What is Feng Shui? | An Interior Decorating Guide

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy that seeks to find balance and harmony between elements. Incorporating feng shui goes beyond Western design tenets of comfort or aesthetic. Instead it places emphasis on physical and mental health, success, and healthy relationships, which is brought on through positive energy flow.

Often referred to as the art of placement, in the simplest of terms feng shui is about positioning different elements to optimize “Chi,” or energy. The term is comprised of two words: “feng,” meaning wind and “shui,” meaning water. Not only are these two elements basic and vital to human existence, but they also move and flow around the world.

While the principles of feng shui apply to many elements of life, they are commonly practiced in interior design because the tools used in feng shui analysis can most easily be applied in the context of a home.

Feng Shui Elements

 The five important elements of feng shui are wood, metal, earth, water, and fire.

Symbolizes growth and vitality. Placing wood items in your space encourages personal growth. Plants and wooden furniture are easy ways to add this element.

Symbolizes logic and intelligence. It supports knowledge and mental sharpness. Add this element to your space with metal frames or sculptures.

Symbolizes stability and balance. It helps to ground and stabilize. Bring the earth element inside with rocks, crystals and landscape imagery.

Symbolizes wisdom and serenity. It helps with clarity and relaxation. Mirrors, reflective surfaces and aquariums are ways to add the water element to your space.

Symbolizes passion and energy. It’s representative of transformation, expansion and volatility. Use candles and red objects to enhance your space with fire.

The Bagua Map

The most common tool in feng shui home design is the bagua map. The bagua map helps analyze energy in a given space, and suggests what elements to bring into the space to enhance the flow. Each of the nine quadrants on the bagua map has an element and color associated with it, which can help inform your decor. The nine quadrants are Wealth, Fame, Love, Family, Health, Children, Wisdom, Career, and Helpful People.

Below, we show the Western interpretation of the map, but there is also a traditional map. The traditional map is defined by compass direction, which makes navigating it a bit more difficult for feng shui beginners. If you rather avoid using compasses, stick with the Western version and simply divide your floor plan into a grid.

How to Use a Western Bagua Map

If you’re new to feng shui, the simplest way to apply the bagua map is to overlay it on your floorplan. Simply draw your floorplan and place the nine-quadrant bagua map on top of it. The doorway should face south and align with one of the bottom three squares.

Though it is common for people to feng shui a whole house or apartment, you can use the bagua map on as large or small of a space as you’d like.

Bagua Map Decorating Tips

To promote the correct energy flow in each quadrant, it is important that you decorate with the correct objects and avoid objects that inhibit proper energy flow.

General Feng Shui Decorating Tips

1. Make a good impression with your front door.
In order to attract energy into your home, you need a welcoming front door.

2. Clear the clutter.
Too much mess prevents the energy from flowing and also clutters your brain. A clean space gives you room to breath and to clear your head.

3. Make use of crystals.
Use rose quartz for love, tourmaline for protection, or citrine for healing and wealth.

4. Make sure air and light can get in.
Since air is a key component to the very meaning of feng shui, it must be allowed in. A combination of natural light and air will bring in good energy and rejuvenation.

5. Place the bed and desk towards doorways.
Facing the entrance increases power and minimizes vulnerability.

6. Add a natural element.
Decorate each room with a houseplant. Not only do they improve the energy, they also increase health and naturally purify the air.

Feng Shui Decorating Tips By Room

If you prefer to apply feng shui principles to a room rather than a whole house, here are some things to keep in mind.

Living Room

When designing your living room, begin with the largest piece of furniture you have (typically, a sofa). Make sure it faces a door or opening and is placed against a wall, ideally the one furthest from the entrance and allow for a few inches of breathing room between.

If you have additional seating like a lounge chair, choose where to put it based on what is conducive for conversation. Try not to cramp the space. The goal is to create energy flow.

When deciding on a coffee table, try to avoid harsh angles. If a circle or oval feels too contrasting to the rest of your furniture, just contrast the shapes in the smaller element as this creates better balance.

Use sheer window coverings to allow light in but prevent energy from escaping. If you prefer completely uncovered windows, try placing a plant nearby.

Adding red elements will help invigorate the room and help to energize.


Similar to the living room, start with your bed and place it far away from the doorway, but not directly facing it. Try to avoid having too many electrical components close to your sleeping space.

If possible, avoid putting a television in your private space. This often becomes the focal point of the room, which takes away from the calming energy.

Combine masculine and feminine details to make sure both parties are represented and a balance is established. If you have a metal or wooden bed frame, choose soft-colored linens.

Fill your bedroom with cozy material to invite a restful, calming energy. Using hues in green and blue can add to this type of feeling. Clearing out whatever is under your bed also helps energy flow.

Home Office

The biggest tip for home office decor is removing the clutter. As much as 50 percent of your desk should be clear, which means it’s time to hide those cords!

Similar to the layout in the other rooms, position your desk facing the door because this gives you a position of power, which is important for your place of work or productivity.

Decorate this space with a few personal objects like a family photo and incorporate greenery as the energy from plants will help you stay focused. To invigorate the area, add red details.

In terms of color, use gentle yellows and greens to calm and center. Add earth tones for stability and flowers or a motto to remind you of what you need to accomplish.