Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

7 Ways to Improve Your Small Space with Feng Shui

An NPR story last week told the tale of Lisa Dutton. Her home had been languishing on the market for 30 months with only low-ball offers coming in. The Chino Hills, CA resident was frustrated. She said, “I thought, ‘Wow, my house is beautiful. What’s wrong? Why is someone just walking right out the door?” The reason, she came to find, was the place had bad qi–a Chinese term for energy. To fix this energetic issue, Dutton hired a feng shui expert and in short time had an offer nearly $100K more than her pre-feng shui-ed listing period.

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy that seeks to harmonize the human experience with our surrounding environment; it’s like UI design for reality. To some, feng shui might seem like soft science, but another way to see it (at least its more mundane aspects) is a codification of those intuitive and intangible elements that make a place feel great or horrible. When dealing with a small space, where there is no room for bad mojo, correcting qi disorders can make all of the difference in making the place a sanctuary or a rattrap.

The feng shui philosophy has been developing over the last 6K years give or take, so we won’t try to give an expert guide to incorporating its principles into your home (there are many consultants if your home has a serious qi deficiency). Furthermore, every house is different in its makeup, and much of feng shui depends on orientation to the sun and poles. That said, we can give a few simple, easy-to-implement suggestions to making your small space–or any space really–feel and flow better:

  1. Make an inviting entranceway. Logically, the entranceway is the gateway for both your body and qi into a home. Keep your entranceway clean, uncluttered and inviting. Paint your door if it’s in bad shape, put some plants and a clean door mat out front. Make an entranceway appropriate for a place you want to enter. The same goes for the interior aspect of the entranceway, which is where energy flows back out. Don’t block it with tons of coats or your gnome collection.
  2. Keep thing flowing. One of the main ideas is that energy should peacefully move through your home. Furniture placed in the middle of your home’s main arteries can clog those arteries leading to a constricted environment. Rodika Tchi says this on About.com about keeping a room’s flow: “Basically, as you stand at the entrance to your living room, visualize energy as water flowing into the room. Would the stream of water flow freely and smoothly? Would it get stuck in many areas of your living room? Will it rush right out the big window or another door aligned with the living room door.” These are important questions as there can be a tendency to cram too much stuff into small spaces. Err on the side of less to keep a space open. Often it’s better to sacrifice some function for flow.
  3. Remove “dangerous” furniture. Feng shui expert Erica Sofrina says, “Anything that you bump your head on, stub your toe or bruise your shins on is unsafe. The message to the reptilian brain is that home is not a safe place to be. Replace sharp-edged furniture with those that have rounded edges and remove from sight anything that is–or even looks like a weapon.”
  4. Clear clutter. You might have rationalized that a messy desk–or table or dresser or countertop–is the hallmark of genius, but feng shui philosophy would say otherwise. Feng shui dictates that we have connections with every physical object in our homes; when those objects are superfluous or represent things not dealt with, they can make our homes stagnant and overwhelming. Clear old clutter away ASAP and continually clear surfaces to keep things flowing smooth.
  5. Balance the elements. Traditional Chinese philosophy holds that there are five essential elements: fire, metal, earth, wood and water. Each element has a corresponding color or hue, e.g. red is passion, blue is relaxation, brown is grounding and so on. Try to not lean too heavily on one color, but rather try to create an elemental balance in your home to have balance in your life. Balance can also apply to décor; more “active” rooms like an office can have more going on than “passive” rooms like the bedroom.
  6. Use mirrors to your advantage. Well-placed mirrors can help transmit the flow of energy. Place them in dining areas to increase the enjoyment of meals or near dark areas to bring light and energy to that space. But don’t put mirrors directly in front of a door, which repels entering energy or near areas where you don’t want to increase something’s quality, e.g. a toilet.
  7. Bring in nature. Evolutionarily speaking, humans are very accustomed to living away from nature. Place greenery around your home accordingly.

Water and elements image via Shutterstock

Via NPR 

  • kris

    Years ago, the New York Times home section ran an interesting article about feng shui. A reporter asked two different feng shui experts to make recommendations about her apartment. The experts came up with two completely different sets of recommendations. And, if I recall, the recommendations sometimes directly contradicted each other. In other words, if the reporter had followed all of the recommendations from consultant A, she would have violated some of the recommendations from consultant B.

  • Maggie

    First, I live in Hong Kong where feng shui (please learn how to say it – it’s not schway!) is very popular. The HSBC Building is built according to its principles and it’s incorporated into every day life.

    Okay, having said that I decided to take a course with a very well-known practitioner, who has appeared on CNN and the like. I learnt the Flying Star and 4 Pillars of Destiny, and use to a Lo Pan and read the 100-year calendar, which when I did it was only in Chinese.

    The practitioner was very sincere and, believing it to be true, taught it as a science.

    After learning a great deal from him and even accompanying him on site visits, I come to understand that, yes it’s very old but it’s also utter nonsense. Surely some ideas do make sense, but those ones are from a commonsense approach.

    I didn’t tell the practitioner what I really thought of feng shui. There seemed little point. Letting my friends know that I wouldn’t be using my knowledge to ‘feng shui’ their apartments wasn’t popular. You can make good money out of it here but I couldn’t take money for what I saw as a fraud.

  • Karen Bil Ratzlaff

    I don’t know anything about Feng Shui, but I do agree with most of the items on the list…clearing clutter, using mirrors, bringing in nature, removing “dangerous” furniture. These seem both practical and common sense in creating an inviting home.

  • Ten years ago I visited a naturopathic doctor complaining of sleep problems. He said, “I think I have the solution” and handed me a business card for a well-known local feng shui professional. WORTH EVERY PENNY. It is now rare that someone entering my 400-sq.-ft space *doesn’t* comment on the comfort, flow, beauty of the place. I sleep well.

  • Marge

    I was initially leery about Feng Shui until a friend swore things changed after reading Lillian Too’s Living with Good Feng Shui book and applying it into her day-to-day life. Googled it and found a copy from Noon Books (www.noon-books.com). I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, applying it and waiting for positive results. I swear life seems to just “flow” now instead of just “chug along,” if you know what I mean. Money comes in from unexpected sources and relationships seem to require no effort. Life just seems happier. I can’t explain it, but it works. I guess at the end of the day that’s what it all boils down to. Super thankful I stumbled upon this and gave it a chance.

  • Marge

    I was initially leery about Feng Shui until a friend swore things changed after reading Lillian Too’s Living with Good Feng Shui book and applying it into her day-to-day life. Googled it and found a copy from Noon Books (www.noon-books.com). I thoroughly enjoyed reading it, applying it and waiting for positive results. I swear life seems to just “flow” now instead of just “chug along” if you know what I mean….Money comes in from unexpected sources and relationships seem to require no effort. Life just seems happier. I can’t explain it, but it works. I guess at the end of the day that’s what it all boils down to. Super thankful I stumbled upon this and gave it a chance.