Interiors: Good vibes - feng shui consultations for your home
Creating the perfect balance of energy in a home can be life-changing
I used to have a hall table. It was a nice useful piece of furniture. People tended to trip over it, and it cluttered up the hallway, but I got used to stepping around it. Then I married a minimalist.
The hall table was one of the first casualties. One day, I came home to find it in the garden, awaiting disposal. I queried this decision. He explained that he needed to have a clear pathway from the front door to the fridge. Grudgingly, I agreed to get rid of the hall table, muttering under my breath that I was living with a "feng shui Nazi".
Like many people, I had a very narrow notion of what feng shui actually was. And I had been put off by hippy-types who freaked out if you left the toilet seat up. An open loo apparently, is bad feng shui. In hippy homes of the 1990s, there was a lot of talk about feng shui, mainly among people who also used alternative medicine. Now, feng shui has become much more mainstream, although it is still widely misunderstood.
"People confuse feng shui with de-cluttering," says Edel Cleary, feng shui practitioner and interior designer. "That's often where we need to start. It's important to remove the layer of what is no longer necessary and what is no longer relevant." But there's a lot more to the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui than keeping the home tidy.
As it turns out, my Nazi was right. An unconstricted hallway is one of the first principles of feng shui. "People become unaware of the hallway because it's not viewed as a 'proper' room, but the entrance to a home should be like the Emperor's carriage - bright and gleaming," says Cleary.
"The energy of the hallway affects how you feel about coming home and how you feel when facing out into the world. I would often begin a consultation by asking a client how they feel when they stand at the entrance to their home. Does it feel welcoming? Is there a clear pathway or does it feel constricted?
"If there are elements in the hallway that are dragging you down we can work with that. It could be as simple as the colour, which affects us on every level."
There is a lot of common sense in this but, as Cleary explains, common sense isn't always common practice.
"Your home is like your outer skin. It should be a reflection of what goes on inside you, but people become disconnected with how they feel in a space. Feng shui gives us a structure and a road map. Sometimes a few small changes can make an amazing difference to how you feel in a space."
An interior designer can help you create a home that looks and functions in the way that you want it to. A feng shui practitioner makes a further layer of adjustments to help you connect to the energy in the space on a deeper level.
Too much yin energy - heavy, dark, and cluttered - can make you feel tired and unmotivated. An environment with too much yang - light, bright, and empty - leaves no space for relaxing.
Some people need their home to be calmer, others need a more stimulating environment. Feng shui is all about creating a balance.
This may sound airy-fairy but, once again, there is a lot of common sense involved. Cleary remembers an office with an old-style pastoral painting directly opposite the receptionist's desk. "How does that painting make you feel?" Cleary asked. The receptionist sighed. "It looks like a lot of work for very little return."
The director of the company, who had bought the painting, had a different perspective. He said that it reminded him of old world values when people had time to talk to each other. On Cleary's suggestion, the painting was relocated to his office and the receptionist was given something more uplifting to look at.
Because feng shui relates to Chinese astrology, a consultant may well ask for your date, time and place of birth, as well as a floor plan of your house. "You're a fire goat!" says Nina Kati, feng shui consultant and interior designer at the recent Ideal Homes' Colortrend Interior Design forum. "That means you need plenty of peace and quiet, and you shouldn't try to answer complicated questions late at night." How right she is!
According to Kati, my optimum direction is east. Ideally, I should live in a house where the front door faces east. "The front door lets in all the good energy and opportunities," she says. "It's a common misconception that you should have a mirror opposite the front door. People think that it brings in opportunities but in fact it bounces all the good energy right back on the street."
Since I can't change the orientation of the front door, which faces south, she suggests I re-arrange the furniture so the bed faces east. For me, this is where feng shui gets confusing, especially in a shared house.
What happens if one person needs to sleep facing east and their partner needs to sleep facing west? A good feng shui consultant will be able to work out a solution that suits the whole family.
A feng shui consultation with Nina Kati costs €125 per hour, plus €50 travel anywhere in Ireland, with most sessions lasting around three hours (ninakati.ie).
Edel Cleary charges €400 for a consultation including preliminary work, a three to four hour visit, and a written report (www.fengshuidesign.ie). Other practitioners include Lucy Pei (fengshuiireland.com) as well as the Cork-based Dervilla Griffin (fengshuimatters.ie).