Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Long and Winding Road

Have a really long hallway or passageway in your space? Most of the times when you do, it is a dark, plain and uninteresting place to hurry through.

Dark hallway via Google

Look familiar? Not only people, but ch'i would get though here as quickly as possible! In practicing Feng Shui, we want the ch'i to slow down and meander through places. So how do we make this a pleasant and interesting place?

Updated hallway source here

The easiest way is with lighting, lots of it. When you have a wider hallway, furniture is great for adding interest, just make sure it is not obstructing the traffic flow. High ceilings make it appropriate to have hanging fixtures, but in-ceiling lights or updated track lighting is also a good choice. Adding a skylight would be ideal if your hallway is under a single story roof.

Lovely bookcase hallway source here

Here's a smart solution to a long wider hallway, add bookcases or storage. Want a library and don't have a room to spare?  If your hallway is bright enough, add some plants (another good reason to add a skylight), stock the bookshelves with your favorite tomes, add a carpet runner and have a library anyone would be proud of!

Beautiful damask panels add interest

This is a stunning way to add interest to a long hallway. The inexpensive treatment is very expensive looking as well as chic. The directions to make this are here. This idea brings us to another easy answer to an uninteresting hallway: artwork!

Dark wall with white frames via here

Gray walls, black frames via here

Large artwork pieces via here

This is where those family photos we removed from your bedroom go! A family portrait gallery is timeless and interesting to slow down and view.

Wood panels via here

What about a little more challenging fix? How about adding panels to the walls? It adds architectural interest and with high gloss paint adds a bit of light reflecting properties.

My new favorite treatment is striped walls. Look at these examples:

Stripes and initials via here
Great looking stripes here

The wow factor is in overdrive in striped hallways. I love the artwork on top of the stripes, it really adds a personal touch to the grouping. Now, what about the end of the hallway?

Hall in green via here

Although I love the color selection and the photo grouping is a good choice, look at the end of the hallway. The artwork is too undersized to create an impact. We need the depth of that impact to help visually shorten a long hallway. Look at this one:

Lovely art group via here

Although a single mirror is not usually recommended at the end of long hallways, a grouping of artwork incorporating the mirrors is a brilliant choice. This has depth and interest in a small package.

If none of these options seem like they will work for you, don't panic! Here are a few more traditional cures:

A crystal or a wind chime hung from the ceiling in a long hallway will help the ch'i energy stay longer. 

It would be appropriate to hang a crystal in a hallway that has windows or doors  lined up across from each other  as well. Doors lined up across from each other is said to cause confused energy in a space. 

When a door opens into a long hallway, make sure to place a pleasing piece of artwork or a mirror directly across from it for interest. Each piece you hang creates a little "window" in a dark hallway.

If you have doors that bang into each other in a hallway (fighting doors), hang a red ribbon from the knob or place a red dot sticker on it. 

Whew, that's a lot of info for such a utilitarian space! Drop me a comment on your hallway re-do and I'll share it with everyone!   

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Trouble with Balance

Balancing act via Google

If you know a little about Feng Shui you must have heard about Yin & Yang. They are the dual energies in life named such by the ancient Chinese. In western culture we may refer to it as opposites attracting, male/female balance or waiting for the other shoe to drop! All of us know inside when something is off kilter and tweaking is needed to balance it out. Somedays I eat too much junk and soon I am craving healthier choices or at least some protein for stability.

The same is true in decorating/designing our spaces. When I put together an idea for a room I look at the big picture, then mentally start to fill it up with pieces needed for balancing it out. If I'm looking at the overall design  and the main colors will be warm, it may be appropriate that I use cool colors to balance it out. In good Feng Shui the five elements need to be represented as well. Not too hard, right? Well, not so easy either!

Beth Webb via Houzz

Look at the picture above, lovely and serene. A beautifully done beige and white wonder. Why is it so comfortable in feel? Balance and in this case its cousin symmetry is the answer. Well, that and the five elements are represented.

The artwork balances the windows, makes it a whole unit. A horizontal piece of art would have thrown off the dramatic impact of the height. The two chairs balance each other and so do the lamps. The side tables are in balance but notice are not the same. Using pairs in the core pieces makes it symmetrical. Oh, and the textures are gorgeous!  See here for a refresher on what is an element. 

Design by Amelie see more here

The French are masters of symmetrical design. Modern, fresh and hip this room has balanced cool contemporary style with the rustic outdoor feeling of animals and wood. Water, earth and metal elements are well represented too. Love the pop of color on the right and left sides of the room as you enter. Symmetry all over the place but things are not necessarily matched!

Let's take a look at a nice space that I like, it just has a couple of problems. Too be totally fair, this was the before picture (go here for the cute update) of a new homeowner.

via Young House Love

The room has really good beginnings and the five elements are represented but I see this scenario a lot when I am called out to a consultation. It seems a bit off doesn't it, have any ideas? 

One mistake that I see often is the wrong sized area rug.  Area rugs are horrifically expensive and the sizes are confusing! The rug needs to be large enough for the furniture to fit on it or small enough to fit into the space with the furniture surrounding it. Here's a designer cheat; use a huge room sized sea grass rug and place your smaller expensive rug on top. Voila, perfect sizing every time! This one should be moved to the left about 2 feet to put the back legs of the sofa on it. But that would only compound the problem.

Notice the left side of the room is heavier in feel that the right side? That's balance! The furniture, rug, colored pictures and lamps are to the left to be balanced by a teeny tiny TV and console. The patio door helps and later they do put draperies on it which adds to the weigh on the right. Pictures spread out over the approximate size on both walls would do a lot too. Or maybe a huge wall hung TV!

I have a problem with the open ended sectionals I see in ample rooms. Just because it seats 15 compactly doesn't mean other chairs aren't needed to balance out the room. A chair on one or both ends would anchor the set and help with conversation flow in a full house. I would recommend a good sized coffee table for scale. Cute home!

Recently I read Nate Berkus' new book "The Things That Matter" and was so reminded to add into your decor only items that mean something to you and your family. Anyone can go shopping and fill a space with new items, but if you take your time to edit out the impersonal and place old and new cherished objects in your house, you make a home. A home with soul.

So there you go, a primer on balance, but that is only the beginning. Make sure to balance Yin & Yang in the room, add the five elements, loads of cherished items and you are well on your way to a balanced room! 


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

I'm home….do I want to be?!

You know that feeling when you're FINALLY home after a long day? You pull into the driveway or walk up the walk and a you sigh. That is until you walk up to the door. Dead potted plants, spiderwebs from the overhanging rafters, chipped paint on the door.  Not very welcoming. Is this what you see when you come up the walk?

Messy House via

I'm depressed and I don't even live here! This is a case of curb side pick up to the rescue. The front walk and door is what people see as a first impression of you and your family. This is, as they say, not so good!

I would paint the door a darker color, can't see the roof color but maybe a door in the dark rust/brown family. Or use one of these color choices:

Colors via Design Seeds

The color of the house seems to be OK, orangey shades are welcoming and the path is not straight up the yard to the door, so the bones are there. 

I'd say that storing the junk, placing a healthy potted plant or two near the door, putting out an updated welcome mat and some flowers in the flowerbed would go a long way! Also a wind chime, a decorative flag or a mobile would attract energy that will come into the house with you.

Ready, let's open the door, shall we?

Entry Hall via

Hey, at least the coats are hung up and the hats are in neat rows! Could have been coats, backpacks, shoes and assorted sundries are all over the place. Oh wait, there is! More orderly perhaps, but does it say welcome home? At home are you trying to hide from peeling corners on the wallpaper, scuffed up paint, smudges on the woodwork? And if you are coming in through the garage and laundry area, I'm so sorry! We don't need to even see what you'll go through.

Like I say, it could be worse, but let's see what could be done with a really small space.

Tiny entry via Google

Now this is a bit better. Even though this is a tiny space to the right of the door, look at all the organization going on here. I imagine the shoes are stored in the bench but you'll need to fit a boot tray in there for the snow areas of the country. In a small entry the big difference will be that the entire jacket wardrobe can't be there. Pull out only what you'll wear on the day when space is at a premium. I'd add more hooks so we could put the dog leash into the mix. Love the little decorative touches and it seems to do the trick to welcome us in such a small space. 

What if you have a small entry with a closet but there's still not enough storage? Take a look at this :

Hall closet re-do via the

Sometimes re-thinking an area is a smart option, a good DIY project if you are a bit more seasoned. This family now has a seat to put on shoes, hanging area for coats and storage galore! I've had clients where we've had to hang up the bicycle or stroller on the wall in an entry, not ideal but organized at least. If you are lucky and have a mudroom, vestibule or garage entry outside the house, great! Putting away stuff is still a priority but at least you don't have to deal with putting it away inside!

Color is an important factor when re-doing the entry. I mentioned orange shades as welcoming, but what if you don't like that color?

Orange entry via Houzz

Here is a more earthy orange with black. Don't forget the color spectrum is wide. Oranges could go from the palest peachy pink to the deepest rust. 

Yellow is another good entry color for welcoming guests:

Entry via

Yellow? This particular entry is painted a creamy yellow off white. The flooring and lighting also cast a yellow glow. This is a very simple but effective entry hall, a tray for keys, letter sorter for mail and a small lamp for a night light. The closet is probably off to the left for storage. (Wrap that cord up off the floor, oops sorry, couldn't help myself). As always, when in doubt, go green! Green is the color of life and growth.

What if you have stairs coming right down to the front door? Unfortunately, not very good Feng Shui. Ch'i (energy) scoots right out the door in that case. You want it to meander around your entry hall and not head on out too quickly! My favorite cure for stairs going straight towards the door is an overhead light with clear crystals like so:

Via Lamp Plus

Via Lamps Plus

Both are good choices for decorative purposes and to keep the ch'i in check. Look on lighting websites for great ideas in fixtures that add crystals to your interior design style or hang a simple 30 mm crystal from the ceiling if you wish. 
Another cure for stairs heading out the door is a circular or octagonal area rug. The ch'i is supposed to hit the rug and be flung into the room! 

These ideas are just a sample of entry hall designing. The key points here are organization and removal of clutter inside and outside the door, fixing the boo boos while changing out the color and any needed cures for the staircase out the door. Then that sigh at the end of the day will be for day end relief and not a sign of more stress!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Absolute Dream Kitchen

Dreaming of a kitchen that only serves up delicious food, nothing burns and all the dishes clean themselves?

Super organization via Transition With Style

Well so am I! But until the Jetson's are a reality, we are mere mortals in the kitchen subject to bad cooking and burned dishes.

So maybe you're looking at your kitchen and thinking you may need to refresh it a little for the spring or you are working on a total gut. (Been there, I still bow in homage to the dishwasher every time I load it!) And we need to deal with that eat-in area too.

How can we make the kitchen a more comfortable place to work? There are loads of sites and designers to help you plan it out, but is it right? Why is it some kitchens have been around a long time and still don't need any help except minor touch ups? Stay tuned my friends……

In Feng Shui, the kitchen represents the healthy heart of the home, it's related to wealth as well. It's where nourishment is made and fire was the source of fuel. Today we have many types of "fire" that is used as the cooking source, but the idea is the same. Whomever is cooking needs a calm and focused workplace without jarring interruptions that disturb their energy. Interruptions include people and pets running in and through, chaotic organization, lack of cleanliness and a improperly positioned stove. We want people to gather for nourishment and company not add stress.

Paula's Meltdown via Google
Don't worry Paula, we're going to get it all sorted for you! We are striving for a happy, active place where people are drawn in and the cook feels creative. So…..
The first thing is to look at your countertops. People are not the only thing drawn to kitchens. Look at all the clutter on the countertops! Appliances, dishes, baskets, mail, knives…KNIVES? With that harried cook around, maybe we should deal with those first. Knives are dangerous and disturb the calm ch'i (energy) flow in a kitchen. They should be in a drawer. If that is not practical, a wood block away from the stove with under-counter lights will soften the sharp edges. Anything that is not used on a daily basis should be stored behind doors and in drawers. The exception is fresh food. Decorative baskets or bowls with fresh fruit and veg keeps us in the mood for healthy eating. The best overall shape for your counters should be an undulating shape or curved edges. Not stone if possible. Keep prep out of the corners which are "sharp" angles and work on a straight counter. The area needs to be well lit, even in the corners and ventilated. Practice good hygiene when cooking and put everything away after food prep and eating and you should keep an organized countertop. Overhead racks also add to the cluttered feeling and give an oppressive feeling to those that work or sit under it. Keep only prized decorative items on it. Reclaim your kitchen from clutter!

Love this!
Yum, fresh fruit in wooden bowl

Organized Martha via Google

Next,  just because it's behind closed doors doesn't mean you're in the clear. Go through your cabinets to see what clutter lurks there. Remove all empty jars, broken storage containers, lids that have no partners, chipped dishes and cups, broken and unused appliances and anything that is outdated, including food. If you are truly saving it for something, put it in a craft area, recycling area or shelves in an organizational area of the garage or mudroom. And maintain an area for recycling cans, bottles and papers out of the kitchen. Don't forget to clean out the fridge and freezer. Hide the trash can! Really, the best thing is to just purge. When you remove the old clutter, you make room for new, usable items. Try to practice healthier eating and buying, your family will benefit from it. Oh and good job Martha!

When designing a kitchen, the stove, sink and fridge should form some kind of triangle. If the sink or fridge ends up next to a stove, easy fix. Place a butcher block cutting board, a wooden bowl of ripening fruit or potted herb plants between them. That maintains the balance between fire, wood and water energies. Remember last week's post on balance in the bathroom? Check my archives if you need a refresher. The fridge can face a door because you spend hardly any time there. Hopefully the kitchen is not near the front door (always eating? hmmm…) or if there's a bathroom near, keep that door closed!

The stove should be placed so the cook never has their back to the main entrance of the kitchen. Oops, what if that can't be? A mirror placed behind the cooking surface is the traditional cure. Hmmm… works if you clean it every night. How about a shiny stainless steel or copper tea pot on the burner or next to the stove? Another traditional cure is a wind chime or clear crystal between the door and stove. Remember, it is all about intention. Make sure all the burners are clean and working and USE all of them, even if it is at different meals. Stoves below windows are not good Feng Shui, the energy goes out the window! No clocks in the kitchen or eating area, no one rushing here! Have cooking oils in decorative bottles, fresh herb plants, streaming sunshine through clean windows and family activities posted on the fridge and you are on your way to the perfect kitchen!

Perfect Feng Shui stove cures via Google

What about color? Traditional Feng Shui suggests kitchens should be white. This is so the food is the star. Imagine red and green peppers, purple eggplant, yellow corn against a white backdrop. The food would pop! I happen to love white cabinets, but this is so I can use a strong color on my walls. Yellows and greens are good. Yellow is an earth color and gathers people together. Green is a nurturing wood color for growth. I think if you use all natural materials whenever possible, you are on to something. Wood cabinets are wonderful in kitchens because they ARE natural, just make sure the ceiling, floors and counters are not also wood. Balance again! Try to steer clear of too sleek kitchens with tons of metal. If you happen to adore the look though, go for it! Just balance out with some natural elements in decorations or furniture.

Which brings us to the eat in kitchen. Feng Shui practitioners advocate round or oval tables so no one is the king of the table. Harmony reigns supreme. Keep it out of a busy crossroads area and have separate  instead of general lighting. Place plants around the area, calm artwork is a must, no abstract Picasso's here! Your brain will try to discern the art and not concentrate on the food. Soft tablecloths, good lighting (keep the ceiling fan off if you have to have one) and use candlelight for your evening meals if you can. Soft, calm, relaxing and inviting is what we're going for. Here would be good place for pops of red to stimulate conversation. Keep the clutter off the table but add fresh flowers. Who wouldn't LOVE to eat in a kitchen like that!

Pretty white, balanced kitchen via Pinterest
Write to me with any kitchen concerns you have and I'll see what I can do to help you out. Relax and have a good time in your kitchen!