How to Use Feng Shui

Feng shui incorporates arrangement and design principles to bring harmony, balance and calm to a home decorated under its practices.

Feng shui -- translated to mean wind-water -- is a 4,000 year-old form of Chinese philosophy used to harness an invisible force known as chi to help when building, planning or decorating a home_. Its practitioners believe that chi permeates every aspect of the universe. Teachings state that the two halves of chi -- _yin and yang -- must be balanced in order to promote good health, harmony, prosperity and well being in a home.

Chi is composed of two contrary, but complementary forces. Yin symbolizes the female side characterized by passivity and darkness, also known as chi's shady side, while yang energy represents the male or positive and sunny side of chi.

Multiple Feng Shui Practices

Generally associated with minimalism, harmony and clarity, feng shui includes multiple schools of thought and practice such as Compass, Flying Star and Form School, each with their own disciplines. Practitioners use a bagua map, outlined by nine sectors to analyze associations, functions and colors best associated with each area on the map.

Remove Clutter

Feng shui practices note that clutter blocks the flow of chi. Under these guidelines, disorder inhibits the flow of life-force energy and signifies an inability to progress in life. Remove anything that doesn't serve a practical or aesthetic purpose to give your rooms more space to breathe. Find the optimal place for every object in your home, no matter how small. Keep horizontal surfaces free of built-up clutter and reorganize the space to give it clean, simple lines.

Harmonious Colors

You don’t have to use a soft earthy color palette to create calm, providing each room has a sense of chromatic harmony in relationship to its location on the bagua. Feng shui makes use of colors from Mother Nature: leafy greens, various brown hues and rich deep reds, among other colors. Don't shy away from using bold colors if you're confident that you can cohesively pull everything together.

Add a healthy balance of feng shui's five elements to your home: wood, water, earth, fire and metal. If unsure, use your birth date to determine which of the five elements you come under. For example, if you're a fire person, green could be the key to finding balance, making it a suitable color with which to accessorize your color and scheme.

The bagua can also help you determine which colors work best in each room. Align the bottom of a printout or handmade version of the bagua map with the front door to your home. This diagnostic tool can help you identify energy blocks in your home and choose the right colors to counteract or balance them.

For example, if the room you're decorating is facing east, browns and greens should be your primary colors. But if the room faces west, representing metal, whites and gray offer more suitable harmonizing color options. You can also find feng shui cures to offset the energy of a staircase to the second floor. For example, close in the risers to second story rooms to ensure chi flows up the stairs. Open risers allows the chi to escape and not reach the top floor. Feng shui even addresses the colors for the front door to help bring prosperity and harmony to the home.

Create Symmetry with Furniture

If the sight of a crooked picture or out-of-place sofa is enough to make you break a sweat, creating symmetry will help you to subdue those obsessive compulsive tendencies. Use geometric furniture that slots together like a puzzle and gives you more space. Odd shapes are harder to place. To add more character, blend these pieces with irregular shaped accessories, such as a pebble water feature.

Add Some Life

Live greenery helps to brighten up the space and purify the air, which are two essential components of creating a restful Zen ambiance. According to Chinese traditions, plants represent growth, prosperity and good fortune. Choose common houseplants that are easy to manage. Bamboo palms need very little water and they are very effective at cleaning pollutants -- particularly benzene and trichloroethylene -- from the air.

The beauty of feng shui is that it can be seamlessly incorporated into any style or theme. Feng shui rules are not rigid; they are fluid and to be used as a guideline. Feel free to go against the grain and mold these basic principles around your lifestyle. Fundamentally, after applying feng shui practices to your home's layout and decor, if it makes you feel happier and healthier, it’s a job well done.