Welcome to my blog!

Thank you for visiting my blog!

I give very thorough advice in my books, lectures and consultations, but I encounter new feng shui problems all the time. Here, I’ll be sharing new solutions I come across and answering questions you might have.

If you have a question that you can’t find the answer to (please use the search box at the bottom of this page to see if I’ve covered the subject before), leave a comment here and I’ll consider writing a future blog post about it.


Feng Shui & Personal Memorials

This vase is my personal memorial to my mother. It’s also a bookend for some very special books.

When my mom, Merle, died in June, I wrote an article dedicated to her. I also put her picture on our home altar to honor her.  (See the end of this post for photos.) And I also went shopping…

The day after she passed, I found myself on eBay looking at a picture of this vase.

It’s Camark Pottery from Camden, Arkansas and she had recently told me that when my oldest brother was an infant, she was teaching school in Arkansas. She had also been saying how she missed my father, and her own mother and father. The more I looked at this vase the more I saw a unity of images: My mother reunited with my father and her parents. The two calla lily flowers symbolize my parents together again, and the two leaves (one on each side of the vase) symbolize her two parents. Well, I was the only person bidding on the vase and I got it. I placed it in our home so that I pass close by it many times a day. That’s the important part—many times a day. Also, never let a personal memorial area become cluttered. It’s better to respectfully put the memorial away, rather than have it in a cluttered setting.

The photo of my mom was taken when she was in her 80s. A week or so before she died, she described herself as a “Catholic Buddhist.”

Our home altar is a vintage Japanese butsudan and it’s the most ornate thing in our home. It has a special shelf that’s perfect for a small photo of my mother, Merle.

Well, tears are streaming down my face as I write this and I think I’ll stop now. I’ve gotta go blow my nose…

Feng Shui & the Tabouret (or Tabourette)

This tabouret is in our living room. The lower shelf holds books and we always keep the top shelf clear so it’s available to set a beverage on.

I’d never seen or heard that word before—‘til I was browsing in an old 1923 Sears catalogue. There on page 609 was an etching of a small (17 inches high and less than a foot across the top) oak table. It was part of a seven-piece craftsman set of living room furniture, and its only description was that it was “a convenient article” and that it was a little over 11 inches wide. They’re convenient all right—we have two and they’re both in daily use. A tabouret is also (almost always) feng-shui friendly because the tops usually have eight sides—so no poison arrows. (Any angle larger than ninety degrees does not make a poison arrow.)

Not long ago I wrote about vintage furniture being excellent for not causing poison arrows. Well, that’s the tabouret and sometimes it’s not vintage—it’s often (becoming more often every year) an actual antique (over 100 years old).  But they’re frequently sold at yard sale prices—because sometimes even antique dealers don’t recognize them. We paid between five and ten dollars for ours. In the late 1800s, Moorish decor was in vogue in Europe and America and a tabouret is similar to a small inlaid Moorish table. (A tabouret is usually simpler). They make great plant stands and occasional tables, and since there’s almost always a lower shelf—they can even make a cute little bookcase.

The tabouret lives next to our lanai dining table (our only dining table) and it usually holds fresh produce. Here it is with our own mamey fruit. (Mamey tastes like sweet potato pie.) The upper pottery is vintage Catalina, and the lower one is modern from Berkeley.

I bought this humble tabouret at Discovery Antiques in Kealakekua a few years ago for $5 or $10. It was probably made between 1910 and 1930, and it could have been someone’s furniture-making project.

Carlo Bugatti, the great Italian designer, created a Moorish-looking set of furniture, including a tabouret that was anything but simple. It looked like it had died and gone to heaven! (To see examples of the set of furniture, search Google Images for “Bugatti furniture art nouveau.” But I think the only time I ever saw a photo of his tabouret was on an eBay auction.)

If you have a spare $14,500 lying around, you could buy this beautiful Bugatti tabouret from this online auctioneer. It’s a good thing I’m not rich, because I would totally do it. Photo: 1stdibs

Feng Shui & McMansions

Photo via Houzz by Paula Grace Designs, Inc.

I was recently skimming through The Long Emergency by James Kunstler and I see this term: “lawyer foyer.” I’d never heard of that, but I wondered if it might mean what I thought it meant—and sure enough, it does. It refers to a two-story foyer, often with a staircase, and sometimes with a double staircase. (I’ll say right here that double staircases are horrible feng shui—a person is given a meaningless choice. “Should I go up these stairs or those stairs?” They both go to the same place. The symbolism is that meaninglessness will play a part in your life.)

McMansions almost always have “lawyer foyers,” and McMansions, in general, usually have horrible feng shui. I’ve never been to a McMansion that didn’t have an interior bathroom—and that is the absolutely worst thing I know of in feng shui. (A “center bathroom” is any bathroom that doesn’t touch an outside wall, and they portend disease, divorce, bankruptcy and even death.)  McMansions are also famous for more square footage than the residents need—and that symbolizes emptiness, possibly an empty life—a life wasted. McMansions are rife with fake architectural details—things that meant to suggest something grand, but are actually less than grand.

Fake anything in a home to starts to say artificial relationships and wealth. The more fake things in a home, the more it says artificial relationships and wealth. Several years ago, I consulted for a couple with an impressive stone balustrade around their back patio. I thought it was stone, until I tapped it with my fingernail and was shocked to realize it was foam plastic.

I have a feeling that the proliferation of overly large homes with center bathrooms was a factor in the 2008 real-estate crash. When you get a bunch of people living in homes (built with fake objects) with center bathrooms, it does not bode well for the fate of the nation. You could not pay me to live in a McMansion!

Feng Shui, Calculated Casual and Shabby Chic Styles, and an “Off-Kilter” Look (with Special Reference to Minimalism)

Bagua Map

The shape associated with the fame area of the bagua is angular—triangles, points and upward forms belong here.

How’s that for a title? They do all relate—at least in my mind. First, let’s go into an “off-kilter” look (that’s the main feng shui concern), then calculated casual and shabby chic, and we’ll end with minimalism (for all you fans of Dwell magazine.)

When parallel lines (seen in close proximity) are not quite parallel, it looks off-kilter—not lined up. The best place for that look is in the Fame area of the bagua because it implies (and sometimes is) an angle. The main thing to watch out for in having an off-kilter look is don’t overdo it. A little bit goes a long way and too much is severely off-balancing. Calculated casual is actually more of a look (as in overlay) than a style, and it’s a perfect way to work an angular, off-kilter design into an interior tableau.

This is not calculated casual—this is stupid. Constant exposure to this is damaging to your psyche.

Beware of using an off-kilter look on a vertical surface, such as pictures on a wall—it can be a sign of neglect. However, on most horizontal surfaces, off-kilter can say these objects are used in this household.

Did I ever mention that calculated casual is my favorite look in decorating? It’s so easy to live with, and it can comfortably overlay any other style of decorating. First, I should say that calculated casual is not the same as “shabby chic.” Don’t get me started on shabby chic—I hate it. It’s always bad feng shui because it cheapens the look of your home. Think about the word shabby.

It’s a bit crowded, but this is calculated casual. These things are picked up and used.

Calculated casual can be as simple as forgoing formal balance. Don’t go overboard with “foregoing formal balance”—some areas don’t just call for formal balance, they scream for it. (Certain fireplaces demand formal balance—there is sometimes no other way to make the room feel right.) Like anything, calculated casual can be done wrong—karate-chop pillows, for instance. The best calculated casual comes from years of experience—get started now, if you haven’t already. Wabi sabi is the very refined, Japanese version of calculated casual—and that brings us to our last topic—minimalism.

Yes, calculated casual even works with minimalism—in fact it makes minimalism look even more fabulous, and livable. Minimalism’s main feng shui problem is that it can be too yang for a home. This most often happens when formal balance is used. That usually happens because, with formal balance, it’s easier to figure out how to make it work in the space. Informal balance can take a good deal more thought and work. Minimalism is often fine for businesses and offices, which have a yang purpose—transactions. At home, you need some yin atmosphere—a bit softer. If minimalism is too formal in its visual presentation, it can easily look clinical. If you can get a minimalist look that people would describe as charming, then it’s undoubtedly suitable for a residence. (Good luck with that last one…If you can achieve it, send me photos!)

Feng Shui & Moire Patterns

Real moiré patterns are optical illusions created when similar pattern grids or lines are laid over each other. They create a sense of motion, sometime dizzyingly, and are very, very active in terms of feng shui energy. Authentic moiré patterns can happen in a home when two fairly fine mesh screens are placed one behind the other and a few inches apart. (You’ll also often see them when you take a photo or video of a computer monitor or television screen.)

Here’s an animation of a moving moiré pattern. By P. Fraundorf, CC BY-SA 3.0. Wikimedia Commons.

Both the pattern and the color say “water”. This lovely fabric from Oleandro Creations would be perfect in the Career Area, as well as the Wealth and Health/Family Areas.

There is an artificial moiré that is sometimes woven into damask fabric to make drapes or upholstery. The artificial, cloth moiré is never a problem, and can look quite elegant in silk. This article is about real moiré, which is far too active for use in most home situations.

If you have time and/or inclination, Mr. Wizard has a very good explanation and several examples, and he even shows a sample of moiré fabric to start.

Our house has a lot of screen walls, but thankfully very few moire patterns. Here’s a place where two screen walls meet at a right angle, and there’s that moire (down in the bottom corner)! It’s pleasant because it’s seldom noticed.

A client on Oahu lived in a home on a ridge overlooking the Diamond Head area and had some nice views out of the living room windows. She had recently bought window treatments and had wanted to keep some of the view by using some pull down shades with lots of holes in them. When this combined with the insect screen on the window the effect was huge moving moiré patterns every time you moved in that room (during daylight hours—a moiré like that wouldn’t show up when there’s dark on the other side of the window).

The custom-made shades had cost her a lot of money, but living with them pulled down was driving her crazy. I totally understood the problem and frankly said that I couldn’t live with that in my own home. I’m appalled that the shades salesperson who visited her home for measurements didn’t warn her about the patterns.

What could I say, except, “Don’t use them”? I hate saying that when somebody just made a large capital outlay on something that turns out wrong, but anything that is driving you crazy in your own home is not good feng shui! I felt like a jerk saying, “Don’t use them,” but I spoke honestly.

Rainbow Cosmo Cat Eye Wind Spinner

Source: Houzz

An occasional, mild, moving moiré pattern in your home is not a problem. But my Oahu client had several big windows in her living room, and even if you moved very slightly, the moiré pattern would show up as a very active thing in your view. That is pointless visual noise and it can drive a person crazy—especially if there’s a lot of it.

Those large, shiny kinetic wind sculptures some people like to hang in their gardens have a similar effect—the slightest breeze causes endless waves of motion; there’s always something vibrating and hovering at the edge of your field of view. That sort of constant visual noise should be avoided for a peaceful home.