Even More Feng Shui and Architectural Digest (The Silly and the Great)

This isn’t from Architectural Digest, but it illustrates the “opposing couches” problem I mention at the end of this post. Couches across from each other say “opposing viewpoints,” but you can fix that problem with a crystal between them. (Image by Pexels from Pixabay)

This is what happens when you’ve got as many back issues as I’ve still got—but the pile is rapidly dwindling. Let’s start with some silly things, such as this ad I’m looking at for a closet design. There’s what looks to be a big round skylight in the center of the giant closet, and hopefully everyone knows that direct sunlight is going to fade clothes badly, especially anything red (red being the weakest pigment). In the center of the closet is a giant square hassock with a couch scarf casually draped over it. Now a couch scarf on a couch makes sense—the house is a little chilly and instead of turning the heat up, you pull a couch scarf over or around you. But on a hassock in a closet—it looks super weird! Somebody’s just trying to sell couch scarves—as if they were appropriate anywhere—what’s next—couch scarves on breakfast bars?

Another silly thing—somebody’s Arizona house has got a Stark brand carpet on the floor of the billiard room. That sounds all nice and fine—until you look for more than one second, and you realize that the carpet was probably rolled out minutes before the photographer took the picture. All the lines of it being rolled up are still very plain on the carpet. I’m very surprised they printed that picture! You could practically trip on the roll wrinkles. The lesson here (as far as I’m concerned) is that every rug or carpet needs a pad under it. A pad (and five minutes of walking) would have taken all those roll wrinkles out. The most amazing thing about rug pads is that they add hundreds of years to the life of the rug!

The same issue (January 2015) has a great example of good design and good feng shui. There’s a long darkish hall in a “minimalist” NYC apartment. (I put minimalist in quotes because it’s the busiest minimalist space I’ve ever seen—stuff on top of stuff, stuff in front of stuff.) But in the hall, there’s one entire long wall that’s been lacquered to create a mirror effect. The long wall opposite the mirror has eighteen vintage Charlotte Perriand light sconces, and the effect couldn’t be better. That long hall seems spacious and magical!

Let’s go on to a couple more silly things before we end on a positive note. They’re both ads—the first one is for a lounge chair called Lockheed Lounge designed by Marc Newson for a company called Phillips. It’s made up of little pieces of riveted metal—that’s right—the whole chair, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything that looked more uncomfortable. Remember my phrase? More dollars than sense! And that same phrase applies to an ad for an orange sofa by Michael Amini. It’s a lovely sofa, but one of the throw pillows (that’s designed to go with it) has a great big AM embroidered on it. I know where I’d throw that pillow!

That same issue (May 2015) has an article with another piece designed  by Charlotte Perriand—a lovely round, black coffee table—placed in the center between two huge half-circle white couches in a London penthouse. When I showed it to my husband, he asked if they had the problem of “a couch directly facing another couch” (which says “opposite points of view—arguments”). I replied, “Yes, it sure does, but wouldn’t a large crystal look great on that table?” And that would be the solution—the crystal symbolizes “dispersing the opposing energy”. (See page 94 & 95 of Feng Shui for Hawaii for more on this topic.)

Feng Shui & Dragon Imagery: Part One, Interiors

A dragon wall-hanging is a splendid art piece for your living room or office.

Dragons are the most protective of all the mythical beings in feng shui, and as such they are to be highly respected. It’s considered to be disrespectful to walk on a dragon, so dragons on carpets are a no-no—unless the carpet is hung on the wall as an art piece. Likewise, a floor mosaic of a dragon isn’t good, unless it’s in the deep part of a pool, where no one ever walks. (Chinese dragons, the type we mean in feng shui, are associated with water—they’re not the fire-breathing type of Western lore—so there is no fire-under-water situation created here.)

Years ago, I went to a Tibetan store in San Francisco and was entranced by their small carpets (about 15 by 15 inches) that are meant to go on top of the short wooden stools that are common seating in Tibet. I never did buy one, and now I’m glad I didn’t—putting your okole (rear end) on a dragon wouldn’t be considered respectful.

This dragon figurine has a pose similar to the vibrantly colored dragon that graces the cover of my book “Feng Shui for Hawaii Gardens.”

Dragons are yang—very yang—so it’s best not to have their images in a bedroom, which should emphasize things that are yin (because rest is yin). I once consulted for a gentleman in Hamakua on Hawaii Island, and his headboard was a very complicated, hand-carved affair from China with lots of dragons and lots of open spaces. At first, I was concentrating on the open spaces because they were the most obvious thing. (Headboards should be solid because they represent backing and the backing should be solid—no holes.) Then I realized how many dragons were carved into it and I told him that it would be best just to part with it and let it be someone else’s problem. I expected resistance, but thankfully he said it was already listed on Craigslist, but that he hadn’t had a buyer yet. One important takeaway from this is—just because something is made in Asia, doesn’t assure that it’s good feng shui.

If you have a favorite dragon image in your home, one great place for it is to the left of your favorite lounge chair. That’s to your left as you are sitting in the chair. Be sure to read my upcoming Part Two post on dragons where I’ll explain why this positioning is best—it’s the same for outside your home—and more. In the meantime, my colleague Elliot Tanzer has LOTS to say about interior dragons. I highly recommend his advice, found on his website.

Feng Shui & Abstract Art

Peaceful abstract art is the only kind acceptable for a home or office. Image: Background vector created by Kjpargeter – Freepik.com

Abstract art came into being in the twentieth century—that in itself should tell you something. Representational art has been around since the dawn of humanity, and (depending on what it’s depicting) is usually okay in feng shui. You wouldn’t want to have art in your home that is gruesome or shows suffering or sadness—save that kind of thing for museums, where you can just quickly walk away from it.

The only abstract art that is fine to have in homes (and offices) is that which has an unmistakably peaceful feeling—otherwise leave it in the gallery or museum. A large amount of abstract art does not look peaceful—in fact it looks the opposite—disturbing, restless, chaotic. Don’t bring that sort of feeling into your home.

Just the other day, I had a telephone consultation for a client in Northern California. The largest piece of artwork in the whole house was a large abstract painting in the living room. It consisted of random splatters of red, blue, and black paint. I gasped when I saw the picture.

A lot of abstract art uses intense color and/or chaotic shapes and brushstrokes, and it generally looks a bit of a mess. NOT the type of energy you want in your home. My blog-collaborator, Dawn, created this “masterpiece” to illustrate what I mean.

The chaoticness of the painting wasn’t the only problem. The colors symbolized opposing elements—Fire and Water, all mixed together in a big mess. Before the consultation, I had scraped my mind for any place in the home where it would be okay, but with that combination of colors, there just wasn’t anywhere.

I thought, “How am I going to tell this person that that’s no good in feng shui? What if it’s expensive? What if it has sentimental value?” Well, I was raised to be an honest person, and my clients hire me to hear honesty, so I knew I was going to have to say something. When we got to discussing the living room, I prefaced what I had to say by saying, “This is kinda hard to say…” She jumped right in and said, “You can tell me anything.” So I did, and to my great relief she took it well. “Oh, I’ll just get rid of that!” I never expected it to be so easy. I told her I was a Libra and I hate to hurt people’s feelings, and she said she was a Libra too. The whole consultation went ever so smoothly.

This example of the same type of curtain my client had up comes from Amazon.com, but if you do a web search for “cinched curtain” you’ll turn up a lot of these. If you buy them, don’t use the band to pinch in the curtain.

I got an email from her (and I’ve already added it to the “Words of Appreciation” page of my website) after the consultation. She wrote, “Many thanks again, I removed the mish-mash painting from the living room and cut the band on the dining room door and I can’t tell you how immediate the feeling of calmness and relaxation that came over me, it’s really amazing!” That kind of feedback is priceless to me. (The thing about the “band on the dining room door” was that it was a glass door and had a sheer curtain panel held on with tension rods at the top and bottom. There was a wide band of fabric in the middle that made it look like a person with a narrow waist. That’s problematic symbolism—things are getting tight—or if the panel is tied in the middle—my stomach is in knots.)

When I was in my early 20s I went to an art gallery in Washington, D.C., and the first thing, just a few feet inside the door, was a huge painting bigger than me and it was all yellow. I just stood there with my arms by my sides and my palms facing the painting. I was overwhelmed by the power of it and how good it felt. Art can be so powerful—be careful what you put in your home!

Feng Shui & Mermaid Imagery

Leighton-The Fisherman and the Syren-c. 1856-1858

You definitely get the feeling that the relationship is not going to work out… “The Fisherman and the Syren,” Frederic Leighton. Public domain.

I know many out there will hate to hear this, but mermaid imagery is disempowering for women and devastatingly so if it’s a single mermaid. Think of the phrase “like a fish out of water.” Well, that’s what a mermaid is. A mermaid tail cannot walk around on dry land, yet dry land is where the upper part of the mermaid has to be in order to breathe. So here’s this composite creature that’s at home nowhere, and powerless on land (which is where people live). If the mermaid image is female (which it almost always is, in contemporary depictions) and you’re a woman—watch out! Anytime an image (in your home, yard or office) is the same gender as you, it’s affecting you much more than an image of the opposite gender. In my opinion, that classifies as common sense.

I’ve often written about the problem of singular imagery having an adverse affect on the “relationship energy” of the home (examples are found on page 118 of Feng Shui for Hawaii, and page 14 of Feng Shui for Love & Money). Images of several merpeople are an improvement over a single merperson, in that sense. The earliest images of merpeople always showed interaction, not singularity.

John William Waterhouse A Mermaid.jpg

Well, here she is, out taking a “breather,” but she’s not going to get very far unless she holds her breath and jumps back in the water. “A Mermaid.” John William Waterhouse, 1900. Public domain.

Some of the earliest examples of merpeople can be found in mosaics on Crete. In those representations, the creatures have two scaly tails where you’d expect legs to be. They’re still not exactly land-friendly creatures, I’d say.

I recently had a client who agreed to remove her mermaid imagery, but she wondered what to do with it. I suggested letting it go, but in the meantime, storing it in a closet in such a way that if she opened the closet she wouldn’t see the images—the paintings are facing the wall. (This is my common recommendation when clients have items that are obviously unsuitable, from a feng shui standpoint, but they aren’t ready or able to part with them.)

Feng Shui & Wine

Wine bottles are a source of visual noise. Photo by WineKing via Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

It’s not about the liquid—it’s mostly about the label, and somewhat about the shape of the bottle — at least as far as feng shui is concerned, anyway. Wine bottles are placed out (on display in rooms) on dining tables, side tables, coffee tables, sofa tables, and bars and counters. They are usually the only liquid with a brand label on display at a nice, gussied-up meal. Unless the labels stay facing the wall (which they’re not likely to), they are an issue in feng shui. First of all, they’re brand labels, and as such they are visual noise. You should avoid brand labels on view in your home. I’ve written on this blog before (here and here) about brands, words and visual noise.

Another major problem with wine labels is that they frequently have an image of a single living being. Be it a lone kangaroo or a single footprint, singular images are best avoided in the home—if they are going be on display. Singular images simply don’t have good relationship energy. If the wine bottle is always kept behind an opaque cover (when the wine is not being poured) then it doesn’t matter at all what’s on the label.

Most people in the real world are not going to turn all their bottles around or cover them up—so you could soak the label off. (But then how many people are going to do that either?) Well, I’m happy to say—there are always decanters—which can be delightful room accents and (if chosen carefully) can enhance an area of the bagua (because of the decanter’s shape or color). Clear, cut-crystal decanters can be used as dispersers of energy, when that’s called for to correct problems in chi energy flow within the home. These work wonderfully for storing spirits like gin or whiskey, and are so much more attractive on a table—and less noisy—during a meal when you are serving wine.

No. 132 Wine Decanter With Stopper, 1870 (CH 18732777) No. 2 Wine Decanter With Stopper, ca. 1835 (CH 18732025)
These beautiful vintage wine decanters are in the fantastic Cooper Hewitt Museum. Photos public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The shape of the bottle becomes an issue if the stored wine bottles are kept on their sides and in view. If the neck of a wine bottle points into the room, it symbolizes a gun aimed into the room—yuck. I’ve told this to many a client and they turn the bottles around immediately, saying, “It doesn’t matter to us which way the bottles point.” When the bottom of the bottle points into the room there is never a problem with poison arrow energy being aimed into the room—they can only happen when the top of the bottle aims into the room. And once again, if the bottles are stored behind an opaque cover, it doesn’t matter which way the tops face (or what the label design is). As with many things in feng shui, if you can’t see it, it doesn’t affect you. And remember, a nice piece of fabric can make a fine opaque cover… There are also some quite lovely solutions, such as adding doors to cover a wine rack.

This video from my Highline Kitchens showroom series covers cutting energy and “rifle barrel” energy and will show you what I mean.