Feng Shui & the Hawaii State Capitol Building (Part One: Exterior)

Perspective view of southwest and northwest elevations - Hawai'i State Capitol, Beretania and Punchbowl Streets, Honolulu, Honolulu County, HI HABS HI-536-3

The Hawaii State Capitol Building is square. I can say that that is its (one) good point. Photo by James W. Rosenthal, via Wikimedia Commons

I was recently on Oahu for a round of library presentations, workshops and consultations, and every time I am there, I am reminded that I have meant to write about our state capitol building. I have a lot to say about it!

I’ll start this on a positive note by saying the one (and only one) good thing there is to say about the Hawaii State Capitol Building, from a feng shui viewpoint. It’s square. That’s it, that’s the only thing that building has going for it.

Hawaii State Capitol - Central Rotunda (5682424227)

I suppose it adds drama, but this hole in the roof is a big, gaping feng shui flaw. You can also see in this photo that all the balconies are cantilevered; there are no supports under the edge closest to the center courtyard. Photo by Daniel Ramirez [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It’s on the wrong side of the road (the ocean backs it up), and it has that big hole in the center of the roof. The hole symbolizes several things, none of them good: damage, energy leaking away, inadequate shelter…

The building is what I’d call “’60s Brutalism.” In case you don’t know, brutalism was actually the name of an architectural style. First floors (especially) were made overscale so that humans would seem more insignificant. (I think I’m being fair to this atrocious style.) This exact same style of public building was popular in mid 1960s. (Look up “Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs,” and you’ll see an amazingly similar building.)

Back to the Capitol Building’s other problems: The skinny white columns don’t provide adequate support for the offices above, beside or cantilevered over them. (Skinny columns were also a feng shui problem at the Iolani Palace.) Below those same offices is water (the moat that keeps people from reaching the building), and that’s not an auspicious element to have under your feet, because of water’s instability.

Hawaii State Capitol (5682420939)

Here are those “palm tree” columns standing in all that water! Photo by Daniel Ramirez [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Several people have told me that the columns are meant to represent palm trees. But think about that: How would you like your office to be on top of a palm tree—swaying in the breeze? And when’s the last time you saw a palm tree growing out of water? That just never happens. (The brochure that the state published about the capitol building describes the columns as representing “native royal palm trees.” Royal palms are certainly not native to Hawaii; only Loulu palms are native.)

The moat has spraying fountains. The ones that spray in all directions are fine, but the ones that start at the base of the building and spray outward symbolize a foundation of government waste. They are difficult to see in the photo above, but they are along that ledge between the two columns, shaped like small hibiscus flowers.

There’s way too much cantilevering going on in the Hawaii’s capitol building. (A cantilever is a beam or platform anchored at one end and projecting out without any support under the other end, often at extreme length. Think of a diving board; in buildings the platform is much more rigid, but you get the idea.) What you want in a building is the opposite of cantilevering. A building that gets progressively smaller, as it goes up from ground level, is considered to have stable support and grounding. State capitols that show good feng shui in these areas (as well as stunning style) are in Connecticut and Nebraska.

Hawaii State Capitol - Makai side (5682993926)

This imposing-looking (fake metal) seal looks like it’s about to drop onto some poor unsuspecting person’s head. Photo by Daniel Ramirez [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The original models of the capitol didn’t show the huge disks of the state seal. It turns out that those big disks (think guillotine) are hung in a way that implies they are very heavy, but they’re made of a very lightweight material. (In other words, fake. Hardly a good connotation for something representing our state government.) So, as you walk into the building, you pass under a huge, intimidating heavy-looking, guillotine-shaped object. That’s hardly an ideal entrance, and entrances are so important.

On the floor that is directly above the columns, there are these cement “wings” (lots of them) that are probably supposed to be light baffles. They are shaped exactly like blades, and they are aimed in at those offices. (You can see what I mean in the photo above, behind the seal, as well as in the very first photo.)

My next post will be about the interior of the capitol building. I don’t think you have to wait for that article to understand why I give our state politicians a lot of slack when they make stupid decisions over and over again. If I had to be in an environment like that, I doubt that I’d do my best work.


Feng Shui and Back Doors

If your front door is not your main (most used) entry door, be sure to make it STUNNING. (Side note: This home is on the right track, but a half-circle doormat is never to be used outside of a home—it symbolizes your money flowing away.)

Back doors are rather essential in feng shui—they let energy circulate. Houses or apartments without a back door run the risk of having energy stagnate in the home. They benefit from a yang decorating style—sparse, yet good, design. Windows that can open make a huge difference in circulating energy in homes that don’t have a back door (or side door).

The most essential point to remember about back entrances is: Don’t use your back door as your front door—your main entrance door. When you arrive home, come in through your official front door. For many people, that’s not a choice at all—there’s one, and only one, entrance door. But in free-standing homes, there’s usually a back door. And in many of those homes, the back door (or side door) is designed to be the entrance door of those who live there. Pity that! If that’s your situation, try to use your official front door more than 50% of the time. If no can do, at least make your main entrance door charming—and at the same time keep the official front door area stunning.

If you use another (non-front door) as your primary door, make it CHARMING. (That’s different from stunning.)

There’s a big difference between those two words: stunning and charming. The more charming your side door becomes, the more stunning your official front must become. A side door (or back door) must never compete (in visual appeal) with the front door.

It’s not so bad a situation when the official front door and the main entrance door are in the same orientation. (And it’s good if the main entrance door is in the garage or carport and is not very visible when approaching the home.) Then you still have one powerful bagua map that can be applied to the home. But if the main entrance door is on a side wall or (heaven forbid) the back wall of the house, you are likely to have bit of a tough time applying the bagua map correctly. You might consider only applying the bagua map to individual rooms of the home—rooms that have only one entrance door (such as most bedrooms).

This is a big feng shui no-no. Hang a crystal somewhere between these two doors to prevent the energy coming in through the front door from shooting straight out the back door.

Back doors that are in a direct line with the front door (and are in your direct view when you enter the home) let energy out too quickly. The easiest fix for most people is to hang a crystal from the ceiling, between the two doors, and say out loud, “The purpose of this crystal is to keep energy in the home.” (Crystals always represent dispersing energy in feng shui, so the energy from the front door is being symbolically dispersed into the home, rather than zipping right out the back door.)





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 and Bird Weather Vanes

As soon as my client sent me a photo of this weather vane, I knew it was the right choice. Here it is installed on her home.

I call a weather vane a hook up to heaven. They are recommended in feng shui when there is a slope down behind the home, since a slope up is ideal. Up symbolizes support for the home, and a slope down symbolizes lack of support. That’s when the best solution is a weather vane. It moves, so it attracts notice, and it’s placed high up so the head moves upward to see it—that’s lifting energy. Weather vanes depicting things that fly are preferable to things that live under water, such as whales.

I recently had a client who wanted just the right weather vane, and she sent me lots of pictures—“How’s this one?” “How’s that one?” Well, her perseverance paid off. As soon as she showed me this weather vane with two birds sitting together, I said, “Look no further. It can’t get any better!”

The symbolism of a pair of birds together is much better than a single bird for a home in which a couple resides. This weather vane is quite lovely and the birds appear to be perfectly perched, rather than impaled upon a spike, which is unfortunately how many weather vanes with animals appear.

She wanted a bird representation and all the other examples were of single birds. Since she and her husband live in the home, two birds made the most sense to me.

Almost all the other bird examples also had the problem of looking like they were impaled on a spear. Lovely birds, but they all looked like they had just been stabbed by the pole that held them aloft. This pair is perfectly perched. If you would like one yourself, it’s available at this Australian retailer. (I am not affiliated in any way with the retailer.)

One of the birds she showed me was a swan swimming on top of the water. I nixed that one because of the symbolism of “being under water” and its financial considerations.

Weather vanes should always be placed high on the roof, and in a place that is very noticeable as a person approaches the home.