Feng Shui, the ancient Oriental art of achieving harmony through careful placement of objects, is finding followers in the Western World. These resources explore the influence of Feng Shui thinking on architecture and home design

What is Feng Shui?
An introduction to the concepts, from your Guide to Architecture.

How to Design Your Home With Feng Shui
You can incorporate positive "ch'i" (energy) in your home by following these simple guidelines.

Bad Feng Shui: The Big Brother House
Feng Shui aspires to create harmony in your home. What happens when designers deliberately break the rules? The set for the splash TV series Big Brother is a lesson in bad feng shui.

Ba-Gua Octagon
Use this diagram to plan the placement of rooms and living areas in your home or office.

Frank Lloyd Wright and Feng Shui
Frank Lloyd Wright believed in "organic architecture"... But did he practice "good feng shui"? Here are two views, from your Guide to Architecture.

Feng Shui
From your Guide to Chinese culture, a comprehensive directory to feng shui information, services, products, books and other resources.

Love and Feng Shui
Your Guide to Dating shows how changing your home can improve your love life.

I-Ching Geomancy Centre
Home Page of Master Ong Thiam Peng, a Feng Shui expert who has consulted in the construction of many major buildings in Singapore.

Feng Shui Guild
Home site for this Colorado organization includes helpful articles.

Feng Shui Institute of America
Offers certification training and other resources.

Feng Shui and Qi
Articles on the nonprofit SpiritWeb explain the key principles of Feng Shui and Qi.

Feng Shui Q and A
Answers to common questions, from PlaceRight design consultants.

International Feng Shui Research Center
Offers consulting services, referrals, educational programs, and study tours.

New Feng Shui Concepts
A short discussion of the importance of feng shui in a technological era, by Master Liu Chi Jen and Master Jenny Liu.

Stanley Aaga Bartlett, Feng Shui Master
Seminars in Massachusetts, a mail order catalog, and info on Feng Shui basics.

The Ultimate Feng Shui Resource
No-nonsense essays and articles to guide consumers

Feng Shui, Rules to live by

by Diane Sussman

Feng shui seeks to promote a harmonious balance among nature, man-made structures (right down to power lines, dumpsters and heaters) and people. Adherents believe that homes with good feng shui bring peace, health and prosperity to the people within. As for homes with bad feng shui, well, best not dwell on that.

Here is a list of a few basic principles of feng shui.

  • The front door of a house should not face oncoming traffic. Cars, lights and noise disturb the peace.
  • If a house is on a hill, the back part of the building should not be on the lower part of the slope. This causes energy to roll down the hill.
  • Homes should not face or be next to a garbage receptacle. Garbage receptacles draw energy away from the house.
  • A stove should not be visible to a person entering a house. Stoves are concentrated sources of fire, which is associated with death.
  • An apartment should not be next to or facing an elevator, especially a noisy one. Noisy equipment robs a house of good energy.
  • Houses should not face glass buildings. Glass buildings absorb the negative feelings of their surroundings and reflect them outward.

Location, location, feng shui

by Diane Sussman

Before Juliana Lee could close the deal on a Palo Alto home with a Chinese couple, she had to apply to the city to have the house number-444-changed.

"Four means death", said the Cornish and Carey real estate agent. "In Oriental countries, buildings don't have a fourth floor. It just goes from three to five."

Similarly, Lee knew she would have trouble selling a stunning house with a "Gone with the Wind"-style spiral staircase facing the front door and a charming small house on a flag lot behind a larger house. "The house set behind is like a mistress, waiting, "she said. "That is bad luck on a marriage." Stairs leading to the front door mean "all the money in the house will go out the door. Every time you open the door, money goes out."

In cases like these, clients may seek the advice of a master of the Chinese craft of feng shui. Using intuition, astrology, design principles, a compass and the occasional crystal or mirror, feng shui masters suggest ways to harmonize the relationship between people, buildings and the environment.

A feng shui master can make or break a deal in a moment. "You really worry," said Lee. who has seen the situation go both ways.

Having a house "feng shui-ed," to borrow the neologism of a local contractor, is becoming a far more common event in real estate transactions.

The trend is being fueled by the high number of buyers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and China. In these countries, feng shui (pronounced FUNG SHWAY) can influence decisions on everything from placement of a bed to the number of silk flowers.

"Oriental people are having a big influence on the market," said Lee, who grew up in Taiwan and practiced law before moving to the United States 15 years ago. "They are major purchasers of houses. Even builders are starting to accommodate them," building homes with enclosed kitchens (a Chinese preference) and staircases facing away from doors.

Feng shui, which means "wind and water" in Chinese, contends that a life force flows through all things- streets, buildings, power lines, glass, people. Harmonious placement of these physical structures can increase the health, wealth, luck and marital happiness of the inhabitants.

In China, buildings with good feng shui summon lines of buyers. Buildings with bad feng shui languish like the proverbial Norman Bates property.

In the Bay Area, feng shui readings cost around $1,000, said Lee, and most practitioners come from a school in Berkeley. Each master has a different way of assessing a structure's feng shui. Some use a directional compass called a luopan; some use crystals; some use mirrors; some simply meditate. Much of the emphasis is placed on enhancing the amount of sunlight and flow of air through a building.

Many of the recommendations seem more commonsensical than mystical. For example, one basic feng shui tenet advises against occupying a house that faces a garbage receptacle. Garbage receptacles draw energy away from the home. But as Lee points out, "Who wants to live facing a dumpster? Or a street?"

Many consider the whole business a lot of superstitious tommyrot. "Does it bring good luck to put a five-sided mirror on the door?" asks Lee. "I don't know. Does hanging a mezuzah on the door bring good luck to Jewish people?"

Yet even Lee has her moments of belief. "I try not to admit it, but Mr. Feng Shui told me that red was a good luck color for me. So I bought a red sports car. I prefer white, but I got the red one."

This article appeared in the Palo Alto Weekly, Friday, August 4, 1995

Wind and water

Feng shui principles can guide a home to balanced energy

by Carol Blitzer

When Linda Lenore first heard about feng shui (pronounced fung shway) 20 years ago, she thought it was a bunch of baloney, just another 4,000-year-old Asian philosophy dominated by men. She thought she'd be known as the white female who disproves it.

That's what she told the Palo Alto Board of Realtors in early September.

But instead of disproving it, Lenore decided to explore it in depth, ultimately becoming an expert who teaches classes (see box at end) and lectures on the philosophy and its practice. She is also the author of a book, "The Gift of the Red Envelope, A Guide to Designing Balance, Order and Beauty in Your Home."

Feng shui literally means wind and water. It is all about balance of energy or chi among five elements: earth, fire, water, metal and wood, Lenore explained. The ideal is to have all the elements present in a home and in balance.

Lenore explained to the Realtors why some of their Asian customers would not consider buying certain homes. Followers of feng shui would balk at purchasing a house on a cul de sac. The lot would lack symmetry -- the preferred square or rectangle -- and energy would come into the street, but would have no way to flow out.

Likewise, top of a T-intersection is not desirable. "You have too much energy coming at the house. Cars don't always stop," Lenore said. Also, the owner is bombarded by headlights constantly and would be tempted to heavily cover the windows, which keeps out the negative chi but blocks out morning sunlight.

Lenore explained that certain numbers have special meaning. The number 8, for example, implies luck and prosperity, 9 means power, but 4 means death.

"Every culture shuts down with the word death. We don't even talk about death -- someone has passed on, we've lost them," she said.

But combine 4 with 8 and there's death, followed by prosperity for the heirs.

While Lenore says she cannot prove any of this, she has lots of stories, her own among them. The first time she heard a speaker on feng shui, he talked about how placement of a bed in a room, especially a child's room, could be harmful to health -- even fatal. She had arranged a room such as the one he described and had lost her 13-year-old son to a brain tumor just months before.

Previous owners of her house had gone bankrupt; she had filed for bankruptcy while living there. An earlier owner had divorced; she filed for divorce. Someone had suffered from severe abdominal health problems; she had emergency surgery.

"Is this coincidence or feng shui?" she asked.

Lenore, who began her career as an interior designer, said she often finds feng shui principles in conflict with good interior design. For example, many are taught to place the bed opposite the door to create a focal point. But "if it is in direct alignment with the door, the energy is drained," she said. By moving the bed off-center or placing it on a different wall, it becomes less of a focal point but people find it more comfortable, she added.

Decorators often put lots of plants in bedrooms, she continued, but feng shui dictates that it's better to have a few smaller ones. The bedroom is a space where one sleeps, and plants represent vitality and growth, which can disrupt one's sleep pattern. Plants are terrific in living rooms or family rooms - rooms with high activity level, she added.

So, what is someone to do, if faced with a house with bad feng shui?

Lenore walked through a Barron Park home currently on the market to assess its chi. She first noted that "many Asians would not buy a house on a corner because you're too exposed." They want the armchair position, where they feel protected on three sides, she added.

She suggested building up the hedge on one side, or adding a low stone or brick wall. She also said planting thorny plants -- roses or cactus, for example -- near the windows can help defend a home from intruders.

For the front of the house, Lenore would remove the hedge and open up the vista, perhaps with a an archway or trellis. She'd keep the silk tree, but trim off the dead branch -- too much negative energy there. Then she'd have people enter via a curved walkway and add a water element.

"When you first go out, you want to see opportunities coming at you, either positive or negative," she said, noting that the hedges blocked vision of those possibilities.

"It isn't necessary to add a $20,000 water feature," she said, but it would be nice to bring in the sound of water with a pond or stream right outside.

Inside the house, Lenore whipped out her Gauss meter to check for electromagnetic fields. She said that's especially important in bedrooms, given that one spends at least eight hours a day there. She's particularly sensitive to what's on the other side of bedroom walls; if there's a computer or TV in the next room that backs into a wall, she suggests moving the bed to a different wall so it won't be the recipient of those electromagnetic fields.

Likewise, if the bedroom is adjacent to a bathroom, it's okay to put the bed on the common wall, as long as the plumbing is not in that wall.

In a good feng shui design, the bed would not be on the wall where there's a window, particularly a low window. But if it's the only choice, one can counterbalance by using a solid headboard.

In a room with a beamed ceiling, the concern is that energy is sent down. "The traditional solution would be to hang bamboo flutes from the beam to raise the energy," she said, but Lenore prefers to have plants growing up, or lights shining up (such as a torchere) or even using a canopy bed, which separates the sleeper from the beam.

If the owners ever choose to remodel, they might want to consider creating a flat ceiling. The unseen structural support beams are not an issue, she said.

Lenore liked the chi in the living room, which was entered immediately from the front door. A mirror over the fireplace was a good balance between fire and water elements (mirrors symbolize water), and tall topiaries "raise the energy in the room," she said. In addition, the mirror reflects the windows and the outdoors.

"You don't want to see the kitchen, bathroom or the bed in the bedroom when you first walk in the house," she added.

In a short hall with lots of doors, she suggests placing a light in the center, perhaps with beveled glass or crystal to add movement of energy.

Outside, she frowned at an exposed water heater, suggesting that it be enclosed and balanced with red flowers or redwood-stained wood, to represent fire.

Often the designer and the feng shui expert are in concurrence: "Landscaping can fool the eye to think you have more space than there is," she advised.

"My feeling about feng shui is it's a combination of common sense and trusting the intuition that most people who spend time around the house will probably do 90 percent of the time," Lenore said, adding that it feels like superstition when it's expressed as a belief system that western culture doesn't accept.

But a lot of Judeo-Christian beliefs can be described as superstition too, she added, pointing to an old custom of placing people in coffins with their feet facing the door to ease their spirit on their way.

Lenore asks herself: What would I do to make me feel more relaxed and more at peace and how can I bring the heart back to the home?

"We need to create spaces where people can gather, where they can say 'my home is my sacred haven,'" she said.

Some simple feng shui tips:

** Honor Mother Nature: Keep a jade plant; if doesn't fit into new landscape plan, move it carefully.

** Balance the five elements in a room. For example, in a kitchen, one can have a tile floor (earth), wooden counter tops and cabinets (wood), stainless steel sink and stove (metal), water from the tap as well as blue tiles, towels or glasses (water), and stove and terra cotta tile (fire).

** Paint bedrooms in blues, aquas or peaches.

** Incorporate curves in backyard landscaping, a good balance to 90-degree angles of house.

** Make sure trees and plants are healthy.

** Don't leave a wall blank to be seen as you first walk in; add a mirror or a landscape to bring the outdoors in.

** If a room protrudes from the faБade, don't use it as a bedroom because it's too unprotected. Instead use it as an office, where it's closer to the street and to "opportunities."

** When allotting bedrooms, place parents in bedroom facing the street and children further back.

** Add a wall sconce or stenciling near the ceiling to raise energy in a room.

box at end: What: Feng Shui class When: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 6:30 - 9:30 p.m. Where: Sandpiper Community Center, 797 Redwood Shores Parkway, Redwood City (Redwood City Parks and Recreation) Info: Fee is $27 for residents; $32 for non-residents. Call (650) 780-7311 for more information.
What: Feng Shui class When: Monday, Oct. 22, 7-10 p.m. (filled); Monday, Nov. 5, 7-10 p.m. Where: Palo Alto Adult School, 50 Embarcadero Road, Palo Alto Info: Fee is $25. Call (650) 329-3752 to register or for more information

Palo Alto Weekly, publication Date: Friday, October 05, 2001