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.


Feng Shui & Bold Exterior Paint Colors

I’ve never been one to leave good-enough alone, so I added this Rookwood wall pocket to our front porch. When I have white flowers, that’s one of my favorite places to put them. Why have bold, if you don’t have fun with it!

“That is so far out of the envelope!” I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard that coming from the manager of a paint store in Kailua. I was just trying to buy five gallons of paint so we could give a final coat to the exterior of part of our new home. That was almost twenty years ago and we’ve loved that color.

I first noticed “Proper Purple” when I was consulting for a local Waldorf School. I recommended that their office front doors be purple and then found a purple that would look good with the exterior color. When I was looking at the paint chip in the fan deck of colors, I said out loud, “That’s a beautiful color. I wish our house was that color!” So that’s why I was in the paint store and listening to the manager (the manager!) raving at me. I had gone through this kind of thing once before and I tell that store in my “Ugly Color” post. I was dumfounded—I didn’t immediately get that he was talking about pigmentation. He really said the words with something like venom. I let him rave, pulled out my credit card and walked out with the five gallons of paint.

The person who had asked me to come to the Waldorf campus to consult, confirmed that I had picked a great exterior foundation color when she said, “That’s ugly, alright.” when I showed her an exceedingly drab paint chip. I said, “Great, we don’t want to draw the eye down to the lowest part of the building.”

Back to bold exterior colors. Bold does not mean bright. Bright would be a mistake on residential exteriors—it’s too yang. A residence is a yin dwelling—when compared to a business. It’s hard to ignore bold, but it’s impossible to ignore bright.The extreme of bright is fluorescent color. Its only use should to denote a temporary emergency. Don’t even use a fluorescent toothbrush, if it’s going to be kept on view when not in use. Bright colors are best used on the exteriors of certain (depending on several circumstances) commercial buildings. Bright has a tendency to grab hold of your eyeballs and not let go—and that works for a business (if it’s the right business and the right color).

There’s an screened porch on one side of our house, and on the wall are these two pink Padre wall pockets flanking a white hibiscus Abingdon bowl. Even when there are no flowers in the vases, the colors of the pottery look nice against the purple wall.

Our purple house is a rich full tone. It does not stand out from the greenery around it, and that was why we chose it. That, and the fact that it’s my husband’s favorite color. (My favorite is yellow and the interior of the first room in that purple building is yellow, so it feels very balanced in that way.)

I recently recommended that a couple paint their house purple. They had seen our home and loved it. The wife said that purple was her favorite color. I said, “How nice to come home to a color you love.” When I last saw her, I asked how the painting was going, and she said it was a bit scary to be using a bold color, but that she did love it, and she said that I was right—having a nice but dull trim color to go with it was very helpful for the overall scheme.

Even seriously discussing a bold exterior can panic a client. I had a client start tapping to calm herself down as I was discussing a pink for her exterior door screen. I think we settled on a yellow. Pink was simply beyond her comfort level. Red wouldn’t do because it would look too Christmassy with the existing green exterior color.

One Kailua client needed to repaint a house that she had recently inherited following the sudden accidental death of her parents. She was emotional about painting the outside, but it had to be done, since one possibility was that the house would be sold. I could tell that it was hard on her to even think about something as encompassing as the whole exterior of the house. It became obvious that it was going to take a while, so I took my time, even knowing that quick color choices are often the best. Picking a good color can sometimes take less than a minute. My suggestions to her resulted in more searching for colors. After a torturously long time, we came up with two colors—one for the main exterior and a stunning complementary color for the trim. I got a call in the morning a few weeks later, and she said, “The painter is on his way with the paint and I can’t go through with it.” I spent the next thirty minutes or so talking her out of the panic attack. And was I ever relieved when she called several days later and said, “I love it!”

The bold colors that I had recommended weren’t really all that bold—they mostly seemed that way to the client at the time. The colors we picked were “say-something” colors, not exactly bold colors. I wouldn’t recommend bold colors for a home that’s going to be for sale. The house was located about a block from the ocean and the main color was a charming blue. If I remember correctly the trim was a yellow, and truthfully, it’s hard to lose with that combination.

Being a feng shui consultant calls on all of my Libra and Rabbit skills sometimes—especially when bold colors are involved! And when should bold colors be involved? When fame is involved in the resident’s livelihood. (In my case, I’m a writer, so the use is called for.)

A P.S.: I know that for 2018 purple is being promoted by some designers—color-of-the-year kind of thing. That whole concept misses me. It’s about consumerism—go for the latest thing. I advise people to never do that. It’s bad for the earth, and it’s best not to pay attention to what’s “in style” now. It’s too much paying attention to froth.

Feng Shui & the Hawaii State Capitol Building (Part Two: Interior)


This mosaic is intended to look like a pool of water. Not a good thing for the center of a building. Photo by Jimmy Emerson, via Flickr.

“There is no there there.” Gertrude Stein could have been describing the interior of Hawaii’s state capitol building. That’s the first impression that you get when you step inside. It mostly feels like the building isn’t there. No heart, no soul, no brain, no guts—just a big open hole.

And it’s got water in the middle. The centerpiece of the Rotunda courtyard is a mosaic called Aquarius by the artist Tadashi Sato. The artwork depicts stones underwater (like a tidepool). I actually thought that part of the fixture was a standing pool of water, but it turns out that’s just a flaw in the building and repairs have been made over the years to try to correct it. I had thought it was deliberate—dangerous, but deliberate…

Hawaii State Capitol - Central Rotunda (5682990424)

The center of the Capitol Building contains…nothing! Worse than nothing, there is a “pool” of water. Photo by Daniel Ramirez [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Regardless of the physical presence (at times) of water, the work still represents a pool. Water in the very center of a space is not good feng shui. The element that should be represented in the center is earth. Mix earth and water and you’ve got mud—legislative mud! Doesn’t that sound murky?

By the way, while helping me to research photos for this post, my blog collaborator Dawn over at Watermark Publishing (my publisher) found this remarkable virtual tour of the Capitol grounds. It has some excellent close-up photos of some of the aspects I covered in the previous post  on the building’s exterior. (In particular, you can really see what I mean when I talk about fountains that point away from the building when it goes into the detail on the hibiscus spouts.) I recommend you refer to it to see additional images of the legislative chambers that help illustrate the points I make below.

The two legislative chambers, where laws are made, are located below ground level—and that’s where dead people are buried. My colleague, the deservedly-esteemed feng shui master Clarence Lau, pointed that out to me. (He’s the number one feng shui consultant in Hawaii. He feng shuied the governor’s mansion, and he’s an expert in both yin and yang feng shui—houses of the living and houses of the dead (graves).) It really would be better to make laws from a more “elevated” place. I’d call that common sense symbolism.

Hawaii State Capitol - Columns.jpg

You can clearly see the concave shape of the slope in this photo. That strange angle is what makes the walls of the chambers so oppressive. Photo by Jenn G, via Flickr.

The chambers are oppressive because the walls give the impression that they are bulging in (as if you are about to be buried alive). The idiotic symbolism is supposed to be that you are inside of a volcano. Well, being inside of a volcano is not my idea of a comfy place, not to mention that the most basic part of the shape is totally wrong. The walls of the legislative chambers (on the outside) are concave. Volcanoes are convex objects, not concave objects.  I live on the slope of Mauna Loa. It’s a convex mountain, the largest one on the planet, and to my mind, the most beautiful.

The legislative chambers also have huge, obnoxious chandeliers. They look sort of like clusters of UFOs. (According to the official brochure, they are supposed to represent the sun and the moon.) My husband and I were watching the televised public statements (broadcast from inside the chamber) during the lead-up to the Hawaii gay marriage act. I couldn’t watch them for very long; the statements were gross, bigoted, and intensely stupid. (No, I don’t want to marry my dog, thank you!) My husband saw the chandelier and said, “What is that?” I said, “Yes, that’s right.”

Hawaii State Legislature

This photo gives you a real sense of how oppressive that wall and tapestry are, looming over everything. Photo by By Kerry Gershaneck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On the main wall of the House of Representatives chamber (that’s the red-carpeted room; the Senate chamber is blue) is a large abstract artwork that screams “contention.” In many photos and on video, it appears that the only two colors are shades of red and black (in feng shui these colors represent fire and water, opposing elements) and the shapes don’t look friendly—lots of triangles and arrowhead shapes (fighting, bickering, and backstabbing).


Here you can see the bulging-in wall, the tapestry that screams conflict and the bizarre chandelier. Photo by hihousedems, via Flickr.

In better-lit photos, like the second image, it becomes apparent that the colors also include browns and muddy greens, but there is no integration between them. I addressed this issue in my video post on stripes and conflict—for harmony, you never want to pick a design with bold demarcations between the colors; that just represents different people’s opinions staying completely separate.

So, the building would make a dandy art museum, and the chambers would make dandy concert halls. The people would be better served with a much more regular building—only, pray God, it doesn’t look like Kapolei. (Another example of “no there there.”)

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.)