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A couple of weeks ago, our Facebook fans asked Nancy Canestaro of Feng Shui Ladies their toughest decorating questions. Nancy picked her favorite 5 and answered them for us (she also gave us a bonus answer, which includes teaching us to find our personal I Ching Trigrams).

 A true exercise in feng shui, this Lori Dennis bathroom features a balance of natural elements: wood, water, metal, fire (light) and earth (river rock stones).

A true exercise in feng shui, this Lori Dennis bathroom features a balance of natural elements: wood, water, metal, fire (light) and earth (river rock stones).

My daughter lives in Arizona and her yard needs work badly. Does Feng Shui apply outside the home? — Nancy Wagner

Oh, yeah, the outside energy is important. The biggest benefits that Feng Shui offers come from alteration of the land around a house. There are three issues here. First, is there any area outside your daughter’s house where nothing grows? I’ll bet this is a problem in the arid heat of Arizona. If this is the case, she can turn this area into a beautiful rock or cactus garden, something that won’t require much maintenance. Second, is there a clear pathway from the street (the main area of energy flow for most of us) to her front door? You want chi (energy) to meander gently from the street all the way to the main entrance, and into the house. A way to achieve this, if the street in front of her house is straight, and the driveway coming onto her property is also straight, would be to create a meandering pathway from the driveway or street to the front door, not a bowling alley lane to the front door. At the front door have her create the effect of a “bright hall.” In Chinese, it’s called Ming Tang. This area could be a landscaping bed or a cluster of plants…not prickly cactus right up close and personal to the house, but more the succulents or soft and colorful plants. This area can be nestled alongside the pathway, in front of the main entrance. It helps to channel positive energy to the house. Finally, have her eliminate any clutter or dead vegetation around the house. You want to encourage all the living energy you can to come your way. Energy inside your house is only as good as the positive energy generated from the land.

How doyou create a Feng Shui environment in a home with four kids? All their stuff! It’s a recipe for stress and I feel like Feng Shui is so hard to achieve without spending a lot of money on storage systems. Help? — Nanette Hoey

This calls for the creation of a time-out space, one for the grownup in this equation…YOU! It sounds as though you need to create a happy place somewhere that is in a kid-free zone. Sometimes, just to go somewhere, sit, and look at a beautiful view, or the changes of nature, or the bugs crawling across flagstones for even just a few minutes can regenerate your spirit more than a garage full of storage systems. It’s the stress you need to deal with, and right now! Maybe later, when you’re more energized, you will come up with some creative solutions for storing the stuff that has accumulated around the kiddos in your life. Now, let’s go searching for that haven of peace. Where in your home do you have a peaceful feeling? Where would you go to have a quiet moment, read a book, or meditate on your life? The point is that we have an intuitive sense about where the best place is for us to recharge. Trust your heart and defend your space.

I just found a Feng Shui book at a flea market and wanted to learn more. One thing they mentioned is to close your drains. Has anyone of heard that one? — Sondra Peters

Feng Shui has so many beautiful metaphors for describing how life works. One I particularly love is the notion of the “house as a body.” If your house were a body, the windows might be the eyes and the main entrance into the house the mouth. To take this a step farther, think of the kitchen as the stomach in the house/body and the bathrooms as the elimination organs. Now, it’s not that effluent is coming back into your home for real. Using this analogy, what you want is for the energy of things you need to eliminate in your life to leave the house, not come back up. The Chinese, who understand the effects of detrimental and beneficial energy in a home, would close the door to the bathroom near any bedroom where someone is sleeping at night, and also close the drains for the same reason. I find I personally sleep better when the door to the bathroom just off my bedroom is closed. Try it. See if it works for you. That’s the real beauty of many of the Feng Shui remedies that you will read about. Many cost nothing, just a change in personal perception and behavior.

I need help! My backyard is so small. I want to create a peaceful area to play pool or tennis/volleyball. There’s a trampoline, an adventure swing set and the double carport is back there too! — Rebecca Perez Lopez

What you’re asking about here is really an issue of Yin (peaceful energy) or Yang (active energy). A peaceful area or an active place for playing pool, tennis, volleyball — which do you want? You wrote that it’s a small area. I’d decide which energy you want outside and then go for it full tilt. Or, you could do the backyard seasonally. How about Yang in the summer when outdoor activities are high on everyone’s list? Then, in the winter, when the kids are in school and it’s quiet and cooler outside (Yin), put away all vestiges of playground activities that you can and create an area for inspiration and contemplation.

We collect books. I call our decorating style Early American Book. I was wondering how Feng Shui deals with books? Thousand of books! — Deborah M. Allen

You’re talking to another book-a-holic here and unfortunately for both of us, what Feng Shui calls it is clutter. Books gather dust, and are heavy objects in the aggregate. They generate Yin: quiet, slow, bring-you-down energy. So here’s what I suggest: Cluster as many of the books in one room as possible. This room is now the library, which used to be very much in vogue. Your library shouldn’t be in a place where someone sleeps or anywhere you want to be active. What you’ve done is to reduce the clutter in other areas of the house, which will energize those spaces. At the same time, you have created a quiet, more tranquil space in your book-lined library.

How do I make my husband’s hospital bed in the living room harmonious and peaceful? —Joanne Jensen Boehly

You’ve asked a question that is near and dear to my heart: how to increase someone’s energy level using Feng Shui. Feng Shui energy affects the land, the house and also people. One philosophy of Feng Shui calculates the impact of energy in natural and man-made environments. I am the first to admit that it can be daunting initially to understand. For this reason I suggest that you download Feng Shui Step by Step. After reviewing this, you’ll see that each of us is one of eight I Ching energy patterns, called a Trigram. Each Trigram includes the best colors, objects and locations in a house or room to enhance personal energies. Once you know your husband’s Trigram, make sure you use his best colors around him, such as in the bedding and decor. In addition, place his bed in his best area in the room with the pillow side facing his peaceful direction. Finally, place objects nearby that match his personal energy. This may seem like a lot of work, but the presentation makes it very simple, and doing it will help you understand all that Feng Shui can do to improve your husband’s energy level.

PS Learn more about the 5 elements of Feng Shui and how to decorate your kitchen and bedroom the Feng Shui way.


Design Inspiration

24 Responses

  1. Hi Laura…

    You are so correct here. It's really an instance of, "let the buyer beware" even in Feng Shui. There are so many different versions of Feng Shui out there that you do need to be careful what you follow here. Almost everything I have read about Feng Shui goes to the basics, which are 1) YIN and YANG… or quiet to energetic. This makes sense if you think about it. If your bedroom environment is too energetic, you want to do something to make it more conducive for sleep. 2) The FIVE ELEMENTS… or Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each of these have different energetic qualities that can tone down an energy in a particular space or rev it up. A room where you spend time could include sickness energy. The element, METAL, may correct this. 3) Finally, there are the EIGHT TRIGRAMS, which affect our energy patterns. Everyone has one of these energy patterns, and the energy in our spaces may support our personal energy or deplete it.

  2. p.s… Laura,

    There are a few authors that I recommend for a good discussion of the principles of Feng Shui and how to apply them, especially Stephen Skinner, Eva Wong (a personal favorite), and Larry Sang. Read their books, then try some of the remedies in your home. Have fun with this, and pay attention to the results you get. First, decide which energies you want to shift in your home. From the authors above determine the best remedy or enhancement for the energy. Place the remedy. Then, maybe the most important step, pay attention to any changes. Finally, repeat the process. The more you learn and apply Feng Shui in your home, the more convinced you will be to continue using the tradition. That's what I predict.

  3. I read some time ago that clutter in the far left corner (from the front entrance) of the house blocks chi. Do I have that right? Does this go for the main level as well as the basement? I've been trying to get my husband to clean up the corner of the bedroom, which is in that corner of the house, where he keeps basically his whole life, most of his magazines, trinkets… he finally straightened it up and threw away some of the magazines but it's still cluttered in my opinion. Any suggestions? Also, where do I find the post that Carla referred to above?

    • Clutter in general brings ch'i down. Think a moment about actual dirt, how it accummulates in a house, tending to collect in corners. We wouldn't hesitate to go through and sweep this up. However, because clutter isn't dust or dirt, doesn't mean it shouldn't be "swept up", put up, or given away. This clean sweep should bring the energy up in the space, and everyone feels better, probably even your hubby. How to keep the decluttering process going… One thing I suggest is to have a client just try it to humor me, and see how it feels. Usually, it's enough better that they keep it up. The Power Point Carla mentioned is on my website… <a href="http://www.fengshuiladies.com” target=”_blank”>www.fengshuiladies.com.

  4. When people are in critical life situations, they might want to spend time in the best place for a desired outcome. Some people might find doing monthly updates a bit obsessive, however, it does have its place. For instance, I have helped clients select the best room in their home to recover from a major operation, or determine the best location to handle job search activities, and also once to find refuge from a turbulant time. These are short term, yet important life events when someone might benefit from locating a space at home to maximize their energy for healing, prosperity, or personal harmony.

  5. Jenny Mabus says:

    Hi Nancy!

    If you don't have the means to make more grand changes to your home, like how the home sits on the land or the layout of the floor plan, what would you say is the most important and easiest change to make to improve the positive energy flow in your home…say, for health benefits?

    Thanks for your words of wisdom!

    • Nancy Canestaro says:

      I'd suggest that you study information from the Eight Mansions style of Feng Shui and spend time in locations that are good for you, especially the +1 sector, which relates to good health. Connect with nature as much as you can. Attached to this part of HGTV's Design Happens blog is a process to determine all this. It works. Try it and let me know what you think.

  6. Raquel says:

    Hi Nancy,

    I am looking to turn an old historical house into a local buisness. How would you suggest I create Feng Shui in the front rooms? The double front doors open and lead directly into the living room with no foyer to prep you.


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