What Is Feng Shui Design?

Creating mindfulness in your environment

A neutral-colored, serene living room

Anjie Cho


When you think of feng shui, images of water fountains, lucky bamboo plants, and Chinese coins may pop into your mind. These objects are definitely ways we can create “better” feng shui, but the philosophy of feng shui expands far beyond these stereotypes.

Fun Facts

Feng shui dates back to ancient China. Before the invention of the magnetic compass, however, the practice relied on astronomy to determine correlation between humans and the universe.

What Does Feng Shui Mean?

The Chinese words: “feng” means “wind” and “shui” translates to “water.” Humans and all living beings require both breath and water to sustain life. Similarly, we require a connection to nature (wind and water) to live and thrive on this earth. When we incorporate these ancient Asian teachings into the spaces we inhabit, we can truly flourish. The philosophy of feng shui reintroduces us to the teachings of nature, so that we become more attuned to the flow of qi—life force energy. 

How Feng Shui Connects Us to the Natural World

Feng Shui concepts can be used to design and create spaces with intention so you can flow, bloom, and begin to awaken to the world. Like with meditation, feng shui is about cultivating mindfulness of your environment. Feng shui encourages you to slow down and pay attention to all the everyday mundane details in your life and spaces.

Take a moment and imagine yourself peering out of the huge modern windows of a penthouse apartment in Manhattan. It's a brisk autumn evening, and you can see the glass and metal skyscrapers all around you. You look down and see the trees that have turned fiery colors. There are sirens of an ambulance and the honking of cars. There's the buzz and energy of hundreds of people and cars zooming by down on the street.

How does this space feel to you?

Now, let’s fly over to a secluded beach on a Greek island in the middle of the summer. The blinding, bright sun is beating down on you. You can see brilliant blue water and sky for miles. The heat is intolerably humid and so you go for a swim.

How does this space feel to you?

There’s no doubt our spaces deeply affect us physically, emotionally, psychologically, and energetically.

I think most of us can agree—our lives appear to be increasing in complexity and speed with every passing day. This often leads to more stress and difficulties—more than the generations before us have ever seen. We just want to come home and feel relaxed, supported, and nourished. We desperately desire spaces that resonate and nurture us. Fortunately, feng shui offers these tools we seek to begin to create spaces that support us. With the art of feng shui, we can reconnect and flow with the natural world, because the truth is, we are a part of a nature. 

There are two concepts at the heart of feng shui practice: the bagua map and the five elements. These principles guide us so we can touch back in with the cycles of nature. (As a note, with most practices, there are dozens of different schools of feng shui, however these two principles are foundational in all of the schools.)

The Bagua Energy Map

The bagua (or feng shui) energy map is a conceptual map comprised of eight areas around a center. “Ba” translates to “eight” and “gua” to “area” in Chinese. The eight bagua areas relate to different aspects of our lives. Each area is also connected to many qualities and energies, such as the five elements, yin and yang, colors, symbols, seasons, shapes, patterns, organs, the Asian zodiac animals, a time of day, and so on. Most commonly, we apply the bagua on the floor plan of a home or room. The map also stretches and expands to overlay an entire property, a neighborhood, a city, a country, and so on. Alternatively, we can also shrink the bagua to fit on a single room, a piece of furniture, on an object, or even on your face or hand. 

The Five Elements in Feng Shui

The bagua is also interrelated to the five element theory. The five elements, also known as the five phases, arise from the ancient Asian philosophy called Taoism. The five elements are: earth, metal, water, wood, and fire. Like the bagua, these five elements have deeper meanings and aspects. Each element is related to a bagua area, colors, organs, seasons, etc. In feng shui practice, practitioners often look out for and evaluate the five elements within spaces and in the personal energies of the inhabitants. 

Where to Begin?

So, how do we begin to implement these principles of feng shui into our environments? The first way is to start to slow down and become more mindful and attentive to our homes and workplaces.

Ask yourself these questions: How do my environments feel? How do I feel in my environments?

And contemplate: What areas of my life do I want to balance? What do I want more of and what can I let go of?

Once you've considered these questions, dive into the bagua map and/or five elements. Check out which areas and elements resonate with you and begin to work with a maximum of three. Implement and then observe how these small feng shui shifts begin to manifest in your life.