The worst part of buying a feng shui book…is trying to figure out where to put it!
This issue is devoted to health and well-being, and for me, interior and design is an integral part of the wellness equation. According to the Global Wellness Institute: Our homes, communities and environment affect our daily motivations, behaviors and lifestyle and these factors determine 80-90 % of our health outcomes.
Wrap your head around that one! Isn’t it clear if you visit a home and the dog is barking, the TV is on and there’s dirty dishes spread across a counter, you just don’t feel so good, it can be unsettling? Conversely, you enter a home with light, open space, tidy and clean, maybe even some great jazz on the radio, and you instantly feel in a good mood? It’s not about the size or style of your home, it’s about creating a feeling and an ambience that is nurturing and healthy in all ways.
Although I do not specifically practice feng shui or a particular school of holistic design, I believe my 30 years of experience has made the process intuitive when working with clients. I would love to share some guidelines and ways to make your home healthier. We have enough stresses on the outside world, and the importance to our health and well being has been well studied when it comes to our environment. How to get started?
The first aspect in reviewing your space is simple; The 4 basic elements of design: Balance, Symmetry, Proportion and Harmony. These four elements must synchronize. Take one room as a start and analyze the walls and furnishings in these terms. Are items on bookshelves displayed with symmetry? Are bigger items with more mass weighted toward the bottom, lighter, smaller on top? There’s nothing worse than seeing an entire volume of books on a top bookshelf, and then skinny, thin, glass picture frames on the bottom! And, I’ve seen it many times….
There is a trend currently to play with scale in light fixtures, bigger being better. I love this, but I recommend hiring a designer if you are unsure how to achieve the balance and proportion for this current trend. A good designer will have the experience and know the mathematical rules to achieve an amazing impact if that is the goal!
Next up, here are the five elements I believe create harmony, and reduce stress and anxiety from your home: Consider the whole view of a Room.
Create the Perception of space as you look into a room… Look at all the details from furnishings to accessories to art, how does the overall picture take your eye through the space? If you can edit, pare down and simplify but also understand the rhythm of how your personal items or art can create interest, you will have a good start. Studies have shown that a sense of spaciousness will elevate your mood and creativity, so consider that and start editing!
Let there be light!
Ok, this is one of the most important things you can do to affect your mood and well-being. Natural sunlight is a mood-lifter. It boosts positive thoughts, productivity, creativity and promotes better sleep as well as other benefits. Just as a grey day can make you feel down, sunlight has proven mental health benefits such as alleviating depression and anxiety. So, after you edit your room, look at your lighting situation, and if you are building or renovating: put in the biggest doors and windows you can! Another pro tip: Do not flood your ceilings with millions of canned lights, use what is minimal per application. Add dimmers to every room. Bring the lighting down to eye level. Use lamps with soft, diffused shades. I love lamps on kitchen counters, it can be charming and create a great mood after you’ve cooked dinner! Task lighting should not be used for relaxing, everyday lighting. Use sconces on bathroom walls, don’t mount lights over a mirror. It will make you look tired, not very flattering!
Choose a harmonious color pallet.
As everyone knows, color is psychological. Your choices of color will affect your mood as much as the lighting situation. But while you may not be able to change your windows, you can change your paint color. This is another area where expert advice can really help, but the internet is also an easy way to find some great combinations of color palettes. Reading the paint colors that designers love, and use is an easy way to get going on new paint colors. You don’t have to paint every room white, there can be a lovely dance of shades between rooms and spaces, but keep in mind my point above about considering the perception of space. Sometimes using a very dark color to pull your eye back into a small space can be amazing but here I defer to hiring an expert if you are unsure how to achieve this drama.
Art. My favorite subject!
Everyone needs art in their home. Whether it’s minimal or maximal, art is a key element in creating an emotional and sensory experience in your home. Art is very personal, and powerful. Consider how the art in your home makes you feel. If you bought it just to fill a space, it may fall flat because it literally isn’t filling up your (heart) space. See what I mean? Choose art that gives you a connection to something. It can be family photos, or a painting from travels. Just make sure you know why you have it in your home.
Check out this from the Huffington Post: “There is a reason why art has served as a means of soulful self-expression for centuries upon centuries. All forms of art, from painting to dancing to music, are very personal and emotional experiences -- both for the artists and the viewers. While it is a common experience to fall in love with a certain artwork, scientists now have evidence that shows the brain reacts similarly when viewing artwork and when falling in love. New research by Semir Zeki, Professor of Neuroesthetics at University College London demonstrates that viewing a beautiful work of art creates the same chemical response as love. Both experiences trigger the feel-good chemical dopamine. So, if you're missing that special someone, perhaps partake in a daily dose of art inspiration.” - Huffington Post May 18, 2011
As I did research for this article, I was overjoyed to find the science behind why I love art so much! I love going to art galleries and collecting for my home. Little did I know that it was this amazing happiness dopamine fueling this fire….
Last but not least: Bringing Nature indoors.
Having plants inside or simple cuttings in water is another element to creating well-being and health. It almost goes without saying how desperately we all need connection to nature. Especially when we are stressed. And as you look at the flow of your home, go back to the basics at the beginning of this article again and look at the scale and proportion, etc. of your plants in a space. Remember, the plants should lead you in and through… keep things feeling open and light. Don’t cover all the windowsills and block the light. Use natural elements to establish your goal of a beautiful flow inside your home.
I really enjoyed sharing these ideas for Southern Oregon Magazine. The fact we have chosen to live in this beautiful space is indeed a blessing. And no better time than the present to continue to focus on our health and well-being, and especially in our homes.