Whenever you walk into an unfamiliar home for the first time, how do you react? Is there something about the way the furniture and accessories are arranged that makes you feel immediately comfortable, as though everything within the room exudes a positive energy, a sense of belonging and peace? Or does entering the room seem jarring, not quite right in some way? Some rooms seem to amplify negative emotions. Long ago the Chinese realized that a room or living space is not separate from the flow of the natural world, and developed a system of living and decorating with Feng Shui.
This artistic philosophy is used to create more harmonious interiors. Even before modern physics existed, the Chinese recognized that all things, both living and inanimate, are constantly in motion. While this idea seems a little hard to swallow for some people, the truth is that all objects are composed of atoms and molecules which are in constant, never-ending activity. The energy produced by this motion affects all of us both emotionally and behaviorally. Every working and living space has some kind of energy flow, and this flow can be directed positively or negatively.
Random, cluttered interiors affect our human emotions negatively. Some rooms inspire a sense of confusion or unease because there is no balance in the elements. This Eastern philosophy tries to correct imbalances, and create an understanding of why certain arrangements are so jarring. The practice of Feng Shui deals with five separate elements, including metal, fire, water, earth and wood. These elements each have a vital role in the Chi, or flow of life energy.
A particular property is assigned to each element. For example, water tinkling gently in a fountain can encourage opportunities and communication. Conversely, a running toilet may utilize the same element, but is often associated with poverty or waste. Fire can denote high energy and passion, and metal conducts energy. Creativity and motivation are inspired by wood. Taken alone each element is important, but in combination add up to an overall positive or negative feeling when they interact.
How are these elements of design incorporated into interior decorating? The arrangements of these five elements can affect human emotions and reactions, and amount to a great deal more than simply showing good taste. A beautiful room filled with expensive heirloom furniture can feel intimidating and cold if not correctly displayed. To illustrate how this works Feng Shui decorators create a diagram called a Bagua Map. This is an actual drawing which can point out the elements that should exist in any particular room. It is drawn in the shape of a square, and divided into the nine areas of living.
Each area of a home corresponds to one of the nine aspects of life. They include health and family, wealth, career, wisdom and knowledge, love and marriage, reputation and fame, creativity and children, helpful people, and the Chi, or center. Each area has a particular color assigned to it, and using the right colors can positively affect the flow of energy.
Wealth, for example, can be associated with purple, red and blue. The color red symbolizes warmth, attraction and strength, and should be used sparingly so it doesn’t overpower a room. Blues and greens denote health and family. The career center should incorporate blue, brown or black objects. Each part of the Bagua map has its own colors, and once you create a such a map, the Chi or overall flow of energy can be enhanced by the use of the appropriate colors in the right areas.
These concepts may seem a little nebulous for people more used to the traditional rules of interior design, seeming to be a branch of the new-age movement. The truth is that these principles have been widely used in modern building design, and not just in Asia. It is true that there is no concrete way to actually measure the benefits, but positive feedback proves that these principles can make a big difference, and many modern designers and architects incorporate them into their work. Anyone, however, can utilize this method and reap the benefits of decorating with Feng Shui. If you are uncomfortable with your surroundings, this mode of interior design may prove to be the best solution.