Thousands of years ago, the Chinese originated a philosophy to design harmonious environments. They understood that our surroundings influence our mood, energy flow, comfort, relationships, and overall well-being. Feng shui is an effective way of creating balanced living and working environments that support our day-to-day lives. Space, time, physical landscapes, and orientation are equally influential considerations. But you don’t need to do a complete overhaul of your environment to achieve balance and harmony through feng shui.

Meaning of Feng Shui

The translation for feng shui is “wind and water.” It is both an art and a natural science, not a religion, a New Age fad, or a superstitious set of guidelines. The term comes from an ancient Chinese poem that describes how humans can lead an ideal life if we connect and flow with our surrounding environments. Taoism is the way of nature, an underlying principle of the universe with strong roots in feng shui. They both share the principles of yin and yang, the two opposing forces.

feng shui art natural ArchiViz / Getty Images


Three Feng Shui Schools

Through the centuries, each generation reshaped feng shui to create an evolving Chinese cultural paradigm. Three different “schools” or methods of this ancient practice emerged. Form or landscape school, the oldest, focuses on physical objects and their shapes in both the natural and built worlds. Compass school uses numerical calculations to determine, for example, the direction a building should face. Contemporary, modern, or intuitive feng shui is a popular school-of-thought in America, adapted to fit Western lifestyles.

Modern Asian Livingroom chandlerphoto / Getty Images


Qi (Chi)

Vital energy is fundamental to the concepts of feng shui. This complex, natural force is qi, also known as chi. It is the state of continuous flux. Qi describes both real and abstract energies, such as the movement and quality of air around us, the flow of water, the vibrations of color, sunlight, and the form of objects. People can often feel whether or not a place is harmonious when they enter a room. Long straight lines and obstacles do not contribute to energy flow through your home. They block qi energies.

Feng Shui nature theme altar at home table and on window sill. Earth element( rock crystal clusters), wood element( wood discs), fire element( candles), rock salt candle holder. Positive home energy. Helin Loik-Tomson / Getty Images


Yin and Yang

Most people recognize the familiar black and white symbol for yin and yang. It represents opposing but interconnected universal forces, the feminine (yin), and the masculine (yang). Light and shade, cold and hot, and day and night are all examples. Yet together, they create harmony and balance. Some living spaces, like bedrooms, need relaxing colors, water fountains, and soothing music to represent yin, which we need for comfort. Vibrant colors, hard surfaces, wind chimes, and oscillating fans add yang energy and work better in active areas, such as the kitchen and office spaces.

Zen interior with potted bamboo plant, natural interior design concept, modern white kitchen with wooden details and island with stools, minimalist architecture ArchiViz / Getty Images


Wu Xing (Five Elements)

To balance qi in the home, bring in the five elements from the Taoist tradition--water, metal, wood, fire, and earth--to add missing qualities or to tone down or soften the imbalances. These elements work with one another to create a system of energy flow.

  • Water connects with wealth and prosperity. Add fountains and mirrors to add the presence of water.
  • Wood represents growth and vitality. Shelves and houseplants bring this element into your living spaces.
  • Metal elements create strength and independence. Clocks, wind chimes, and picture frames add balance.
  • Earth elements are stabilizing and generate nourishment and knowledge. Use terracotta pots or salt rock lamps.
  • Fire elements fuel passion, incite high energy, and trigger creativity. Candles or a fireplace are the perfect solutions.

five elements energy flow candle Griffin24 / Getty Images



The feng shui energy map, or Bagua, features eight areas corresponding to aspects of life, health, and wellness. Colors and shapes represent each of the aspects on the map: wealth, fame and reputation; partnership; children; helpful people; career, knowledge, and family. The center of the map corresponds to tai chi symbolizing overall wellness and health. Generally, practitioners align the map with the front door. Choose areas on the map that you feel need attention in your life. Use the corresponding shapes and colors to balance energies in the home.

map wellness life bagua Pacificenterprise / Getty Images


Where to Begin

Although feng shui is the art of placement, there are other preliminary steps to take to encourage natural energy flow. Clutter drains your energy and tips your surroundings toward yin, which leaves you feeling drained and depressed. Clean your windows and allow natural sunlight to energize the space. Get rid of sharp corners where possible. They have links to ill health and bad fortune. Choose decor items with rounded edges and cylindrical shapes. Doors should open a full 90 degrees. Any less, and you’re cutting yourself off from potential opportunities and making it harder for good energy to find you.

placement flow energize clutter Matt Carr / Getty Images


The Commanding Position

In feng shui, it is important to place yourself in a position to control what’s happening around you and to respond to it. The command position is mostly associated with feng shui’s form school style. It describes the position of furniture in a room. This layout configuration allows you to be at rest, but in a powerful position, channeling the energies of the room to work for you, not against you. Beds and sofas should have open spaces on both sides. Additionally, sofa backs should always be against a wall. Desks should never face the wall. Avoid lining up beds and other furniture with doorways. You should be able to see the door, but never be in line with it.

furniture layout command position doorway Elliott Kaufman / Getty Images


Clear Paths for Great Energy Flow

Everyone’s home has something that inhibits energy flow. Cluttered walkways, burnt-out lightbulbs, overflowing drawers, furniture that doesn’t fit the space, and other obstacles create physical blocks in our day-to-day lives. Visualize clear energy flow through your home. Step back to your home’s entryway and imagine a river flowing through your living spaces and walkways. What obstacles would stop or hinder the flow? Create unobstructed paths through your home to create feng shui.

unobstructed paths walkways alvarez / Getty Images


Color and Feng Shui

Each of the five elements of feng shui corresponds to colors. Reds, oranges, purples, pinks, and strong yellows add energy, according to the Bagua map. Earth element colors--light yellows, beiges, and sandy colors--offer stability and calm protection. Metal element colors, grays and whites, create clarity and light while harmonious water element colors of blue and black attract calm, refreshing energies.

color elements harmonious interior elcabron / Getty Images


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