"Feng Shui is all about improving the energy in our living spaces – to create a 'just right' feeling," said Susan LaForte, of Amherst, MA. LaForte is certified as a Feng Shui practitioner. Feng Shui literally means "wind and water." According to LaForte, the practice of managing your living space to better your life experience has evolved from many different cultures around the world. "It's an old art and practice that transcends culture and time," said LaForte.
The Chi Test
LaForte, who works in people's homes all over western Massachusetts, said that she first applies what she calls the "chi test" (chi means life-force in Chinese). "First you have to really consider the furniture you already have. Does your energy go up or down when you look at it?" she said. LaForte explained that the most important aspect of Feng Shui is "to have only things around you that you truly love - which is a tall order. People often have old gifts, inherited pieces, furniture and items left over from old relationships."
Part of the chi test, LaForte said, involves recognizing how your furnishings make you feel. "Is what you have in the room supporting and nourishing who you are now? When you come home, you want to feel happier and healthier," said LaForte.
The Command Position
A part of Feng Shui, which LaForte considers "the tip of the iceberg", is the "art of placement." Start with creating the "command position" in your living and dining area. LaForte said that, for example, if you have a couch or easy chair (that you really love), it should be placed "away from the door and facing the biggest view. It gives a sense of security to have the greatest view of the room from your seated vantage point," said LaForte. "You always want to feel safe and protected, which leads to a greater over-all sense of confidence in your life," she added.
Creating Space with Lighting
LaForte said that when working on Feng Shui in a combined living and dining space, one way to make the space feel bigger or give a greater sense of separate rooms, lighting is the answer. "I find, first of all, that most spaces can almost always use more lighting. Lighting in general gives you a sense of more space. If you have differing lighting (in a combined living/dining area) you will feel like you have two separate spaces," she said.
The Emotions of Color
Another consideration when applying Feng Shui concepts to a living and dining space is color. Use of color is also a major aspect of Feng Shui. "Every color has a spiritual or emotion aspect attributed to it," LaForte said. "When you are thinking of a color, go with your intuition – that is your best guide," she added. LaForte said one of the best colors for a combined living and dining area is orange. "Orange is a fun, warm, happy color. Orange enhances communication and stimulates appetite," said LaForte. She added that orange can also just be used to color an accent wall.
In terms of a more bold color, red, LaForte advised, "Be very careful. It's a very active color, very vital, and is good to help with overcoming fears. However, red strongly stimulates the appetite so it's not a good color in the dining area if you are looking to lose weight."
For the living room area, LaForte suggested painting it yellow. "Yellow is warm, it's the color of sunlight. Yellow is warm and enhances and focuses communication," said LaForte.
If you are thinking of using Feng Shui techniques in your home, LaForte has recently put together a booklet made up of information she has been providing her clients over the years. The 56-page booklet, titled "Awakening Your Feng Shui Soul," costs $15 including the shipping and handling, and can be purchased from LaForte by writing her. "It's a practical guide for everyday use," she said. You can also study the art of Feng Shui online or explore books at your local library.
Arranging a Feng Shui Consultation
If you'd like to use Feng Shui in your home, but would like professional help such as LaForte's, expect to pay upwards of $200. LaForte said that she discusses a person's home and provides them with a questionnaire before she goes to her client's home. "I like for my clients to be able to consider some thought-provoking questions I provide ahead of time. Then I spend about two hours with them in their home to identify their specific goals," she said. Hopefully, by the end of the session, you will be able to move from home improvement, to your home improving you.