Feng Shui and Silk Fabric


Raw, nubby, pure silk. Photo by Smriti Tripathi, CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

When I say “silk,” I mean 100% silk—pure silk. I recently had a client in Los Angeles who thought she had followed my advice when I recommended red silk curtains for the large glass doors in the Fame Area of her home. She showed me the results in a Skype conversation, and told me that they were 70% silk. (That means they were 30% synthetic—and synthetic is plastic. Being small plastic fibers, it immediately starts degrading into ever-smaller pieces of plastic—plastic dust in your home—yuck!) I was extremely disappointed when she told me that the store didn’t have 100% silk. I said, “You’re shopping in the wrong store! You’re in LA—you shouldn’t have trouble finding fabric stores that carry 100% silk.” Silk blended with anything will not move or feel like 100% silk.

If you’re looking for fabric for the Wealth Corner, try silk velvet. The nicest sofa fabric that I’ve ever sat on was the silk sofa of a friend in San Francisco. It was that rough, nubby, raw silk—extremely strong and it felt great to sit on. Raw silk (sometimes called hard silk) still has the gum (that held the fibers of the cocoon together) on it, and it always has a certain stiffness to it. There are some silks that are woven from raw fibers, and then the gum is removed afterwards. Chiffon, crepe de chine, and foulard are examples.

Pearl Textured Dupioni Silk Curtain Single Panel, 50"x96"

These are 100% silk dupioni drapes with a nice texture to them. Photo via Houzz

I often recommend white or off-white silk sheers (curtains) for front doors that are mostly clear glass. I recently suggested this to a client in Hilo and she liked the idea immediately, which not everyone does. The fabric blocks symbolically blocks chi, while letting light through. As I mention in Feng Shui for Hawaii, if you have a front door with clear glass (or a large glass panel next to the door; this is a common design), someone could stand outside your home and look straight in. Their eyesight—their visual energy—is coming into your space without being invited. That symbolizes a home where the residents are not adequately in control of the circumstances of their lives. I cite several other uses for silk sheers in the same book.

I feel very sorry for anyone who has to buy silk (or any fabric) online. Fabric must be touched and moved to know if it’s right for your purpose. And this touching and moving is what proves that natural fabrics are always better than synthetic. Support your local fabric stores where you can touch what you’re buying.

My appreciation for silk and other fabrics was enhanced by the addition of these two books to our library: Handbook of Textile Fibres, Vol. 1: Natural Fibres by J. Gordon Cook, and Know Your Merchandise by Wingate, Gillespie, and Milgrom. The latter book is a textbook for retailers and consumers, and our edition is from 1975. I’d recommend it to almost anyone who has a collection (of almost anything). It’s a fascinating study into how all sorts of things are made.

Seminar Alert! I will be on Oahu this weekend, offering several seminars at various locations and on several different topics, including the feng shui bagua, feng shui for the office and feng shui for the bedroom. Most are free; the one exception is the two-hour long Bagua Class on Friday night, which has a modest fee. My complete schedule can be found on my events page.

Fire Under Water in the Home—The Feng Shui Perspective on Three Interior Features to Avoid 

Flickr - USCapitol - Bartholdi Fountain

Public outdoor fountains often light from beneath the water. The effect may be spectacular, but it symbolizes conflict and an unstable situation between fire and water. The lights at the top of this fountain which cast light down onto the water are fine. Photo: Bartholodi Fountain by Architect of the Capitol, via Wikimedia Commons

The element fire (and any object symbolizing fire) is in conflict with the element water, if they are next to each other or in close proximity. A circumstance where fire is under water is especially troublesome because water puts out fire. Here are three such circumstances that can happen within a home:

  • A water feature, such as a fountain, in which the light bulb is below the water. I emphasize this problem on page 90 of Feng Shui for Love & Money. Don’t buy this kind of fountain, and if you’ve already got one, don’t turn on the light. It’s fine to have a fountain with a light shining on the water—that’s like the sun shining on the ocean—very natural.
  • Waterfall pictures that you plug in and turn on and the water lights up and it’s supposed to look like the water is moving. Not only are these dreadful feng shui, but they radiate tackiness—yes, I really said that! (I can’t bear to look at them, but if you really must see one for yourself, here is a link to a video.)
  • Spigots over stove tops to fill pots with water for cooking. This problem is not as easily fixed as discarding a tacky picture. If possible, have the spigot removed. However, most people who have this (feng shui nightmare) in their home are loathe to have it removed. If that’s the case, put a tiny, discreet dot of red paint or nail polish (probably on the underside of the spigot so it won’t be visually obvious) and say out loud something like, “The red symbolizes a complete change—there is no longer a fire over water situation at this stove—the spigot is gone.”

I live in on an island where red-hot lava flows into the ocean, and sometimes under the ocean. It’s well known among people who live here that these are situations to be wary of—they can be very explosive. Don’t bring that vibration of conflict and wariness into your home.

Feng Shui & Clocks: A Tale of Two Faces

This (much more expensive) clock is what we’re getting rid of—too vague!

Not all clock faces are created equal. Digital clocks are always a bit more stressful to look at than the old-fashioned analog clocks, which have hands that move in a circle. We have a few small digital clocks scattered around the house, including the one on the stove. But the main clock in our house is an analog wall clock above the kitchen door. It’s on the screened-in lanai (porch), which is also our dining room and main hang-out room. Until recently, we had a clock from Macy’s hanging there. It didn’t have much going for it, from a feng shui point of view, except that the back had flocking (sort of a glued-on felt), which dampened the ticking sound. The main problem with the clock was that it had no actual numbers on the face. Where the 3, 6, 9, and 12 would be, there were only little dots. Often I would stare at it wondering, “Is that 4:30 or 5:30?” That kind of vagueness from a clock is not good feng shui.

No vagueness here! It is a slight bit noisier than the other clock, but my husband stuffed fabric in the hollow space in the back (around the frame) and that helped a lot.

Then, a few days ago, my husband and I were in the Salvation Army thrift store in Kailua, and there was this clock that was about the same size as the Macy’s clock, but it had numbers. The store was having a 50% off sale on all items. I asked Steve what he thought, and he said, “Get it!”

So for $2.50 we got a charming clock with all twelve numbers on the face. Every time I look up at it, I automatically blurt out, “I love that clock!” The vagueness is gone.

A few other clock tips:

  • If a ticking sound bothers you, as it does me, get only silent or very quiet clocks. This is essential in the bedroom.
  • Clocks need to be kept accurate; otherwise they are holding you back in the past.
  • If there are several clocks in the home, they need to agree on the time. Clocks that disagree by several minutes bring a vibe of untrustworthiness to the home. (If you collect clocks, you have a problematic hobby—keep them all accurate, or don’t have them on display.)
  • One of the worst kinds of clocks is the kind that has no numbers at all. These were popular in the 1950s, and remain so in some minimalist homes. This is vagueness gone off the scale.

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.