Feng Shui in Interior Design

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March 7, 2021

Feng Shui: origins and principles 

As in many other fields, Eastern wisdoms and Asian countries fascinate us and become real sources of inspiration for our lives as Westerners often trapped in stressful lifestyles. 

The interior decoration and layout of houses is no exception to the rule. Feng Shui, an ancestral Chinese practice, teaches the art of living in harmony with one's environment by respecting precise rules to allow a fluid circulation of energies and thus greater serenity and harmony.

For thousands of years, in China, Feng Shui has been an art of living that allows you to experience harmony with nature. In fact, all the great architects of the Middle Kingdom have put into practice the principles of Feng Shui to integrate their largest constructions into nature or to allow a fluid circulation of energies, such as the Imperial City in Beijing or the Great Wall. 

In the beginning...

The origin of this ideology dates back to the 4th millennium BC. B.C. A man named Fu Shi decided to develop the banks of the Lo River in China (an impetuous river responsible for many floods), which suddenly calmed the river. Meditating on the banks, he saw one day a tortoise (symbol of eternal happiness in Asia), whose shell was decorated with black and white dots. Fu Shi then noticed that the dots were arranged in such a way that their addition, horizontally, vertically or even diagonally, always gave the same number: 15 and constituted a sort of magic square. Many schools of Feng Shui are based on this magic square, which can be used to organize and balance the different spaces of a house that correspond to the different areas of our lives (professional life, creativity, friends, health, vitality, self-esteem, etc...).

The basics of Feng Shui

This wisdom is based on the idea that we must harmonize and balance the natural flows that surround us, especially in our homes, to preserve and improve the health and well-being of its inhabitants. 

"Feng" means wind and "Shui" means water. These two elements materialize for the Chinese the energy of the sky and the earth and the perpetual circulation of energies. 

Feng Shui is based on the notion of complementarity between Yin and Yang, and on the theory of the five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water, often expressed through materials, shapes and colours. The whole ideology of Feng Shui revolves around Chi, which is the sum of the energies governing the universe.

Lucky Charms - Macau - François B. for Photo-to-go
Lucky Charms - Macau - François B. for Photo-to-go

The main principles of Feng Shui


It is difficult to define it precisely, but Chi could be what we call energy in our western cultures, a kind of vital breath. Chi is the energy that circulates in the universe, the earth, our body and mind. 

Borrowed from Chinese philosophy, it is also one of the foundations of millenary Chinese therapies such as shiatsu or acupuncture. This Chinese medicine is based on the principle that when energies flow harmoniously, it has positive consequences on our body, our thoughts and our emotions. And vice versa. Acupuncture uses this principle to release negative energies that cause pain or blockages. It is therefore essential to make sure that the Chi can circulate fluidly inside your home: objects that are too sharp, congested spaces, recesses, dark places, are therefore blockages to the free circulation of energies.

The five elements

The theory of the five elements is a Taoist theory based on the observation of nature, and its continuous evolution, because everything is transformed in nature, and the elements are interdependent. Each element nourishes the one that follows in a form of a cycle of creation.

Each element has a correspondence with a cardinal point, a season, a colour. These elements all need each other to exist or to destroy.

  • Wood is a natural fuel, it feeds the fire and controls the Earth. It is the symbol of growth and spring, it is associated with the colour green and the east is an outward looking energy. 
  • The fire burns, it feeds the earth with ashes and destroys the metal. It is associated with summer, the South and red. It is an energy that drives to action. 
  • The earth is the source of metal (since it is found in its entrails) and controls water. The earth is at the centre, its colour is yellow, and it is an energy that brings people together.
  • The metal feeds the water and controls the wood. It is associated with the west and white, it is the symbol of work, it is an inward looking energy. 
  • Water gives birth to wood and controls the fire. It is a calm and fluid energy. It is associated with darkness and the North. 

But these elements can also be destroyed:

Water puts out the fire, 

Fire melts metal, 

Metal is used to destroy wood (a blade),

Wood covering the earth can destroy it,

The earth absorbs the water and makes it disappear.

These five elements tell us how the energy that surrounds us circulates, and this allows us to establish a good circulation of Chi. In a house, the five elements must be present together (by colour, material, the function of the object or its place), they must be distributed in a balanced way according to the atmosphere we want to give to a room.

Five elements

Yin and Yang

They're two parts of a whole. They represent two opposing forces in continual motion that complement each other and are at the origin of everything that happens in the universe. These forces are quite distinct but they are inseparable. The Yin (dark), represents kindness, the night, the moon, femininity, interiority. Yang (light) represents firmness, masculinity, day, sun, exterior. In order to live as well as possible, we must create a balance between these two forces, whether it is inside our house, in our life, or in our inner life. Without harmony between Yin and Yang, there can be no Feng Shui.

Feng Shui techniques and accessories

Pa Kua

The Pa Kua is an essential analysis tool of Feng Shui. It is used to identify the weakest or strongest areas of your home in order to harmonize your layout and modify it if necessary, so that your home becomes a comforting and peaceful place.

The Pa Kua can be octagonal or in the form of a square divided into nine squares, each representing an area of your life. To use this tool, you can put a plan of your house or the room you want to analyse on this diagram and modify the layout if necessary. You can easily find representations of this tool on the Internet.

Luopan another essential tool


Water is of considerable importance in Feng Shui (by the way, Shui is water). However, not everyone is fortunate enough to have a river, fountain or spring in their home. It is therefore possible to make the water present through open aquariums or small fountains, the important thing is always that the water circulates and is clean. 

Plants are also important in a Feng Shui house. Don't hesitate to decorate with orchids or bamboos, but forget about thorn plants or cacti.

Another important tool in Feng Shui is light. We have seen that energies flow better in a well-lit space, with no shadows. So do not hesitate to install several light sources in the same room.

Finally, mirrors are of paramount importance: they help to stop bad energies, but also to highlight a beautiful light or the reflection of a beautiful place (garden, terrace, flowers, plants). 

Feng Shui pieces 

To decorate your house according to the Feng Shui wisdom, you will have understood that you will have to respect precise rules and the great principles which allow a good circulation of energies (the presence of the 5 elements, the balance of the Yin and Yang poles, water, light, mirrors). To help you, here are piece by piece tips to put the art of Feng Shui into practice.

The entrance

It is the first room you enter, and the last one you are in before leaving home, it will leave you (or your visitor) with the first and last impression. It is a place for the passage of energies, it is through there that the Chi enters, that is why it is indispensable that this space be welcoming and that it be an impeccable place: orderly and clean. A green plant, a beautiful image of a peaceful landscape or a mirror ideally decorate this space (provided that the mirror is not facing the door because it would send the energies outside). 

The living room

It is a very important room because it is where you are used to meeting with your family, but it is also in the living room that you welcome your guests. It should therefore be a comfortable place, equipped with comfortable seats, armchairs or sofas and several sources of light. Avoid accumulating furniture and sharp objects. As much as possible, lean the sofas against the walls, and do not place them with their backs to the door, but rather around a small coffee table or fireplace. If the room is very large, don't hesitate to make separations with plants or screens, to prevent the Chi from getting lost. Favour soft and velvety materials (for carpets, sofas and armchairs) and soft colours (ochre, beige, cream) that encourage conversation and harmony. 

The kitchen 

It is a room that must be user-friendly and functional. It is considered the heart of the house and combines two incompatible elements: water and fire. To prevent them from being confused, do not place your dishwasher in front of the oven. Make sure that the worktops are clear so as not to slow down energy, and that they face the door so that you can embrace the space or room from a glance. For materials, stone, tile or wood can be used for the floor. The most important thing is that the different materials balance each other. As far as colours are concerned, warm and friendly colours are preferred. For the dining area, whether in the kitchen or in a dining room, the most important thing is that it is functional, neither too bare nor too crowded. You will avoid cold materials such as steel or metal or glass (especially glass tables that give an impression of emptiness or floating).  

The bathroom

It's a room that must breathe well-being and relaxation. It is a place by definition quite humid, so it will have to be well aired and ventilated, as well as avoid cluttering it with too many objects to allow a good circulation of Chi. It is very important that this room can be closed by a door: as it is a place where one cleans oneself and gets rid of impurities and bad energies, it is very important to be able to close it. 

The bedroom 

This is the room where we recharge night after night. It is therefore essential that your Feng Shui room is not overly furnished, that it is comfortable and that the furniture or decorative elements are soft or rounded. The bed should be positioned as far as possible from the window and door, and the head should be leaning against one of the walls. You should also take care to keep elements that disturb sleep, such as electromagnetic equipment, which is totally forbidden in your bedroom. 

The office 

It's a workspace, so it has to help you concentrate. The desk will not be placed facing the window (which dissipates the Chi), nor facing a wall (which blocks the Chi). The furniture will have to be sober, and allow an optimal storage. 

Mistakes not to be made to live according to Feng Shui: Avoid the disorder

The practice of Feng Shui is incompatible with disorder because it blocks the Chi and prevents the energies from circulating. This generates fatigue and prevents us from taking action. The disorder by cluttering up the space, makes our thoughts more confused. Lack of order creates tension, but also fatigue and weariness. 

In order to live in a Feng Shui house, it is therefore essential to tidy, clean and purify. This Chinese wisdom advocates sobriety: de-clutter with too many unused objects that fill closets, rooms, shelves, tidy and clean up to make a clean place. 

Temples - Macau - François B. for Photo-to-go
Temples - Macau - François B. for Photo-to-go

The Importance of Images in Feng Shui

We have seen that nothing is trivial in the choice of your furniture, colours and even the layout of the rooms in your home. The same is true with the decorative objects you decide to display. We have also seen the importance of certain objects for a Feng Shui house: the presence of mirrors, plants, water or light. 

For the images you will exhibit (paintings, posters, photos), it is also important to respect certain criteria. The images you will place on the wall represent you: so choose images that are close to your heart or remind you of happy moments in your life. You can choose images that represent values or an ideal dear to your heart, avoid violent or despairing subjects. Images that have an important personal value (memory, emotional value, etc.) will also create positive energy, trust yourself and respect your tastes!

Hindi - India by François B. for Photo-to-go
Hindi - India - by François B. for Photo-to-go

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