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When design and Feng Shui meet

Thursday, November 7, 2013
The Star
By: Benjamin Wong
When design and Feng Shui meet

Feng Shui consultant Joey Yap shares his perspective on the relationship between Feng Shui and interior design.

Recently, I've received many enquiries from readers on how to blend Feng Shui with interior design.

I've experienced working with homeowners and Feng Shui masters who often suggest varying levels of modifications to the design concept.

Therefore, I decided to ask someone with expertise in this field to elaborate on the relationship between Feng Shui and interior design. The best person to answer these questions would be Feng Shui consultant Joey Yap, founder of the Mastery Academy of Chinese Metaphysics and bestselling author of over 100 books on the subject of Feng Shui.

According to Yap, a lot of issues arise from misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. "Concepts are taken out of context and interpreted wrongly," states Yap. "Many people don't know the background and fundamental principles of Feng Shui so they get fixated on what's symbolic rather than what's important. Myths and superstition prevail due to the general lack of understanding."

I mention a situation I encountered with a homeowner born in an Earth year who didn't want any wood or timber material used in his home design because supposedly "Wood is not good to Earth". Yap points out this as an example of wrong interpretation.

"That's the concept of elements taken out of context. Think about it, if you're born in a year where Water supposedly isn't good for your element, do you stop drinking water? No, right?

"Elements are representations of energy types that could influence how you think, the way you perceive, and more importantly, what actions you'll take that subsequently lead to certain results," explains Yap.

"Elements come in the form of direction, location and time, not from objects. These three come from the environment: hills, water bodies, natural contours of land. Not from wooden tables, wood counters and so on."

Therefore, homeowners shouldn't worry about element categories of materials used in the home. There's also no "perfect" ratio of material usage for building material such as glass, bricks or metal.

So it follows that object and item placement has nothing to do with Feng Shui. "Things like money toads, dragon statues and crystals don't have a Feng Shui basis. They have no effect on Feng Shui," explains Yap. "In my Feng Shui for Homebuyers book series, I've debunked the myth about placement of items. Things 'put' are purely decorative. Any effect they have is psychological."

I ask Yap about flashing light Guanyins and Ba Gua mirrors, and he replies that these are not Feng Shui but spiritual, a completely different subject.

"In Feng Shui, the fundamentals are location, direction and time," he emphasises. "There is Qi flow, where Qi is a naturally occurring energy force in the environment. It can't be manufactured artificially. Feng Shui is about these fundamentals and Qi flow."

How about house address, floor or building numbers? "Numbers have no Qi, no energy," says Yap. "If you feel uneasy, it's just a feeling based on cultural background, not Feng Shui." As for colours, they have more psychological than Feng Shui impact, so it's up to you to choose what you're comfortable with.

Practicality and technical requirements take precedence when they clash with Feng Shui.

Some time ago, the owner of a penthouse unit wanted a raised dining hall based on his Feng Shui master's advice. The raised platform must be solid, but we weren't allowed to lay concrete because the extra weight of the loading would affect the entire building. We tried to use other material but it wouldn't give the solid effect.

"The raised platform is purely symbolism," states Yap, after I told him about the above experience. "Nothing to do with Feng Shui. Besides, the dining hall isn't one of the three main areas of the home we look at in Feng Shui.

The main areas are the main door, bedroom and kitchen. Why worry about the small things when it's more important to have good main areas?"

Speaking of the main door, bedroom and kitchen, Yap clarifies that a good main door is one that receives Qi.

"The number of doors doesn't matter. Door position and whether Qi can flow in are more important. The bedroom is important because we spend a lot of time there. If there's more than one kitchen with a stove in the house such as dry and wet kitchens, we consider the wet kitchen as the main kitchen."

I bring up the issue of tilted doors, which often reduce usable space while causing inconvenience and sharp corners inside the house. Yap says that tilted doors are seldom done, perhaps in less than 5% of cases.

"The only reason to tilt the door is to avoid a major negative outcome such as a detrimental effect to the health of someone living there.

"If the reason is just to capture a good direction, that doesn't justify tilting the door.

"It's better to relocate the door while keeping it straight if we need to avoid some negative outside influence."

What should we do in cases where the homeowner consulted a Feng Shui master after construction of major structures, and was advised to remove them even if doing so would incur more cost and cause delays?

"Always ask what's the reason," states Yap.

"Will there be a detrimental impact on the health of someone living in the home if there's no structural change?

"If nobody is born in a vulnerable year, there's no need to take such drastic action."

On the subject of converting rooms for other uses, such as a kitchen to a bedroom, a bedroom to a storeroom, or adding a bathroom to a bedroom, Yap says: "Where you allocate your rooms depends on the building location, direction and Qi flow.

"It's the outside environment that influences Qi flow into the home.

"You put the rooms where they can receive Qi.

"Once you get the direction right, it doesn't matter if you convert one room to another use."

Some Chinese families like to put an altar in the house, and it may be difficult to blend into the interior design.

According to Yap, the principles of placement are the same as positioning someone in the house which receives Qi. So, it wouldn't be in the bedroom, but most likely in the living room or a dedicated room.

On whether or not a basement is suitable for a family hall or bedrooms, it depends on whether the Qi flow and ventilation are okay or otherwise.

"If it feels like an underground car park, would you like to sleep there?" asks Yap.

Regarding the location of the maid's room, it should be a decent comfortable place to sleep in.

For pets, no need to worry as they tend to choose their own favourite spots around the home.

Another important Feng Shui issue is water placement.

"Water that's continuously flowing or visible in a certain volume can stimulate, activate or collect certain types of Qi.

"It's similar to acupuncture for the home," explains Yap.

"The need for water placement, its specific location and duration differ according to situation.

"However, the number of fish isn't important because in ancient times there was no electricity so fish were needed to make the water move."

About private lifts in high end condominiums and residential lifts in three storey houses, Yap says there's no need to worry about them.

Generally, we can't change their location, and it's the main entrance that brings Qi into the residential unit.

Would sleeping or sitting under a beam cause problems?

"That depends on the distance between you and the beam," says Yap.

"If it's high, say more than 15 feet above, it's okay."

Otherwise, covering the beam with a plaster ceiling will solve the problem.

Finally, does Yap think houses with good Feng Shui always end up with bad interior design.

"No!" he says.

He goes on to explain that his consulting firm works with a lot of interior designers and architects, and that his firm follows a comprehensive, five step process involving:

  1. Site assessment
  2. Audit where they recommend changes, weigh the pros and cons, and note the constraints
  3. Develop a report with drawings, options and reasoning
  4. Meet with the interior designer, architect and owner where they do a presentation and take questions
  5. Follow up after implementation

In closing, the Feng Shui consultant emphasises that in home Feng Shui, we must remember that the exterior governs 70% of Feng Shui while the interior only covers 30%.

What you see in front of your main door, the surrounding environment and external landforms such as hills and water bodies have a major influence.

"You can have the best interior Feng Shui, but if you live in a slum where Qi flow is bad, it's not good overall."

And most importantly, always ask for the reason behind any idea or recommendation.

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