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Feng shui: Dear Sew News, I love making personalized home decor, but my creations never seem to flow well in my space. Help!

Dear Reader,

Make the most of your custom decor by utilizing the principles of feng shui to place them in any room. This July '05 article by Susan Voigt-Reising explains the basics.

Feng Shui

Feng shui (pronounced "fung-shway") is the ancient Chinese art and science of arranging elements in an environment. Feng shui explores the connection between person and place. Its goal: to improve health, wealth and happiness by creating a harmonious balance of life energy known as chi (pronounced "chee"). Feng shui isn't a religion, a cult or something you can master in a day.

Go With the Flow

The first important feng shui principle is to keep energy flowing into and through rooms in a natural way. It shouldn't rush through too quickly, get bottled up in corners or stagnate in alcoves. Nancy Golwitzer, a certified residential interior designer and feng shui practitioner/consultant, offers these tips.

Make the exterior entry welcoming.

The path to the entry should meander a bit, rather than leading straight in. Landscaping shouldn't be too spiky or overwhelm or crowd the area. The entrance should be clean and well-lit.

The inside entry should be equally inviting, providing a place to rest or set packages. If a stairway is located directly across from the entry, place a plant, drape or coat rack to stop energy from rushing into or out of the house. To keep energy from halting abruptly at a wall directly across from the entrance, hang a picture of a landscape to create the effect of a window or more space.

In any room, avoid too many sharp edges. Keep chairs a good distance from the corners of other furniture, mantels, shelves or pillars. "Soften" sharp edges using plants or fabrics.

Brighten dark corners. A colorful vase of flowers, a fountain or a light, depending on which element is needed to help balance the room, can help keep energy flowing around corners. Upward-directed lights are especially effective at lifting the energy of a room.

Avoid clutter. To encourage good energy flow, keep closets, drawers and cabinets tidy and kitchen counters free of excess appliances. Let go of anything that doesn't serve a purpose.

Through the House

In addition to these general concepts about energy flow, feng shui also offers specific recommendations according to a room's function. Collins offers the following suggestions for every room in the house.

The bedroom is your retreat from the often frenetic activity of everyday life. It should offer an inviting, relaxing yet sensual space that allows you to rest and recharge. A nurturing bedroom can even cure sleeping troubles. Choose colors carefully to create a soothing environment. The best bedroom colors include creamy beiges and browns, pinks, yellows, reds and lavenders, as well as the deeper tones of chocolate, coral, raspberry, butter cream, burgundy and aubergine, she explains. She also suggests placing the bed so you have a view of the door, without being directly in front of the door; keeping mirrors (which activate chi) to a minimum; and locating any exercise equipment as far from the bed as possible, and keeping it covered when not in use.

Create a healthy kitchen. When the stove is against a wall, place a reflective surface, such as a mirror or shiny metal tray, behind or beside it. 'The reflection 'doubles' the burners (and the health and wealth they represent) and gives cooks a view of what's going on behind them," Collins advises. Also, if the stove is located next to the sink, she recommends placing a healthy plant, flower or bowl of fruit (wood element) between them to balance the elemental

Make bathrooms beautiful. In feng shui, plumbing is considered a potential threat to the vital chi circulating through the house. "Keep tub and sink drains closed when not in use, and be sure to keep the toilet seat closed," cautions Collins. "If possible, locate the toilet in its own alcove or behind a wall or screen," she adds.

Position yourself for success in your home office by sitting in the room's most powerful position. "You want to see the door and yet not be sitting directly in front of it. It's also best to have a wall, not a window, behind you. When you can't sit facing the door, place a mirror on or behind your desk to reflect the door," Collins recommends. Use powerful art and colors that match your professional goals and aspirations, choose furniture with rounded corners, and be sure chi can flow freely by keeping clutter at bay.

The Five Elements

The five natural elements of feng shui arise from the interplay of yin and yang and represent different manifestations of chi. Refer to "The Five Elements in Home Decor" at right for an overview of these elements.

To create a supportive, healthy space, identify the feng shui natural element that best describes you or the person who will spend the most time in the room. Then decorate the room using colors, fabrics and/or textures suggested for that element. Enhance the room with items that naturally nurture your dominant element. For example, if your dominant element is wood, use water to nurture it; if your dominant element is earth, use fire to support it.

If you don't feel comfortable with a room's decor, determine whether there's too much of one element, and then introduce its controlling element to balance it. Anne Mansfield, executive director of the International Feng Shui Guild, offers the following examples of how to redecorate for better balance.

If a family room is dominated by wood paneling, floors and furniture, balance it with metal, which controls wood. Paint one or more walls white (a color representing metal), and then add actual metal objects and pastel accessories, such as pillows, to cut the excess wood.

Or diminish wood elements by introducing fire element fabrics in vibrant colors and patterns. Use touches of the earth element such as collectibles, baskets and earth colors, and to a lesser degree, the water element (because it "feeds" wood), in the form of curving shapes and fabrics or photographs of water scenes.

Control excess fire elements in a room by adding water in the form of some darker colors, curving shapes, fabrics that flow and scenes of water in artwork. To further enhance the environment, add touches of the metal element (which holds water), such as pastels, refinement, formality and metal frames and containers. Open spaces (breathing room) and circular or arch shapes also have metal energy. Too much fire element can also be mitigated with the earth element by adding comforting fabrics in earth tones, collections of favorite objects, and scenes of flat wheat fields. The number two represents relationship, so add pairs of candles or animals.

You may already practice some feng shui principles intuitively. That's because feng shui is a natural tool for connecting with the inherent balance seeking to arise in every situation. Without consciously working through feng shui principles, your refined intuition may guide you to many of the same conclusions. Together, feng shui and your own instincts can add to your enjoyment of environments you create.

RESOURCES

Table elements courtesy of Anne Mansfield and Terah Kathryn Collins.

Feng Shui and Harmonious Living by Gill Hale and Mark Evans; Lorenz Books, 2004.

Feng Shui Chic by Carole Swann Meltzer and David Andrusia; Simon 8 Schuster, 2003.

Home Design With Feng Shui A-Z by Terah Kathryn Collins; Hay House Inc., 1999.

The International Feng Shut Guild, internationalfengshuiguild.org.

The Western Guide to Feng Shy: Room by Room by Terah Kathryn Collins; Hay House Inc., 1999.

Western School of Feng Shut, wsfs.com.

The Five Elements in Home Decor

PRIMARY       SUPPORTING       SHAPE/      COLORS
ROLE             ROLES        QUALITY

Provides      Controls     Wave,          Deep, dark
beauty and    fire,        free-flowing   colors,
inner         nurtures                    especially
support;      wood,                       dark blue and
encourages    diminishes                  black
"going with   metal
the flow"

Fosters       Controls     Columnar;      Greens, blues
expansion,    earth,       upward         and purples
creativity    feeds fire,  movement like
and           diminishes   sap rising
flexibility   excess
              water

Brings        Controls     Triangle,      All red
light,        metal,       pyramid or     tones,
warmth and    supports     cone;          including
happiness     earth,       scattering     pink,
              diminishes   like           red-orange,
              excess wood  fireworks      magenta and
                                          maroon

Encourages    Controls     Rectangle or   Earth tones,
order and     water,       square;        such as tans,
supports      supports     stability      browns,
growth        metal,                      yellows and
              diminishes                  terra cotta
              excess fire

Provides      Controls     Circle or      White,
strength and  (cuts)       arch;          pastels,
refinement    wood, holds  containment    silver and
              water,                      gold; any
              diminishes                  metallic;
              excess                      light sky
              earth                       blue for
                                          spaciousness

PRIMARY         FABRICS      ACCENTS
ROLE

Provides      Flowing      Water
beauty and    fabrics,     features,
inner         such as      glass and
support;      rayon and    mirrors
encourages    silk;
"going with   gathered
the flow"     fabrics

Fosters       Cottons,     Wooden
expansion,    such as      items,
creativity    canvas and   plants and
and           denim;       flowers
flexibility   stripe and
              floral
              patterns

Brings        Artistic,    Lighting
light,        flamboyant   and
warmth and    or pattern   candles
happiness     and texture
              mixes;
              angles;
              polka dots;
              fur and
              vinyl

Encourages    Wool,        Ceramics,
order and     flannel,     tile,
supports      fleece,      brick and
growth        chunky       stucco
              sweater
              knits,
              gingham,
              muslin, raw
              silk

Provides      Anything     Rock,
strength and  shiny but    stone and
refinement    also         all
              refined,     metals
              such as
              sheers and
              smooth
              silks
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Title Annotation:Home-Dec Help
Publication:Sew News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Aug 1, 2014
Words:1522
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