Transforming your home with feng shui

As a result of her new Netflix series, Marie Kondo is big news at the moment - with people across the country sorting through their clutter in a bid to tidy up their homes. The ancient concept of feng shui encompasses everything that Marie Kondo teaches, while also focusing on the flow of energy between different rooms. We speak to feng shui advisor and author, Davina Mackail, who shares her expert tips on bringing some balance into your own interiors…

To transform your home, you might want to look beyond a simple clear out of your old clothes and kitchen cupboards. By focusing on the energy of your home and embracing the concepts behind the ancient Chinese art of feng shui, you might see truly astounding results. Although it is a complex subject, feng shui aims to bring sense and harmony to your life by managing the invisible flow of ‘Chi’ through your home. Chi is considered to be the ‘vital life force,’ a nourishing energy that consists of air and water elements (feng meaning wind, and shui meaning water).

While the practice originates from China, the principals can be found in cultures across the world. Although it may take the form of different customs or rituals, feng shui is a universal concept. In the West, we’ll organise a housewarming party when we first move to a new home. Without realising it, the gathering of friends and family is a feng shui concept, as the positive well wishes of your friends and family help to clear the energy left from the previous owners and mark the house as your own.

Many believe that feng shui is a mysterious set of rules that dictate where your furniture should go, but it is actually an understanding of how people are affected by their surroundings. Change your environment, and those changes will run through into the different aspects of your life, from your relationships to your business.

Wisdom that works…

Davina Mackail began exploring the subject in the early 1990s while setting up a telephone business in Hong Kong and China with a business partner from Asia. It’s common practice for a feng shui master to visit a new business, in order to encourage good energy, positive employee relationships and good fortunes. Davina was curious and the more she learned, the more the feng shui concepts made sense to her and resonated with what she had always intuitively believed.

When she came back to the UK, feng shui was just beginning to make an appearance and was starting to grow in popularity. “I think there were only two books on the market on feng shui back then,” says Davina. She trained with the International School of feng shui, which had to fly teachers in from overseas at the time, and acquired a professional diploma. She has been helping clients to bring harmony and balance into their homes ever since, as well as writing, presenting and speaking on the subject.

“I call feng shui a living teaching,” Davina explains. “I’ve been studying it for years but there’s always something new to learn, and it makes sense because it’s the study of how our environments affect our lives, and our environment is always adapting and changing.”

The benefits of feng shui

Feng shui experts believe that everything in your home, from the colours and furniture that you choose to the clutter and arrangement of ornaments, actually reflects an aspect of yourself and your life.

The home is a metaphor for the self – William Morris

“I can read someone’s home just like a fortune teller can read a palm,” laughs Davina. “I once worked with a man who was single and wanted a relationship. When I walked into his home I saw that everything was separated – nothing was paired. Every piece or art or ornament depicted single figures. There were also lots of mirrors, which indicated that he was not prepared to see the real world. I kid you not, there was even a wooden skeleton by a cupboard. Absolutely everything in that house was reflecting his own feelings and no wonder he wasn’t meeting the right person!”

Davina teaches her clients that their house is not just a pile of bricks and mortar; it is a space that has an energy. What happens in a room gets absorbed into a building and when someone walks in, they can subconsciously feel it. The skeleton might be out of the cupboard, but by changing your external environment, you can change yourself and your life with it.

Feng shui your own home

In China, a feng shui masters is involved from the very beginning when a new building is planned, ensuring that every room and space will have a good flow of Chi. They would never build homes in the same way that we do here in the West, so we have to approach feng shui a little differently here and work around any feng shui problems that can at times be difficult to change.

“A lot of people think that Chi flows in a straight line between rooms, but it actually works in a spiral,” Davina explains. “You want it to flow around the room, nourishing every corner in the space as well as the people occupying it. The easiest way to help Chi flow is by removing any blocked entrances and furniture that might get in the way. A chest of drawers by the door with sharp edges and corners will obstruct the flow and feel wrong. Look out for those subtle things that make you feel pushed out as you walk into the room, for example if there’s a mirror positioned right in front of the door and your reflection makes you take a step back. A room should make you feel welcomed, and the layout should encourage you to enter.”   

Our living spaces mirror and reflect our experiences. Feng shui concepts focus on how change in your home will create a corresponding shift in your life too. Walk around your home and consider what each room says about you. Think about whether the artwork represents who you are or what you want to achieve in life and remove pieces that you don’t feel a strong association with.

Another tip is to embrace the Marie Kondo approach and clear out your clutter as a prerequisite for good feng shui. “Clutter clearing can achieve miracles. We’ve all got too much stuff,” says Davina. “We’re all overwhelmed and over-cluttered because of the throwaway culture we live in, and we’re blocking the Chi with it. If you see cobwebs collecting in dark corners of a room, this indicates stagnant, cluttered energy and makes everything feel very heavy and dense.”

Feng shui is also about natural harmony and balance, as Chi can be broken up into water, wood, fire, earth and metal elements. Each one is interchangeable and represents different qualities, for example, metal governs intellect and productivity while wood represents spiritual growth. You can encourage these elements in a room by using specific colours, shapes, and materials. The five elements all have a relationship together and affect each other in different ways, for example, fire puts out water and water nourishes wood. If you wanted to encourage spiritual growth in the living room, you might want to bring in water elements to nourish the wood elements and create a balance.

Feng shui for garden rooms

Davina has worked with Westbury a few times, space clearing the office in order to encourage positive staff relationships and give the energy a boost: “Interestingly at Westbury, the showroom and factory obviously have very different functions, so it was important to marry the interaction between the two areas. The offices have a very homely feel, with a wonderful orangery that feels opulent and comfortable. It’s great to use feng shui in garden rooms and orangeries, as they are designed to be the heart of the home and should feel lively and welcoming. I find that extensions can sometimes be in danger of feeling like an add-on, so try to maintain balance in this room through careful furniture choices and décor to keep it feeling like an integral part of your home.”

Temperature is a key factor in feng shui; if a room feels too hot or too cold then this can create an uncomfortable energy. Temperature control in glazed extensions can be achieved by underfloor heating, and auto-controlled thermostatic air vents will encourage ventilation. These will open when the room warms up to draw the hot air up and create air flow, and close as it cools or when the first drops of rain are detected.

Consider the colour you choose for your garden room, as this strongly relates to the five feng shui elements. White garden rooms will reflect an innocence, but choose earthy colours if you are trying to strengthen relationships. Choose a water-based, low-gloss, microporous paint for a long-lasting, quality finish that creates a protective barrier for the timber. Paints with more pigment content than standard high street brands will result in a striking exterior in a vibrant shade.

For more information about how Westbury achieves architectural balance in our garden room designs, read our case studies here. Find out more about Davina’s work at www.davinamackail.com, or follow her on Facebook here.