Ever walk into a home and feel stifled, as if the air was a little stagnant? According to Greenport feng shui expert Diane Valentine, the likely reason is blocked energy, something for which she says the art of feng shui has solutions.
“There are many definitions of feng shui,” said Ms. Valentine, who recently conducted a workshop at Floyd Memorial Library in Greenport on feng shui for the home. “Mine is that it is the acceptance and understanding of the flow of energy — called ‘chi’ — within and around us. And through that acceptance, we achieve balance and harmony in everyday life, and that includes our domestic surroundings.”
Ms. Valentine places the origins of feng shui around 300 B.C. in China.
“The bones of feng shui are to do with balancing our own energy,” she said. “Just as when we are ill, it may be that one of our chakras — which are energy centers in the body — is blocked, so, too, an uncomfortable house may be suffering from blocked energy. Applying feng shui principles to the home is all about ensuring energy flow.”
When walking into that stagnant house, Ms. Valentine suggests imagining a tidal wave coming in through the front door. “Can it flow naturally around the furniture? It needs to meander easily through the house,” she said.
To ensure that unobstructed flow of chi, says Dale Realander, a Riverhead-based feng shui expert, try focusing first on the front door, a very important component of the home because that is where energy enters.
“A lot of people use the back door all the time, but ideally the front door should always be used,” she said.
Should there be the unfortunate architectural feature of a wall directly in front of the front door, creating a blockage of energy, Ms. Realander would place a mirror (“the aspirin of feng shui”) or a painting that creates some kind of depth to counteract the thwarted energy flow.
Sometimes, though, the energy just rushes straight through the house and out again, which is apparently as bad as being blocked.
“In many colonial-style homes out here the front door opens onto a long hallway that leads directly to the back door,” said Ms. Valentine. “You slow down the flow by placing a mirror or a plant to the side of the rear door.”
Furniture placement is also critically important. Not only should there never be any furniture with its back to the front door but, according to Ms. Realander, “if you’re constantly banging your hip on a piece of furniture or tripping yourself up, the flow is wrong. It’s also not good feng shui for the dining room to be the first room you see when you enter the house. If you can, switch it into a living room.”
Ms. Realander also believes that placing furniture at an angle can be very useful in opening up a space, especially in a bedroom.
“You should be able to see the door,” she said. “On the other hand, having your bed in line with the door is not good. It’s called the ‘death position’ because you’re taken out feet first.”
And according to Ms. Realander, even though mirrors can be used to great effect to unblock energy downstairs, they should never be used in a bedroom “because a spirit startled by a mirror will give you a bad night’s sleep.”
The experts say coming hand in hand with ensuring a positive flow through the home is achieving a balance between the yin and yang, the feminine and masculine, which are complementary principles of Chinese philosophy.
“Yin is represented by the earth, warmth and curves whereas the yang represents heaven, sharpness and edges,” explained Ms. Valentine. “You need to take this into account with the shape of your furniture. If your chairs are angular, balance the angles with an oval rug, for example.”
The same principle applies to a home’s exterior.
“This is the mouth of chi,” said Ms. Realander.” A winding path unobstructed by bushes or shrubs softens hard edges and invites the chi to enter.”
Colors, too, contribute to an overall feeling of wellbeing.
“Remember that there are five elements involved in feng shui: fire, water, wood, metal and earth,” said Ms. Valentine. “Here’s just one example of where you can create a very jarring atmosphere by painting a room the wrong color. Kitchens are associated with the fire element. They’re hot places so use lighter colors to achieve balance.”
Ms. Realander advises, though, that just a splash of red in a kitchen can be very effective.
“Red increases appetite, which is why restaurants use it,” she observed. “If you have a lot of stainless steel, which is associated with the metal element, that coolness can be balanced quite nicely by red.”