your qi, improving energy circulation and making your living space feel more inviting.
Break down the walls (literally) between the living room, dining area, and kitchen to create an open and spacious environment where you can dance the night away.
Minimalism is not just a millennial buzzword; it complements Feng Shui principles by encouraging the removal of clutter and unnecessary items. This helps to create a sense of order and tranquility – say goodbye to that sinking feeling of "I have too much stuff!"
Tuck away your belongings with functional storage solutions like floating shelves or cabinets with doors. After all, out of sight, out of mind, right?
Light and air:
Proper lighting and ventilation are essential for maintaining good energy flow. Natural light sources, like large windows and skylights, as well as clean and unobstructed airways, can greatly improve the Feng Shui of a space.
Dress your windows with sheer curtains or treatments that let natural light in while maintaining privacy. Keep air vents and windows clean and unobstructed to ensure a breath of fresh air at all times.
Feng Shui Faux Pas: Interior Design Trends to Avoid and Alternative Suggestions
Sharp edges and corners:
When it comes to Feng Shui, sharp edges and corners are a big no-no. They disrupt the flow of qi, creating what's known as "poison arrows." Instead, opt for rounded furniture and soften corners with plants or fabric whenever possible.
Mirrors facing the bed:
Although Snow White's Evil Queen loved her mirror, placing one directly across from your bed might leave you feeling less than rested. Mirrors reflecting the bed can cause restlessness and poor sleep quality. Instead, place mirrors in areas that enhance light and open up space, such as opposite windows or in narrow hallways. Position a full-length mirror in the hallway or a decorative mirror on a living room wall to enhance light and make the space appear larger.
Overloading on one element, like binge-watching your favorite TV series, can throw your space's harmony out of whack. Be mindful of incorporating a balance of all five elements to create a well-rounded and supportive environment.
If you've got a lot of wood elements in your space, balance it out with a metal side table, a water feature, or some fiery red accent pieces.
Dim or harsh lighting can put a damper on the energy of a room. Instead, opt for soft, ambient lighting that complements natural light sources.
Layer your lighting with floor lamps, table lamps, and pendant lights to create a warm and inviting atmosphere.
Overloading on patterns:
Excessive use of bold patterns and colors can create visual clutter and disrupt the flow of energy. Choose patterns and colors mindfully, and use them as accents rather than the primary focus of a space.
Balance out a bold patterned rug with solid-colored furniture, or use patterned throw pillows as accents on a neutral sofa.
Bonus – you know we love bedrooms at Mim 😁 here are some things I’d consider for a harmonious bedroom
Position the bed diagonally across from the door, but not directly in line with it. This is called the "command position," which allows you to see the entrance while lying in bed, providing a sense of security and control. Having the bed off the ground- this allows “qi” to circulate all around you, nourishing you with positive energy (just don’t have the bed too high up, it will make you feel “ungrounded”). Avoid placing your bed directly in line with the door or underneath a window. This can create a flow of energy that is too strong, disturbing your sleep and sense of security. Keep the area under your bed clear to allow for better energy circulation.
I like a solid headboard, it acts as a source of a strong “backbone”, a sense of safety support and security while you sleep. A sturdy, wooden headboard is ideal for providing a sense of stability. Avoid metal headboards as they can create an overly cold and hard energy.
Remove electronic devices, such as TVs, computers, and phones, from the bedroom. These devices emit electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs) that can disrupt your sleep and create a stressful environment.
Having a pair of matching side tables/ nightstands, according to Feng Shui principles, helps balancing relationship where both people feel equally supported in a partnership.
Avoiding large plants or trees:
While smaller plants can be beneficial, having large plants or trees in your bedroom can create excessive yang energy and make it difficult to relax.
I hope the article somewhat helpful and informative (and I am pretty sure I make my Asian ancestor proud)
As you can see, these principles are similar to so many our modern design aesthetics (Japandi, Scandinavian, Modern Organic, Minimalism, etc)
So, next time you're planning a little home makeover, why not keep some Feng Shui principles in mind and consider how certain elements align with or detract from its principles? With a dash of humor and a sprinkle of mindful attention to these details, you can create a living space that truly supports your well-being, impresses your guests, and gives you that warm, fuzzy feeling of being right at home.
By Anh Ly
Designer of Mim Concept