The Basic Principles of Feng Shui Decorating

Pristine white room with pops of color

 Tom Merton / Getty Images

Feng shui is a metaphysical practice that uses systems and ideals from Taoism and schools of cosmology in Ancient China. It’s a philosophy and a way of understanding our place in the natural world, as well as our connection to the cosmos. Feng shui is not design or decorating, but feng shui principles and ideals can inspire the way you decorate a space. You can design a space from a feng shui perspective, and we can use feng shui philosophy when applying basic design elements like light and color. 

The fundamental principle of feng shui is a connection with the natural world. The term feng shui comes from a poem, and it translates to “wind” and “water.” These are two elements of nature that we need in order to survive. Our bodies need wind (breath) and water to function. Many of us live lives that are disconnected from nature, and feng shui allows us to bring natural energies back into our homes. 

Creating Harmony

In feng shui, we want to create harmony. From a design perspective, the proper use of design elements and principles results in harmony. By designing your home using the feng shui principles of yin and yang, the five elements, and the flow of qi, you can create a harmonious, supportive, nurturing space.

modern living room with gray sofa, black and gray accents

Trend / Unsplash

Natural Light (Yin and Yang) 

One way to approach design using feng shui principles is to consider the natural light in your home with the concept of yin and yang. Using natural light intentionally can boost our personal qi and energy. It’s important to honor our circadian rhythm, and allow natural light to filter in, which encourages your body to wake up and go to sleep at appropriate times.

Bright light is yang energy, which is stimulating and gets us moving. Low, dim light and darkness are yin energy, which is quiet and restful. You need a balance of both, not too much of one or the other. 

Tip

Invest in good window treatments that can modulate natural light. Make sure they can be opened fully when lots of natural light is needed, and ideally they should have a blackout lining to keep the room dark at night, encouraging rest and sleep.

Bring Nature in With the Five Elements

The five elements, also called the five phases, are different types of energy, or qi, that make up us and the world around us. This system is inspired by the cycles of nature, and it comes from Taoism. Each element has its own signature and characteristics. The elements can also be represented through certain colors, shapes, and materials, and using these in your decor is one way to bring the energy of the five elements into your home.

The five elements are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each element is nuanced and layered, but to keep it simple, here are the topline energies for each element: wood is growth, fire is clarity, earth is grounding, metal is completion, and water is wisdom. 

Fire Element

  • Energy: Clarity, inspiration
  • Color: Reds
  • Shape: Triangle
  • Material: Fire, lighting

Earth Element

  • Energy: Stability, grounding
  • Color: Yellow, earth tones
  • Shape: Square
  • Material: Stone, pottery

Metal Element

  • Energy: Beauty, precision 
  • Color: White, metallics
  • Shape: Round
  • Material: Metal

Water Element

  • Energy: Depth, intuition
  • Color: Black
  • Shape: Formless
  • Material: Water, mirrors

Wood Element

  • Energy: Growth, healing
  • Color: Greens, teals
  • Shape: Columns
  • Material: Plants, trees

Tip

Choose one element that you feel you could use more of in your home, based on the type of energy connected to that element. Add it with color, shape, or material, referring to the information above. For example, for more wood, you could add a plant. For more fire, you can light some candles.

living room with mirror, colorful books and a fireplace

Laurence Katz / Unsplash

Improving the Flow of Qi

Another thing we look at in feng shui is the flow of qi, or energy, throughout a space. We can apply this principle when designing a space by looking at the layout.  

One thing we always look at is whether the major furniture in a room is in the commanding position. This is especially important for beds, desks, and stoves. If these items are in command, you should be able to see the door, without being directly in line with the door, when you’re lying in bed, sitting at your desk, or cooking at the stove. Being in command helps put you at ease on a subconscious level because you are more aware of your environment and anything that might be coming towards you. This can translate to being more aware of potential opportunities or obstacles in your life, which helps you to feel more prepared and in control. If your bed, desk, or stove isn’t in the command position, the best thing to do is to move it to a position that allows you to see the door and the fullest expanse of the room. This isn’t always an option, especially when it comes to stoves, so if you can’t move the item you can add a mirror that allows you to see the reflection of the door instead. 

We also look at the overall flow of a space. You want to have open spaces that allow qi to collect so that it can nurture the home’s inhabitants. If a space is packed very tightly, there is probably not enough room for the qi to flow freely. This can lead to stagnant qi, which can represent blocks or obstacles.

Tip

Look around your space and notice if there are any areas that are difficult to move through. If you have a hard time navigating through a particular area, the qi will as well. Is there anything you can remove or rearrange to allow for easier movement through the space?