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Tuesday, 25 February 2020

Feng Shui styling for a ch’i glow

Architect and interior stylist Menna H Ashour reveals how you can decorate your home to ensure happiness, success, and peace of mind

Menna H Ashour , Tuesday 17 Dec 2019
 Bagua Map
Bagua Map
Views: 1429
Views: 1429

Applying Feng Shui to interior design gives a glimpse of what can happen when art and science unite. This Chinese art means harmonising the mind-matter connection along with the human-environment rapport through the “five-elements cycle,” balancing the polar opposites of “yin and yang to ensure the energy flow, or “qi-ch’i,” through space.

A home that has been “Feng Shui’d” feels more comfortable, peaceful, and tranquil. Implementing this ancient Chinese practice in our homes today can create balance and harmony in our super-busy cluttered lives to reflect back well-being and prosperity.

The spatial laws of Feng Shui, or “wind water,” pronounced “fong shway,” are used to design spaces with a purpose, promoting healing through their atmosphere. The philosophy behind the practice stems from Taoism, and it is now used widely in planning and design to connect us back to nature. It is based on the belief that our home is a reflection of what’s going on inside us, as well as of the powers of ch’i, a universal energy in our lives.

Though there are many schools and practices involved, the five elements are their foundations. These are the five elements of wood, fire, metal, water, and earth, each of which has its own properties.

elements cycle
elements cycle

WOOD enhances strength, growth and new beginnings. Plants, paper, wooden furniture and textiles are some of its representations in interior décor. FIRE enhances passion, confidence and expression. Candles, bright lights, sunlight, electronics and animal prints are among its elements. METAL enhances mental clarity, reasoning and morality. Curved or elliptical forms, metals like copper, gold or silver, and rocks and stones can strengthen its effect in space.

WATER means spirituality and wisdom. Water can be integrated into design through the use of mirrors, free-forms, or irregular profiles, along with elements like aquariums and fountains. EARTH enhances strength, stability and order. Sand, landscape images, and regular shapes can all be used to bring this element into interior design.

The more the five elements are communicated through décor, design, and colour, the closer the space will be to harmony and fulfillment. 

However, there are other essential features of Feng Shui, including the Bagua Map, an eight-sided map that gives order to any design. Each zone in the map links to a specific niche in life, including relationships, wealth, productivity, children, money, marriage, and so on, while each side signifies a unique element (wood, water, and so on) along with a colour

By matching the Bagua pattern to your floorplan, you can identify sections associated with diverse areas of your life and strengthen them accordingly. 

yinang artwork for balance and harmony
yinang artwork for balance and harmony

Yin and yang are also important features of Feng Shui. They mean that there should be a harmonious balance of energies in the environment, with extremities connected in a way that is essential to harmonious existence. Yin resembles the feminine energy and yang the masculine, and one cannot flourish without the other. We need a balance of contrasting opposites, such as light-darkness, good-evil, and warm-cool, for positive ch’i energy to flow. The principles of yin and yang are mostly applied in interior design through mirrors and symbolic elements, reflections, artwork, ventilation, and lighting.

Our environments are vital for our own satisfaction and progress, and it is not difficult to see why. Imagine yourself in a crowded space with a lot of traffic, noise, and visual disharmony, along with unorganised clutter and distractions. How would you feel? The thought is enough to trigger anxiety, a lack of focus, and an absence of drive and energy.

Now take a deep breath, feel the air cleaning out the clutter in your body and soul, and then breathe all the negative images and blockages out of your life. Visualise the waves of the sea at the time of a beautiful sunrise or sunset. Do you feel the air flowing across your skin? The sand in your shoes? How do you feel now? 

Once you have understood the philosophy behind Feng Shui, it can be a good idea to take a tour of your home and look at what’s blocking your way or annoying you. What are you struggling with, and what is preventing you from flowing freely? How do you feel in your environment? What spaces of life do you want to balance and harmonise? What do you need more of, and what do you need to kiss goodbye?

Think about pausing, rearranging, adjusting mentally, and starting to take steps towards an instant Feng Shui boost.

Bagua over-land layout
Bagua over-land layout

Bagua Map
Bagua Map

Feng Shui your home: First, declutter and clean up your environment. Feng Shui is often called the art of decluttering for a reason, as flushing away the things you don’t need is the first step towards a fulfilling home and a healthy ch’i flow. 

Start with one space or area at a time and take three clusters, such as boxes, plastic bags, or any storage items, mentally or physically. Then, simply list and organise your surroundings into three groups.

Group one consists of stuff that you don’t use, haven’t used in while, or won’t be needing. Usually six months is a good start in identifying the stuff you don’t need. This will usually go to the junk or laundry or will be identified as giveaways, recycling, or charity. However, there will always be useless or symbolic clutter that people can’t let go off although they have no real need for it. It’s fine that some of this is kept.

Group two is stuff that truly matters and is vital to you. Set this aside and clean the dust off it. Group three is stuff you actually use, really need, and is aesthetically or functionally linked to purpose and activity.

You can’t achieve your aspirations and evolve with bad energy trapped in dust, clutter and chaos. Psychologically, organising your stuff in this way can help to put your life in order and release positive endorphins to relieve stress

Having done this, analyse your home energy imprint to know your needs. View your home as a living organism created out of energy. Sha is the negative energy that can accumulate in clutter, dust, unused bits and pieces, sharp corners, damaged windows, walls, screens and doors, along with bare beams. It means sensual and visual imbalance, disharmony or chaos. Since energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but moves from one form to another, Feng Shui can transform negative sha energy into a positive ch’i energy.

Finally, start styling for energy enlightenment. Artworks, colours, and natural elements in the form of plants or fabrics are your best energy balancers and harmonisers. The most inspiring designs involve organic materials such as wooden furniture, stones, or mineral art.

Feng Shu mood board for a ch
Feng Shu mood board for a ch'i glow

Mirrors when placed aright do wonders for the energy flow of any space and can reflect back a sense of nourishment and deflect negative sha energy. They can also guard your home from such energy when positioned at the entrance.

Natural air should flow through the space, so move the furniture away from the walls and arrange fittings to allow room for energy flows. Natural light is a game-changer for energy boosts and productivity, with negative energy lying stagnant in dark corners and broken objects. Use different light sources to distribute positive energy more evenly. 

Mindfulness, gratitude and positive vibes are important when transforming your space to match your soul, body and mind. 


Feng Shui is a compound practice that involves consulting an expert, but you can go a long way towards improving your domestic space without one. Sometimes all it takes is a little decluttering, synchronisation, organisation, and balance to grow. So, detox, free yourself, and clear a space for joy and resilience.

read more: Feng Shui at home


*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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