Patricia Lohan was in her early 30s and determined to find a husband. A practicioner — and now teacher — of feng shui, she decided to channel all that she knew to clear the path to Mr. Right.
She bought new bedroom furniture and bedding, and added other things in matching pairs — representing her and her future mate — such as nightstands and lamps. She framed pictures of loving couples and prepared her closet as if a new husband could move in the next day. Her part of the closet had feminine pink hangers; his was empty and had black hangers.
She went so far as to set out a spare toothbrush and clear her future husbandʼs nightstand so he could put his own stuff there. Then she wrote a love letter to her ideal man and set it out, too.
If all of this sounds like a Valentineʼs Day story, well, it could be. But in this case, itʼs feng shui, and, since Tuesday is the annual Lunar New Year celebration, a time to adjust the feng shui in your home and your life.
Tips for better feng shui
Get started: Many people start the feng shui process at the front door of their home since it’s where “chi” or energy enters. Clean the door of cobwebs or dirt and add planters with flowers or greenery. Take it up a notch by painting your door a bold, welcoming color.
Self reflection: Recognize where you are in life and where you want to go. Think about where you feel stuck in life or what you’d like to improve, then look around your home.
Bedroom: Love and better relationships seem to be our universal yearning. Make your bedroom a sanctuary rather than a dumping ground. If you have exercise equipment in there, find another spot for it. Buy romantic bedding and find art that represents loving relationships. And lastly, remove family photos; you don’t want others watching you here. (wink, wink)
Sleep: If you’re one of the millions of Americans who can’t sleep, make sure you don’t have a mirror across from your bed. (It’s a major no-no.) The thought is that shadows reflected in your mirror can alter or disrupt your sleep. Also, make sure there’s nothing under your bed, clutter under there is said to affect your dreams.
Let go of dead weight: If your home is filled with objects you feel obligated to keep — that 1970s-era bedroom suite you inherited from Great Aunt Judith but never really liked — get rid of it or turn it into something you love. There are plenty of Hurricane Harvey victims rebuilding their lives and looking for nice used furniture. Or, buy some paint and change it to a color you love.
Light: Improve the light in your home in a number of ways. Choosing lighter paint colors and changing out light bulbs are simple fixes. Opt for lighter window treatments and place table lamps or add recessed lighting in places that are too dark.
Make it fresh: Adding live plants or fresh flowers can mitigate negative energy in rooms with problems that arent’ easy to fix. If moving a door or window can’t be done, something positive like fresh flowers, better lighting or even a kinetic sculpture can help.
Colors: Light colors on walls brighten a room, but natural colors like blues and greens also are good in feng shui.
Sources: Patricia Lohan, Sophia Vassiliou and Mary Lindsey Wilson
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Feng shui is seeing a resurgence in popularity, in part because of the
interest in getting rid of stress in turbulent times, but also as part of the Marie Kondo decluttering movement: itʼs time for everyone to embrace a little more joy in our homes and in our lives.
Feng shui originated in China and was first used some 4,000 years ago. It can be a multi-layered, complex process with different schools of thought, but a simplified version boils it down to using a loupan compass or bagwa map of your home, Lohan says in her new book, “The Happy Home: Your Guide to Creating a Happy, Healthy, Wealthy Life” (Balboa Press; $17.99; 254 pp.).
The loupan compass, a mapping tool for your home, is circular and represents geographic directions as well as the same five essential elements used in traditional Chinese medicine: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Centuries ago — long before we had heaters, air conditioners and indoor plumbing — feng shui was about building your home with intention to help it stay naturally cool or warm with a flow of fresh air and for even more practical matters, like ensuring your toilet couldnʼt contaminate your drinking water.
Houston interior designer and life coach Mary Lindsey Wilson of Live Beautifully is a feng shui practicioner who prefers the bagua map, a large square made up of nine smaller squares, each representing a part of our lives and a part of our homes. You place the large square over the floor plan of your home with the career and life journey square at your front door. Each smaller square is a place in your home, and that space corresponds to an element of your life.
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To the left of career/life journey is knowledge and self cultivation; to the right is travel and helpful friends. The next row up is new beginnings/family, then health (always the center of your home), then children/joy/future. The top row includes wealth/prosperity, fame/reputation and then marriage/relationships.
Whichever one you use, the goal is the same — to improve the energy, or “chi,” around you and your home to improve your life, business or career, relationships and opportunities.
Lohanʼs campaign for love worked. She soon met her now-husband — it comes with a lively romantic comedy-like story — and it turned out that heʼd just feng-shui-ed his bedroom, too. They met on the winter solstice, 12-21-12 and an auspicious day if there ever was one, and have been married three and a half years.
Wilson has been a follower of feng shui since 2000, when a yoga teacher encouraged her to try it, but her initial interest drew giggles from friends and loved ones.
“I was probably a little ahead of the curve,” Wilson said in self-deprecating fashion. “But Iʼm very sensitive to energy, and I always have been. To me, a home is a reflection of what is happening your life. I can walk in and tell where the imbalance is in your life. If I ask clients about themselves, theyʼll say ‘I got divorced last yearʼ or ‘Iʼve been sick.ʼ Itʼs all connected.”
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Admittedly, some parts sound a little superstitious. Placing a bowl of coins in your wealth and prosperity area isnʼt automatically going to make you rich, but at the same time, what harm does it really do?
“You want your home to be inviting. The Chinese would say they want to bring the ‘chiʼ forward, where Americans would say we want better curb appeal,” Wilson said. “Have flowers or plants near your door. You donʼt want your door to be obstructed; make sure thereʼs a clear path from the street to the door. If you canʼt influence that, at the very least have your door painted a fresh or bright color.”
In Lohanʼs practice — she considers feng shui as acupuncture for your home — the southeast corner of your home is prosperity. If that part of your home turns out to be a laundry room or where your toilet is, all is not lost. For one client, Lohan simply suggested that the homeowner make that bathroom feel more luxurious, with new towels, fancy soaps and fresh flowers. (That client got a new job a few weeks later, she said.)
East is family and community, south is fame and reputation, west is children and new beginnings and, like the bagua map, health is also the center of the home. So if the center of your home is full of clutter and junk, you might want to clear things out and brighten the space.
Houston interior designer Sophia Vassiliou of Sophia Designs studied feng shui in interior design classes at the University of Texas-Austin. For her, it wasnʼt about ancient superstitious or odd rules, but a practical way to design and live in a home.
When Nancy and Stuart Schrier hired Vassiliou to help them remodel and decorate the home they bought in Cinco Ranch, Vassiliou told the couple something they already knew, even if they didnʼt use the same words: the house had some seriously bad chi.
Walls were painted dark colors and windows were covered in layers of heavy draperies. The floor plan had some awkward spots that disrupted traffic flow and made daily chores inconvenient. The homeʼs two fireplaces had been completely ignored.
“The qualities of feng shui are opening up spaces to allow light and energy to come into the home and affect the lifestyle and energies of the people who inhabit the space,” Vassiliou said. “When I learned about it in college a long time ago, I always remembered those principles and incorporated them in all my design projects.” When Nancy Schrier talked about her needs, Vassiliou knew what to do.
“I wasnʼt thinking feng shui. I was thinking simple, no clutter, bright and light, and I guess that is the basis of it. A lot of wood and nature,” Schrier said.
In addition to using lighter paint colors, Vassiliou recommended lighter colors in upholstery and window treatments, using natural fibers such as linen and wool and adding other natural materials like a wooden beam for a fireplace mantle and refacing the fireplace stacked natural stone and the hearth with travertine.
Purely for function, she also urged them to move a built-in cabinet from one wall to an opposite wall that actually had a niche it could be tucked into.
It was an aha moment for Schrier. “I was standing in the kitchen doing dishes thinking ‘that should not be there, it should be over there,” she said of the cabinet. “Because it stuck out, I couldnʼt see the staircase or that window.”
For Wilson, finding what needs fixing is often as simple as asking them how they use a room. If the answer is “we never go in there,” thatʼs where she starts.
The room might need a coat of paint or better furnishings. Sometimes the remedy is as simple as being intentional about using that room, turning on a light or playing music.
“I had a client whose idea of good design was the top suite at the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton. I said, ‘Youʼre totally missing the point — your house should be the pinnacle. We did a lot of renovations on his house and the most powerful was changing opening up the kitchen and installing a big island and it was in the center of his house. The center of house is your chi center and you want it to be active. He started entertaining more. It created tremendous change for him.”