March 27, 2011

Fung Shui for Dummies

FANG WHAT?
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Around the mid 90's the New York Times had an article on the ancient Chinese art of "Feng Shui" and how it could make you rich, find you romance and live a harmonious life... not me, I was all like 无法实现 that.  But of course, every capitalist jumped on that bandwagon!!!... And then, every freeking "decorator" took a Feng Shui course at their local "Learning Annex." Once they completed their two-hour class on the 5000 year old science they advertised themselves as a Feng Shui experts.... (人生经!)
So, lemme see.... a housewife decorator in suburban Kansas is now a Feng Shui expert.....? Riiiiight...these chick's can't use a cell phone and drive let alone use a feng shui bagua compass and divine the direction of anything... that's pure bull 技能卓.

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However, I will say...when you read the principles of Feng Shui, there are a lot of parallels between it and a good designers innate sense of where things should be. Just good common sense for most of it.
This missive will show you the history and basic principles of Fung Shui, balanced with my own flawless commentary.



A BRIEF HISTORY of FENG SHUI PRINCIPLES
Feng Shui is a term composed of two Chinese words: feng (wind) and shui (water). Wind and water are the two natural elements that flow, move, and circulate everywhere on Earth. The combined qualities of wind and water determine the climate, which historically has determined our food supply and in turn affects our lifestyle, health, energy, and mood.

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BALANCED "CHI" ENERGY

The first rule of feng shui concerns the flow of chi energy. Chi energy is found in all living matter and considered to be the divine spark of life that governs all of creation and recreation. This energy is composed of two opposite energies, yin (female) and yang (male). In order for there to be balance and harmony within nature, these energies must remain in a state of balance.

THE FIVE ELEMENTS
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There are five elements through which the chi energy moves. The transformation of the energy as it moves through these five elements is what creates and maintains life. 


CYCLE OF ENERGY
First the chi energy falls from the heavens and condenses into water, which nourishes the wood that feeds the fire that tempers the earth and forms metal, which in turn draws water. This is the proper cycling of the chi energy and how it goes through the five elements to transform. Whenever the cycle is disrupted, there is disharmony. Feng shui attempts to remedy the interruption and restore it to its natural process.


THIS IS WHERE FENG SHUI MAKES SENSE FOR US NORMAL PEOPLE
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Some simple rules of Feng Shui
Feng Shui is often referred to as the art of placement; how you place your furniture, possessions, and yourself within your surroundings largely determines your life experience at every level.

CLUTTER IS AN EMEMY
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One of the biggest enemies to good chi flow throughout your home and outside your home is clutter. Clutter can take the form of stacked newspapers on top of a freezer to dust bunnies in corners to more serious clutter problems such as unkempt rooms. Stacks of dirty laundry and dirty dishes piled in a sink are also considered clutter.
(Ok...duh, what have I been telling you people for years???) 


ORGANIZE CLOSETS AND DRAWERS
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Clutter can be found behind closet doors, cabinets and desk drawers. Spend time re-organizing your closets, chest of drawers, kitchen cabinets, and desk. Throw away, recycle or re-purpose items that you rarely use. A good rule of thumb is if you haven't worn a piece of clothing or used a particular item in a year, then chances are you don't need it. Give it away and clear the space for beneficial chi energy.
(who wants to dig around in cluttered closets?.nooobody, this ain't no ancient Chinese secret!) 

DON'T BLOCK PATHWAYS
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Another form of clutter is found whenever natural pathways are blocked either by vegetation, trees or furniture. Examine each room in your house and ask yourself if the natural pathway from door to door is blocked by any pieces of furniture. If you find that furniture is an obstacle to you being able to navigate through the room, then move the furniture to open up the pathway. Simple things like leaves on a walkway create obstacles and clutter in the path into your home, so keep your walkways clean of debris.
(well...isn't that just common sense and good housekeeping?)


DECORATING
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  • Sofas and chairs should be angled so they're not directly facing the television. In addition, place chairs and sofas in groups to enhance conversation, rather than isolation. (no, really? I like the all lined up along the wall look)
  • If there is a long, narrow hallway in the home, place plants or large pictures at the end so energy or chi flows more naturally, rather than in a straight line. (or, your eye goes to that object directly so you eye doesn't focus on the boring hallway!)
  • Corners of rooms can often be dark and empty, something that's not good for energy flow. Use plants, candles or small lamps to remedy this situation. (cluttered corners just make the whole room look junky, I love a plant or floor lamp in a corner)
  • Mirrors should be placed in a small foyer or hallway to allow for better energy flow, but never in a bedroom because the belief is they hinder restful sleep.(OK, well what about checking yourself out before you leave, or opening up a small space with a mirror??)
  • Televisions and computers should be enclosed in cabinets to minimize their influence on what is natural in our lives. (True dat!)
IN THE BEDROOM
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The bedroom doorway should open at least 90 degrees, anything less than this is considered restrictive and symbolically may prevent good luck or good opportunities from entering your life. You should have a "greeter" in your bedroom (not the WalMart kind), the first thing you see when you enter the bedroom - it could be anything from a large painting, photograph, fireplace or striking piece of furniture
(what we decorators call the "money shot").


As far as the decoration of your bedroom goes, try to avoid stimulating colors like red and gold on the walls - instead, use relaxing colors such as pastel blue, green or yellow.
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(yes, otherwise it looks like a 历创奇 ho-house, duh).

The position of the bed itself is extremely important.  The bed should be in the the "command position", meaning a feeling of confidence and power, the ability to see your bedroom door when you wake in the morning.
(yes, any good designer knows that you want to walk in and face the bed)

However, don't have your feet in direct alignment with the bedroom door - the ancient Chinese considered this the "death position".
(Ohl an-chent Chiinee saying "lee house 'feet fust' wen yu dead")


If you have an adjoining bathroom opening onto your bedroom, keep the bathroom door closed so nothing can subconsciously disturb your sleep.
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(who wants to see thethat   from bed??)

The placement of other furniture is important too - Mirrors should not be placed at the foot of the bed, rather to the side of the bed or at an angle
(I'm not even going there....) 
It's very important to eliminate clutter in your bedroom!



MAINTENANCE AND UPKEEP
Another important rule in feng shui is to keep all appliances and equipment in running condition. This includes replacing burned out light bulbs and fixing any leaky faucets or running toilets; use alternating burners on your stove, etc.
(Really, this an-chent Chiinee seekrit huh?)


1) Remove shoes before entering a home. Don’t take your problems in with you.
(your problems gonna be when you track dirt on that carpet)
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2) Cook at least one meal a day and eat at the table as a family.
(Ahh sooooo, schimp flied lice velly velly good)
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3) Never have knives on show – even in a block.
(Clazy hussban tink clazy tings)
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4) Always sit or stand facing the door, or its reflection.
(really? I love my back to the door when expecting my frienemys...)
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5) Keep the toilet lid down and bathroom and laundry doors closed.
(dis a 5000 y/o Chiinee seeklet??)


6) Don't sleep under white blankets or doonas.
(this 历创奇 I don't get at all....and cant find the reason anywhere either)


7) Don't sleep with your feet facing the bedroom door.
(王.羲.之.?)


8) Don't sleep next to the wall that has the meter-box on it.
( that's weird, because I love the negative ions and electro-smog caused by electronic devices operating in the home)


9) If your front door is in line with a tree or the door of the house opposite, place a Ba Gua mirror above the outside of the door. 
(uuuh ok....)

10) Never have a Ba Gua mirror in the house.
(That's not gonna be a problem)
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This is the year of the "metal rabbit"....


Some reading suggestions for Feng Shui for the home
You can do it, I'm here to help!
P: 202.669.8669

March 19, 2011

STAIRWAY LANDINGS

Stairway Landings
The hardest places to accessorize!

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Not so many houses have "landings" per-se these days as they're not in fashion anymore. Typical of everything now; hurry up and get to your destination and don't pay attention to the journey.
I love landings; that romantic midway point to another floor, a transition from public to private space. The mezzanine. Some are small and can barely hold a candle stand and others feel like an entire room. They can be larger and used as a special reading nook, or a place for a daybed in the sun, a card table where everyone can enjoy games. A place where you can be removed but not be out of touch. If designing a house, I'd love one that's large (pure fantasy). It would have a huge-ass bay window overlooking the garden with southern exposure for great light and a daybed where I can take a snooze. It would have and a couple of chairs that you can take a friend on a wonderful rainy afternoon for coffee or a cocktail.
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If your building, consider adding one into your plans; if you have one already here's how to expand upon it's visual capital.

SOME ARE WAYYYY GRAND....
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(Berkley Square townhome, London)

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(Villa in Spain. Sotheby's)

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(S. Frances)

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(Chateau Groussay, France)

AND
SOME ARE LARGER THAN OTHERS
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Isn't this beach house landing awesome? 
An afternoon nap is what I think they had in mind here...or a long trashy summer novel.


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(Designer: Alexis Hampton)
This Regency style landing is lovely but a tad too formulaic... Have some fun, dammit!


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This 18th c. Georgian home has a lovely landing, it's small but it's a visual "moment" when ascending the stairs



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(Meredith Baer)
I love the simplicity of this upper landing with simple seating and bare walls and no carpet.



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(Designer: Eric Cohler)
This mezzanine is so beautifully designed; it's a perfect place for tea or watching Oprah.


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This has always been one of my favorite landings; it's happy, bright and majorly cozy!
The fireplace makes an awesome addition.


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This beach house landing is accessorized with "found objects" which are perfect for a casual home. The painted floors and sea-glass palette make it fun.




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(Designer: Tom Samet)
This beautiful landing has a very warm and well edited feeling. The bare windows allow lots of light to fill the upper and lower floors too.


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This yachtsmans home has a collection of wonderful seascapes and scale models displayed on the landing. They've pulled the blue from the paintings for the upholstered ottoman. Also, notice the lighthouse newel post!  
Leeward ho, baby


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Love, love, love this contemporary landing. A nice place to have an upstairs workstation. Notice the glass railing and clean lined console.



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This Victorian era home is simply decorated using a painted floor which ads a lot of style to an otherwise hard to decorate space.



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(Designer: Tom Felicia)
This narrow landing has a narrow console and a huge-ass mirror which opens the space up and reflects the light into the area.



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This architecturally traditional landing has been decorated with contemporary elements. I love the three window seats each with a pillow.


THEN, FOR YOU POOR BASTARDS WITH HOMES SMALLER THAN 5,000 Sq. Ft.

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This simple stairway has broken up the boredom of this small landing with a $200. garden seat.


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There is no space on this landing so they have hung multiples of prints all framed and matted the same. Its handsome and looks "finished."



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This small corner of an upstairs landing is decorated very simply with an ecclectic grouping. A colorful chest, painted floors and a fun piece of art, how simple is that?


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Where there's no room for much furniture the walls are you last resort to make the space attractive. Here, antlers and transferware add a wonderful stylish impact. The ottoman adds softness. A table with a lamp would be too cluttered on this narrow landing.



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This beautiful settee is wedged in between a niche and it's perfect. A chest with a bunch of crap on top would be sooo predictable...



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(Designer: India Hicks)
This landing in a beach home has a small desk which serves as a temporary home office when the owners are here on weekends.


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I want to point out this amazing landing: It's surrounded on three sides by huge, beautiful windows and on the actual landing itself is a built-in bench facing the windows. A wonderful place to sit your fat ass and catch your breath when ascending. Awesome details like this make a home stand out from the rest!


You can do it, I'm here to help!


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