Feng Shui & Kitchen Counter Bars

Anyone who eats here has their feet dangling incredibly far off the ground, and all diners, but especially the person seated at the far right, will have a very hard time seeing who’s approaching through the doorway. Photo by Design First Interiors via Houzz

Eating at a kitchen counter is not good feng shui and will never be good feng shui. It’s got three strikes against it:

Almost always, the person sitting at the counter has their back to the room, and therefore the door. It’s a disempowered position, and any fix will only be partial and is likely to look clumsy. (Have I talked you out of it yet?) The fix is a rounded shiny object (like a silver gazing ball, convex mirror or—here’s a kitchen-appropriate one—a shiny, domed silver teakettle like the one in this video) placed so that the person at the counter sees it most of the time that they’re eating or otherwise spending time there. I challenge you to come up with something that doesn’t seem clumsy in that situation!

Problem No. 2: The stools that people usually sit on at bars prevent their feet from being well-grounded on the floor. That (like the previous problem) is not minor! Please reflect for a moment on the meanings of disempowered and ungrounded.

Those stools—they almost never have good solid backs on them. So let’s add no backing as No. 3 to the litany of problems brought on by eating at a counter. All three of these problems are happening at most household bars and eating counters. Get thee to a dining table! Or (if you must) eat on a TV tray—but make sure that you’re able to see toward the doorway into the room. And if there’s more than one doorway (and they’re both frequently used) sit so you can see toward both doorways.

This example actually has a few features that mitigate some of the problems presented by a counter bar: They’ve chosen stools with at least slight backs, and if the living room portion has no entryway from behind the photographer, diners at the bar are faced generally toward the only door. But I still wouldn’t recommend it. Photo by Design Line Construction, Inc. via Houzz

So, what to do with an existing bar? Get rid of those disempowering stools and put out some fresh fruit and/or vegetables on the counter top (hopefully in a nice bowl or basket) and a long horizontal work of art below (sort of where your knees would be if you were sitting there)—perhaps a panoramic landscape… The produce fills the place where a person’s plate would be, and the artwork replaces the stools. With these elements in place, the area won’t look vacant.

The writing of this article was triggered by a recent phone consultation I had with one of my long-time clients. They’re planning a new home that she and her husband will move into in about a year. She’s moving from a very tiny galley kitchen to one that will have gracious counters, and she still wants to luxuriate in having a food prep island—and I can’t blame her.

I successfully talked her out of designing a kitchen island that would feature a breakfast bar as one side. I pointed out that the dining table was one step away from the breakfast bar. Now, the kitchen island will be built with no extended counter top for people to sit and eat. It will just be a food prep table all the way around. She’s planning to have a big vegetable garden, so I have a feeling she’ll make good use of the space as soon as she brings in her first harvest basket. It is luxurious to be able to put a harvest basket on a nice, big table—it’s inviting putting that harvest into the next meal!

Seminar Alert! I will be offering a special class on Friday, April 21, 6:30pm – 9:00pm, for those interested in a career as a feng shui consultant. I’ll cover suggestions for developing and enhancing an active feng shui practice including training, advertising, and professional ethics. We’ll also discuss how to talk clients into—or out of—ideas that have large impact on feng shui, just as I did with my client in the story in this blog post. Prior knowledge of feng shui is a prerequisite and the material covered is not instruction in feng shui. Enrollment is limited and pre-registration is required. Free parking. Class fee: $40. Class location: Highline Kitchen Systems, Honolulu, Oahu.




Feng Shui & Dining Tables: Shape & Material

The best shape for a dining table is round & the best material is wood. If you’re happy with that, you can stop reading and start shopping.

The second-best shape is oval or racetrack. Our dining table is round and can be made into racetrack by adding extra leaves. (The difference between oval and racetrack is that an oval has no straight lines, when looking down on it from the top, whereas the racetrack has rounded ends and straight edges on the long sides.) The next best choice would be square, then rectangular. Freeform dining tables can be problematic. I’ve eaten at slab tables with irregular edges that follow the natural grain of the wood. At that kind of table there are often places to sit that feel nice and places that feel not-so-nice (because of the irregularities at the edge of the table caused by the grain).

Right shape, wrong material. Glass creates cutting energy, and this is an example of a beveled edge table, which makes the problem even worse.

The top of the table should be thick, not thin. Thin tops are problematic because they have a cutting energy like a machete. Squat down and look at the edge straight on and you’ll see what I mean. (If you want more visuals, I talk about cutting energy in this video about kitchen shelving.)

The second-best material for a tabletop is stone, then synthetic, then metal, then glass. Glass is problematic for two reasons: it has a sharp, harsh sound when dinnerware is placed on it, and unless there is a rim around the edge, it can’t be used at all in feng shui—unless it’s covered, and then what’s the point of having glass. Tables with a bare glass edge have a severe cutting energy which I firmly believe will affect you by cutting you off from reaching your goals. Beveled-edge glass is the worst because it is as though the edge has been sharpened. Once I’ve seen a glass top table with a bare edge that had no cutting energy. The glass was three or four inches thick and the edges looked like slightly melted ice—sandblasted, slightly irregular, and softly rounded. That table probably cost a mint and weighed a ton.

As I mentioned, the addition of the two rectangular leaves changes a simple circular-shaped table like ours into a racetrack shape. If there are leaves added to the table, don’t sit where a seam aims directly at you. If that must happen, use placemats or a tablecloth to cover the cracks. Here are a few example table settings. The seams run horizontally (from straight edge to straight edge) in these photos.

The table setting shown here is ideal for a single diner because no seams (representing poison arrows) are aimed at the person.

This is an ideal setting for two people at this table. The seams between the insert leaves do not aim at the bodies of the people who are eating.

This is the scenario to avoid: The seam between the two middle leaves aims at the stomachs of those eating with this table setting. However, it’s nothing a couple of place mats, a tablecloth or table runner couldn’t fix. Opaque place mats will cover up much of the line and make it less visually prominent—therefore less of a problem.

This is a unique remedy for the problem of the poison arrow caused by the seam between the table leaves. This rectangular mid-century (probably early 60’s) California pottery dish is placed to cross the offending crack, therefore chopping it in half and dispersing the poison arrow energy. Since the pimento peppers (I harvested them yesterday!) are bright red, the remedy is made stronger.

Oh, and one final thing about table shape—if the table is in the Relationship Corner of the home, don’t choose a pedestal table (one that has only a single, central support). Instead, use a table that has legs or trestles—that says “We are working together to support the top.”



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 & Grief

Recently, a client called me and I could immediately tell that her voice sounded different. After a few sentences of greeting, she broke down and told me that her bird had died that day. The bird had been her companion for almost two decades. Here’s the advice I gave her:

Our darling cat Camo passed away a few years ago, but my love for her has never faded.

Our darling cat, Camo, passed away a few years ago, but my love for her has never faded.

For the first two months after a dear one has died, put their picture in a prominent, respectful place in the home. If possible, frame the picture and flank it with flowers and low lighting. The idea is to make it look almost like an altar. The reasoning is that if the spirit of the departed one happens to see their image in the home, they would realize that they were loved and cherished and sorely missed. The low lighting should be left on at night because that’s often the time when a spirit might be wandering around. (Yes, feng shui definitely proceeds under the assumption that there are indeed spirits that we can’t see.) For good measure, write the name of the person or pet on a piece of stiff paper and put that with the picture. Handwrite it as nicely as you can; the paper can be plain or fancy, but it should be nice paper. If you have your loved one’s ashes, they can also go with the picture.

When the two months have passed, dismantle the “altar.” The picture can go in a scrapbook or be displayed openly in your home, according to your preference. Ashes can be returned to the earth or water or kept respectfully in your home. Some people put the ashes in a beautiful container, but it’s okay if they are in a simple box. If the ashes are in a closet, they should be on a shelf that is at least as high as your heart, not a low shelf. This is a way of continuing to show respect.

Grief is not to be suppressed. It’s natural and healthy, and with this technique it’s put to productive use.



Feng Shui and the Art of Leaving—The Yin Aspect of Moving

Before you leave, be sure to clean the windows thoroughly.

The future is yang and the past is yin. What is new (for you) is yang and what is old is yin. When a person moves to a different home, the future home is usually what is emphasized. That’s understandable, but the future is built upon the past, so it’s important to give proper consideration to the old home that is being left behind. The basic rule is to always leave a place nicer than when you moved in. That will make it much more likely that the next place you move to will feel like an improvement.

Leave in place any hidden feng shui cures such as tiny mirrors, because (if they stay in place) they will benefit the future resident. But the main thing about leaving is to clean the old home thoroughly—and I mean thoroughly. This is not just politeness; it’s a way to insure that the new home will be satisfactory. Leaving and arriving are like the yin and yang sides of the same coin. If the yin part is done well, the yang part will fall into place nicely.

Here I am installing a tiny mirror as a feng shui cure. It’s exposed, so remove it when leaving. If you are selling a home, never leave obviously oddball things around. They say to potential buyers, “Something is wrong here.” Renters should probably remove visible cures in order to get their full deposit back.

Here I am installing a tiny mirror as a feng shui cure. It’s exposed, so remove it when leaving. If you are selling a home, never leave obviously oddball things around. They say to potential buyers, “Something is wrong here.” Renters should probably remove visible cures in order to get their full deposit back.

I have no intention of ever moving from our Kona home, but I’ve moved many times in my life. My mother told me that she moved a good bit while she was pregnant with me, and that is considered to be an indicator that the offspring will move around a lot. Even before I practiced feng shui, I intuitively knew that it was right to clean the old home—not just for the deposit, and not just for the good karma—but because it felt right to do that to a place that had sheltered me.

Once you’ve left the old home and are arriving at the new home, introduce yourself (full name) three times, and also express verbal gratitude in whatever way feels appropriate to you. If a name comes to you intuitively as the name of the home, feel free to use that name when referring to your home. I recommend Carole Hyder’s excellent book Conversations With Your Home for anyone who is moving (and also for those who are staying put, like me).