Around the world in interior design: Feng Shui

feng shui tobyshomeContinuing our journey around the world’s most influential interior design traditions: we visit China to look at the art of Feng Shui and how you can achieve it in the home – including some top Feng Shui lighting tips…

 See also:

Around the world in interior design: Italy
Around the world in interior design: India

What links Boy George, Julia Roberts, Tommy Hilfiger, Stephen Spielberg…and British Airways? Answer: they’re all enthusiasts for the ancient Chinese practice of Feng Shui. Four thousand years after its origination, people and organisations around the world are still applying Feng Shui principles to plan, design and decorate homes, workplaces and public spaces. But what exactly is it?

Feng Shui means wind and water, and at its essence is the idea that “spirit” or the atmosphere of a place has a direct effect on our wellbeing. Organise your surroundings according to Feng Shui principles and you can expect benefits ranging from better sleep and increased motivation, to improved career prospects and a more fulfilling love life…

Although we can trace Feng Shui’s origins back to ancient China, similar ideas have existed in different parts of the world throughout the ages, and as with all philosophies, there are various approaches and interpretations. But we’re going to focus on the basic principles and show you how you can apply them to your home. Light is a key aspect of Feng Shui, and we’ve been taking a fresh look at Pooky lamps, shades and fittings to find lighting that passes the Feng Shui test.

diana civilA clean, light, clutter free and balanced home space by Diana Civil. (Image via Diana Civil)


Feng Shui philosophy

Good chi, bad chi

At the heart of Feng Shui is “chi”, the name given to the subtle flow of electromagnetic energy that links all things in the universe. It flows in and out of buildings, not only through windows and doors but even through walls.

What Feng Shui aims for, in terms of interior design and decoration, is a gentle harmonious flow that enhances daily life. Anything that disrupts chi’s good energy, such as synthetic fibres, dark corners, cluttered rooms and pockets of damp, is to be avoided. 

Yin and yang

Feng Shui practitioners believe that there are two kinds of energy: passive (yin) and active (yang).  This applies equally to objects and home surroundings, as well as people. The sun is decidedly yang and fires up our energy, so south-facing rooms are ideal for those times of the day when you need to be active. If you’re feeling decidedly flat and chi-depleted, they’re a good mood booster. Long narrow spaces, like corridors, tend to be more yin, while round, octagonal or square buildings or rooms are more yang. Yin and yang may be polar opposites but the aim in a home is to find a sense of balance between the two.

The concept of yin and yang also applies to colours, shapes and materials: round and curved shapes are more yin, straight and angular lines and sharp angles are yang. Hard shiny surfaces such as glass or metal are yang and speed up chi energy; softer, textured surfaces such as natural wood or cork are more yin.  

The Five Elements

kitchen clare weeksKitchen by Clare Weeks - Image: My-Studio

The third key principle is that of the Five Elements: Water, Tree, Soil, Fire, Metal, all of which have their own chi energies, determined by the way the sun moves across the sky both during the day and throughout the year. Like yin and yang, the Five Elements can apply to colours, shapes and materials. Want to make a ceiling look higher? Vertically-striped wallpaper (tree chi energy) or tall houseplants are what you need. Or maybe you want a cosier look in a sitting room or reading area? In that case, opt for horizontal or checked patterns (soil energy).

In Feng Shui, the principle of Eight Directions combines yin and yang and the Five Elements to identify eight types of chi energy, which equate to the main points of the compass and can apply to rooms, people, and times of day. So a north facing room, for example, is linked to the element of water, a middle son, night and darkness, and midwinter.

compassA 19th century Feng Shui compass from China’s Anhui Province (creative commons)

A Feng Shui practitioner or consultant draws on all the above, as well as Nine Ki, a form of astrology, to advise on the most favourable time to make changes, whether you want to apply Feng Shui principles to your existing home or move to a new one. Alternatively, with a Feng Shui guide*, some graph paper and a few basic devices, such as a compass and protractor, you can put those principles into practice yourself. (Good planning is the essence of Feng Shui.) 


At home with Feng Shui

To give you an idea of how you could use Feng Shui to enhance your home, we’ve put together some suggestions for three different rooms in daily use. If your home is open plan, simply apply the relevant Feng Shui principles to each area.

Feng Shui in the living room

 greg penn sitting roomGreg Penn (@manwithahammer) going for green

It’s all about tree energy, so go for tall standing lamps and uplighters, lanky house plants, such as palms, and those vertical stripes to create a sense of height and space. Stripped wooden floors are a great way to keep harmonious chi energy circulating, and pure wool rugs are a better bet than fitted carpets, which attract 'stagnant' energy…

Your colour choices will depend on which direction the room faces. Dark green can be effective in a south-east-facing living room; add paler yin shades for a spacious and relaxing feel. 


Feng Shui in the dining room 

style fairy

 An easy to clean dining table surface is essential and natural woods work well—light softwoods for informal dining (so they would also work well for a kitchen table) or darker hardwoods for very formal occasions. A rectangular table stretches that chi energy more than a square table, so works better for a formal dinner party. For family meals, an oval shape is better than a round table. And try to keep tables clutter free—as far as possible; clutter, anywhere, is not propitious!


Feng Shui in the bedroom

rebecca hughes bedroom wisteriaSoftness, serenity and a headboard for a good night’s sleep.Bedroom by Rebecca Hughes Interiors, featuring Pooky's Wisteria table lamp. Image credit.

Practical, ample storage is essential so that anything you are not using or wearing can be put away at night. Opt for soft, yin lighting and lampshades that can diffuse electric light. If your bed is not against a wall, think about adding a headboard for neutral chi energy (and sound sleep). Position your bed so that you can see the door and the windows. Choose furniture, such as chairs or bedside tables, with round edges; ideally, no sharp corners should face the bed.  

And we hate to break it to you but en suite bathrooms can drain healthy chi; if you have one or more in your home, keep the en suite bathroom door closed whenever possible. On the other hand, that en suite bathroom is just the right place for a mirror, as mirrors in bedrooms are a Feng Shui no-no... 


Feng Shui lighting tips

 In Feng Shui, light waves are believed not only to bring energy into a space but enhance a room’s existing chi energy too; in other words, light waves make a good thing even better. The aim is to encourage as much natural light into a room as possible, so the bigger the windows the better—and Feng Shui consultants will often recommend a skylight or atrium for rooms directly under a roof space or in areas surrounded by other buildings or high walls.

As for lamps and shades, here’s how to do it the Feng Shui way…

1) Go for green – get some of that tree energy with green shades and standing lamps. Pairing our Darcy standing lamp with an Empire shade in Verdant Tapers (below), with its fabulous hand-painted green vertical stripes definitely adds up to double Feng Shui points!  

darcyDarcy standing lamp with an Empire shade in Verdant Tapers

2) Use uplighters for wall lights – an uplighter like the Half Moon throws up a wash of light for warmth and ambience and will enhance the height of the room.

half moonHalf Moon wall light in antique brass

3) Try natural materials – for dining room tables, our Albus pendant is natural and a little rustic: a striking teardrop shape that will dominate but not overpower its setting (a nice touch of chi balance). Little flecks of light sparkle from its wicker frame, which is topped by a cast brass hat.

albusAlbus pendant light in natural cane

4) Diffuse the light in the bedroom –  steer clear of harsh or direct lighting if you are going to get a good night’s sleep; for overhead lighting, avoid more exposed fittings and think about a pendant, lampshade or fitting that diffuses light.

5) Focus light for reading – adjustable lighting is perfect for the bedside, as it allows you to focus the light source exactly where it’s needed. Our Cooper wall fitting fits the bill and if you pair it with a tapered pendant shade in the soft tones of antique rose dupion silk, you’ll have the ideal Feng Shui balance in terms of colour. (See How to light your bedroom for a better night’s sleep post for more suggestions.)


Cooper wall light fitting in antique brass


For more interior design inspiration, browse our tips-packed blog. And see our full range of lamps and shades here.


*Want to know more about using Feng Shui in your home? We recommend tracking down a copy of Practical Feng Shui by Simon Brown. Published in 1998, it remains one of the most accessible introductions to Feng Shui, with easy-to-follow advice and instructions. And if you are looking for a Feng Shui consultant, the UK-based Feng Shui Society has a list of registered practitioners.


Image top: Pooky's Phileas rechargeable table lamp styled by @tobyshome