Living in the Zen

How modern-day feng shui can lift your home.

Why the art of feng shui creates good karma.

Cover story by Bronwen Gora

Sunday Telegraph June 11th 2006

Should feng shui sound to you like the hippie’s way to a happy home, think again. Only last year a group of Chinese investors launched legal action after the height of a building in which they had bought was reduced from 18 floors to 14. The group was miffed because according to the ancient design practice of feng shui, the numbers four and 14 in Chinese are unlucky, while the numbers eight or 18 are deemed particularly lucky.

Likewise, another group of investors recently took a major developer to court after a building they thought was going to be gold-which in feng shui symbolises wealth and power-actually turned out to be brown.

Feng shui is considered so important now, due to exposure to Asian business practices, that even big players such as Macquarie Bank, ANZ, Citibank and Mortgage Choice have enlisted experts in the field to design their offices. But while the average homeowner may not want to take feng shui quite so seriously, practitioners of the art of placement and design say that, at the very least, following its basic ideas will lead to a happier and calmer life. And at best, it can help attract money, relationships and other kinds of good fortune.

“The aim of feng shui is to encourage the free flow of energy or ‘chi’ through your home”, Eastern therapies and feng shui practitioner Stephen Wayne-Smith explains. “You can channel chi so that it meanders through your home depending on the way you place furniture, screens and objects. If you do this properly, you can prevent the direct flow of negative energy (sha) in a straight line and can make a room restful and calm.”

Feng Shui practitioners believe the energy that comes in the front door affects your prosperity. For that reason they try to avoid straight lines such as direct pathways to the front door and long corridors running right through a home as these encourage a flow of negative energy. Two large green plants on either side of the front door will help entice good energy into a home, as will winding garden paths and an attractive picture in the entry way. If you do have a long, straight hallway, negative chi can be deflected by hanging a light or decorative ornament from the ceiling.

Windowless rooms should only be used for storage as these kinds of spaces are stagnant and “devoid of life chi” because energy can’t circulate. Slanted roofs can cause scattered thinking because the air doesn’t circulate properly, notes feng shui expert Terri Rew. Counter the slope with colourful hanging streamers which help draw chi upwards.

Water is the key to fiscal prosperity and the best way to boost your coffers is to have a small water feature on the left hand side of your front door, or place a moving water feature in an attractive setting in your house.

Feng shui expert Gayle Atherton says water features shouldn’t be used to brighten up a dull area, but rather need to be placed in an already prime and positive position. “Water will only magnify the energy of an area in which it is placed,”she says. “You might find you put a water feature in a good area and all of a sudden someone in the house gets a new job.”

If you’re one of the increasing number of people working from home, Ms Rew suggests bringing fire energy into your workspace stimulates ideas and mental activity. Bright red and pink cushions, candles and feature walls are good, as are triangular shapes which symbolize fire. “These things create an uplifting and activating area for people who want fresh ideas and a move in life,” Ms Rew says; while Mr Wayne-Smith, who runs ZenLiving Natural Health Clinic in Surry Hills, explains a ‘well-fenged’ home needs a balance of objects representing the five elements of fire, wood, earth, metal and water. “You can use candles and lamps for fire; timber floors or furniture for the wood element; pottery and rustic colours to represent earth; metallic sculptures and art for metal; and aquariums and aquatic features for water,”he suggests.

Gardens also need to be balanced in their design, with the five elements being represented by bamboo screens, ponds and waterfalls, bronze or other metallic statues and sundials. According to Ms Atherton, modern apartments and home designs are creating a whole new set of challenges for feng shui: “Everyone’s into lifestyle and nowadays you often find these great big floor-to-ceiling windows and glass fronted balconies, especially in new apartments, and there is nothing to hold the good luck in. It’ll probably mean you will end up with no money. Another classic problem is putting the front door opposite these huge windows which overlook something like an ocean view- but it just means the energy flows straight in and out again. The answer is to screen windows with pot plants, statues, a decorative screen, or the simplest solution, curtains.”

But while Feng shui generalisations abound, proper consultations are a complex process. They can involve working out the horoscope of the home, as well as your own, and your elements. After that, the placement of objects relies on which direction your home faces and other factors.


How will your street address influence your life? Add the numbers of your street address together until you end up with a single digit. The table shows the kind of energy attached to each number.

1 Active and energetic

2 Quiet and homely

3 Social, lots of communication and energy

4 Solid and protective

5 Blessed, happy and lucky

6 Warm, happy and good for families

7 Energetic, active and intellectual

8 Challenging, financial, strong

9 Passive, Introspective,depth


Remove clutter and rubbish in any part of the house or garden as soon as possible, otherwise it can lead to blockages in your life. Likewise any dead or dying plants in the garden are magnets for negative energy and should also be removed.

Bird statues in the front garden of your house attract positive energy and good luck.

Water features to the left of your front door attract good fortune. Not on the right though this could lead your partner to stray.

Try not to sleep under a skylight or with your head against a window. If this can’t be helped, then close the curtains or blinds.

Classic temple lions should be placed on either side of a doorway for added protection and security.

Can’t think clearly? Put plants, flowers and wind chimes into or near your working space.

Stephen Wayne Smith’s clinic in Sydney is a perfect example of a ‘well fenged’ space which flows easily to the outdoors creating harmony and calm.