by Dino Alexander (CEO, Duncan Avenue Group)
Building site for Villa 9W was carefully carved into the East side of a hill with glass atrium and direction of the roof almost precisely facing South and the direction of the Hudson River. Looking at Bagua (or Pa Kua) – Feng Shui energy map, we see that Villa 9W is oriented towards Fame and Reputation Life Area (or a better translation “The Light Within You”) and the Feng Shui Element Fire. Furthermore, 2-story-high iron fireplace takes a center stage in the atrium that amplifies connection to the energy of Fire. Interestingly, this particular facing direction resonates very with one of the main aspects of the A-Frame houses popularity surge: its original intention in the 1950s was to become a vacation space for the rich and famous with high disposable incomes.
Feng Shui is based on the practices of balancing the natural energy (chi) in our environments. Following the concepts of Taoism and the balance of the universe between yin and yang, traditional Feng Shui followers believe that we can improve the flow of energy in our homes, place of work, and anywhere else where our internal chi could be affected by the lack of balance in the external chi.
The relationship between the five elements can be summarized into three circles: creation, exhaustion, and destruction.
The first one is the creation cycle and it illustrates the interaction between the elements in a way of positive or supportive relations. Most of those relationships are intuitive since they are based on the laws of nature and physics. They are as follow:
- Wood increases the powers of Fire, just like by adding extra logs to the fireplace the fire will grow bigger.
- Fire powers Earth, such as ashes are a natural fertilizer for the soil.
- Earth increases the powers of Metal. We know that metal is a natural source mined from the earth.
- Metal supports Water and this one is less intuitive than the rest.
- Water nourishes Wood, as simple to remember as watering your plants for them to grow.
The second cycle is the exhaustion cycle. Simply put, it describes the relationship between the elements in the way that they weaken the powers of each other. They are the opposite relationships of the creation cycle. The same rationale, in a reversed direction, can be used to visualize those interactions as if you are removing the nourishment from the elements. The relationships are described as:
- Fire weakens Wood
- Wood weakens Water
- Water weakens Metal
- Metal weakens Earth
- Earth weakens Fire
The third cycle is the destruction cycle. It also illustrates negative effects between the elements like the exhaustion cycle, but those relationships have much stronger powers. The cycle can be explained as:
- Wood weakens Earth
- Earth absorbs Water
- Water puts down Fire
- Fire melts Metal
- Metal cuts Wood
When we acquired the property, the energy of Fire Element was so overwhelmingly obvious that it felt like it could blow you away: on top of the original architectural choices (compass orientation, directional roofline, glass atrium, location of the iron fireplace and wood as main building material), previous property owners went with overwhelming amount of fire supporting deep orange colors and wood interior finishes that clearly threw the place out of balance. Feng Shui (and great contemporary design) is about balance and here is where we went to work: Clearly the environment of the home was governed by the Element of Fire, but the first decision we made is to tame the flames and bring back the Element of Metal that was clearly lacking in the space.
According to Feng Shui Energy of the Metal Element is melted away by the overpowering presence of Fire nourished by Wood. Painting entire space in White, Grey, and Black increased the influence of the Metal and with it brought the qualities of sharpness, precision, and efficiency. Its balanced presence, according to Feng Shui principles will help sustain the energy of calm, crisp clarity and eliminate distractions. Contemporary Interior Design and Psychology of Visual Perception explain this by a simple fact that white, brightly lit spaces mimic the outdoor environment during the day when our bodies and minds are biologically most efficient.
White/grey paint also eliminated all of the wood finishes and features, so there wasn’t much to feed the Fire Element, so at the next step, we brought back some of the Fire supporting accents in more of a controlled and balanced manner.
In the dining area, we placed wooden/metal dining table and light it up with copper leafed light fixtures featuring Edison bulbs. The warm light of Edison Bulb filament reflects from the copper and creates amber light nearly indistinguishable if it was coming from a wooden fireplace. Copper pipes are also to support the energy of Fire.
In the kitchen, we introduced copper leafed architectural lighting panels on the ceiling that fill the room with warm and pleasant light. Along with stainless steel finishes and by adding several natural accents we created a balanced combination of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wind Elements.
When it comes to bedroom setup in Feng Shui, there are a few rules to consider. Bedrooms are very important spaces where we recharge and get energy for the day ahead, so the bedroom space should promote a harmonious flow of vibrant, nourishing and sensual energy. Finishes, colors, and overall shapes should be inviting and calming. In traditional feng shui recommendations, it was directed to avoid any sharp objects or shapes as it would interfere with sleep. Space between the bed and back wall should also be avoided. The reason is that it would create a feeling of insecurity and lack of support.
Positioning a bed facing a door (when your feet are facing the door) also should be avoided as it could bring a bad luck. Sleeping under a beam might create a feeling of suppression. Bedrooms should have plenty of windows that let fresh air in and to avoid stale and polluted air. However, plants are not a good fit for the bedroom and should be used in other areas of the house.
Eight key directions in Feng Shui stand for distinct kinds of energy. Each direction is associated with several different features that make it unique. We spend a lot of time while positioning our body in one particular direction while we sleep, so the direction of the bed should be chosen carefully.
- North energy is helpful if you want to be more independent, objective, spiritual or artistic. It’s a flexible energy that helps to deal with problems in life.
- North-west energy represents experience and maturity and it great for fostering leadership, responsibility and organizational skills.
- North-east energy is piercing and quickly changing. It’s good for clearing your mind and become more decisive. It also encourages one to be more competitive, work harder and look for new opportunities.
- East energy represents early morning and the new day. It’s a great energy to start something new. It brings enthusiasm, confidence, and ambition.
- West energy represents a conclusion, end of the day and harvest activity of the autumn season. It makes you more content and relaxed.
- South is fiery, passionate and useful energy for self-expression and being more social, warm-hearted and is a good energy for promoting yourself and gaining recognition and influence.
- South-west is ideal energy for improving quality of work and being more practical and realistic.
- And finally, South-east energy and wind symbol make this Chi energy perfect for spreading ideas, teaching, talking, writing and create art.
Using soothing colors is crucial to achieving good feng shui balance in the bedroom. Walls and ceiling in all bedrooms in the Villa 9W are painted white as well, so we brought the favorable by Feng Shui “skin colors” and natural tones by using warm lighting and bedroom accessories.
Just like any other traditions, Feng Shui has evolved and it is still a living and breathing set of principles that have spread across different disciplines and branches of science, what stayed the same is the human in the center of it. As long as human civilization exists, we in some form will be drawn to and learn about these concepts, whether through traditional texts of Chinese philosophers or simply from our daily lives and observation.