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.

Feng Shui and Wall Affirmations

How can anyone hear themselves think with all these words shouting at them? One ought to be able to find some peace in the bathroom, at least. Photo by Dehn Bloom Design via Houzz

A single affirmation on a wall can be a powerful thing if it’s well chosen. A few days ago I consulted for a client and every wall of her home was littered with affirmations and positive words—and to no effect that I could tell. There was no place that felt visually quiet and calm. Every wall was screaming, “Love,” “Trust,” “Be Positive,” but it all felt like confusion and disorder. It seemed that she had bought every wall affirmation that Ross Dress for Less ever sold. It was one of the most depressing and negative consultations that I’ve ever had. The client’s mantra throughout the consultation was, “No can do…no can do…” Well, of course she could have made some changes in her living space, but she just wasn’t going to. Every time I’d make a recommendation, her face would harden and she’d look angry. So much for those positive thoughts on the walls. By the time the consultation was over, my bright spirit had sunk down to my toenails.

Years ago, my dear friend Noreen Riley told me that she did calligraphy. I asked her if she would copy an old saying onto some beautiful gold-flecked paper that I had. I put it in a gold frame and kept it up for years. It’s now in a file, but I take it out occasionally and my spirit soars.

“The removal of a portion of old habits is the gain of a portion of brightness.”

It’s from one of the very few books that I’ve ever read twice—the amazing autobiography Empty Cloud by the Chinese zen master Xu Yun.

My mother, whom I adore, is age 94, living in a veterans’ home—she was a five-stripe Marine sergeant in WWII—and she loves it there. I recently sent her a beautiful cloth wall hanging with this quote on it:

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power—the world will know peace.”

It’s by Jimi Hendrix, who she had never heard of. Her eyesight’s not great so she can’t even read it, but it’s a splash of color on an otherwise bare wall. I sent it to her so that the people who come into her room would know the kind of spirit that resides in her frail old body. (I got this from INE Imports, a company run by a very nice couple, the Samuelsens, who have graciously agreed to sell this one item direct to customers referred to them by this blog post. Be sure to mention my name and my blog, as they are otherwise a strictly wholesale business.)

Hanging scrolls with Japanese calligraphy are splendid examples of powerful wall affirmations—simple, elegant, and not always there. They are often rolled up and put away. Then when they are on display—they feel fresh and powerful. The example here speaks of sitting in meditation on a mossy rock on a mountain.

Words have power—I wrote an earlier post all about that. If you have wall affirmations, choose them carefully. The best ones are usually not the ones that you buy in a store, but ones that you make yourself by finding a quote that resonates with you and then spend effort applying in a visually beautiful manner on your wall. (That earlier blog post relates the case of one I found especially wonderful.)

Feng Shui for Gay People


Here I am (kneeling with doll) with my mom & two brothers in 1959.

My mom’s 94 and I recently asked her, “Who else in our family was gay?” She exclaimed, “That gene runs in our family!” I found out that her father’s youngest brother, Perry Twitty, was gay. Also, Perry’s great uncle Hiram Twitty was gay. A little after the Civil War he was last seen (by a family member, anyway) in Mobile, heading for Galveston. Mama said that (almost without exception) gay people left rural areas and went to some town or city. I asked her when she figured out that I was gay. She said it was when I asked for a doll for Christmas.


Gay couples can use gender-specific imagery in their Relationship Corners by replacing genders where a mixed-sex couple would be similarly depicted, such as using two bride dolls in a lesbian home. (Photo by Davidlud (Own work), CC-BY-SA-3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

I remember asking for that doll. I was staying with my grandmother (Lyda Twitty kept me while my folks taught school at Margerum, Alabama) and my Uncle Bradley was visiting in the kitchen. He caught me off guard while I was going from the den to the dining room. You had to make a brief visit through a little bit of the kitchen to get to the dining room. I was shy and expected to slip quietly into the dining room, and was surprised when Bradley all of a sudden asked me, “What do you want Santa Claus to bring you?” I’d already made it into the dining room, and I turned around and answered him honestly. “I want a doll.” “What kind of doll?” he asked. Even at that young age (I was probably six) I knew better than to continue with honesty, so I didn’t say bride doll—I almost did, but I said “Boy doll.” It was the most macho thing I could think of—this was before GI Joe.

Fast forward to late 1997. Here’s my favorite story from Feng Shui for Love & Money:

In feng shui, you’re using your home and your possessions to give out the message: “Send me the right person, please.” I arranged pink silk lotus flowers in the Relationship Corner of my studio apartment, and two seconds later my phone rang with a friend calling for a date. That quick response may have been my angel poking her elbow in my ribs saying, “This is gonna work!” Six months later I met my spouse. His partner was passing away around the time I was arranging the flowers. When I let those flowers go, I donated them to a church that used them respectfully.


This “David and Jonathan” litho by Reuven Rubin hangs high up in the Relationship Corner of our living room. We also have “Lucky Bamboo” in the maroon wall pocket.

That story is a big part of the reason I decided to be come a feng shui professional. I knew from my own experience that feng shui worked, and that I was good at it. I, like many gay men, have an intuitive experience of interiors—and I know that’s part of the reason I have a good reputation for helping people create feng shui interiors that don’t look feng shui’d—they just look good, and feel great, and by golly, that influences people.

The punch line of this article is that there is no difference in feng shui for gay or straight people—how could there be! Different as we may be in some areas, we’ll all still human energy, and that’s what feng shui sets about to influence. That being said, if gay people use gender specific imagery in the Relationship Corner, the two beings should be the same gender, if the different genders are usually visually obvious. For instance, two bride dolls would be perfectly appropriate in the Relationship Corner of a lesbian home. My husband inherited this “David & Jonathan” print from his late partner. We both love it and it hangs in the Relationship Corner of our home.






Feng Shui & Holiday Decor

By Daderot (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

This is an apsara, a Hindu or Buddhist spirit, similar to what Western cultures might call an angel. It has no Christmas association whatsoever and thus can be displayed year-round. Photo by Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons.

Decoration for holidays that occur near the end of the year, such as Christmas & New Years, should not be on display in homes before December 1 nor after January 15—end of story as far as feng shui’s concerned. Don’t I wish!

How often I’ve had to explain to people that their Christmas angel (or Christmas angel collection) shouldn’t be on display in July! They’ll say, “Oh, it’s not a Christmas angel. It’s just an angel.”

By World Journalist (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This nativity angel painted by crèche artist Bill Egan is one of those that someone might try to justify as “just an angel.” It’s not. Photo by World Journalist, via Wikimedia Commons.

Unless you can identify the angel as a particular angel with their own Old Testament name (such as St. Michael), it’s probably a Christmas angel. An exception is a guardian angel picture (with children included) for a child’s room.

Angels from non-Western cultures are fine any time of year because they are never associated with Christmas.

Items associated with a long-past holiday hold you back in the past and stymie your progress with future projects. The items are not a problem if they are put away in a box that’s labeled. Just don’t keep any holiday items on display beyond about two weeks past the holiday. That’s any holiday, any time of year.

Photo by www.personalcreations.com.

Live or faux greenery (that’s actually green, not dried) is suitable for all times of the year, and looks particularly nice during the Christmas season. Photo by www.personalcreations.com.

The good news is that fresh evergreen plant material, which is so appropriate this time of year, is fine in feng shui. The only plant material that is a problem in feng shui is old dried plants and flowers—like lei or wedding bouquets. If you are keeping them for sentimental reasons, box them and label the box.