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What is feng shui?

What is feng shui? Image of bedroom with money tree
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re wondering exactly what feng shui is, a term you’ve probably heard of concerning home design, then you’re in the right place. We’re going to dive into exactly how feng shui can be used to make your surroundings flow well and feel natural, to improve your home, and create a general sense of calm. 

Feng shui has origins that stretch back to ancient China, with the term translating in English to ‘wind and water’. In essence, feng shui is all about creating harmony within your surroundings, and can be applied widely to the orientation of buildings, and more specifically your home’s layout, to promote a peaceful atmosphere. 

There are two parts to the process. Firstly, you must become aware of your surroundings and how they affect you. In the second part, you must aptly respond to these feelings, and change your space accordingly. One great way to try out the benefits of feng shui is with the best home design software and the best interior design software, as these programs and apps give you an organized view of your home in both 2D and 3D. By using software before you make any changes, you can feng shui your home in a more coordinated manner.

How to feng shui your home: a quick guide  

  • Focus on entryways 
  • Open up your sleep space
  • Work in a smarter place
  • Banish clutter 
  • Create circular social spaces 
  • Use plants well

1. Focus on entryways  

Entryways are crucial in feng shui and hold essential power over your entire home. That’s because those who practice feng shui believe that this area is the initial access point of Qi. Qi is, in the broadest sense possible, thought of as energy, either good or bad. It’s the way that all opportunities flow into people’s lives and the focus of many feng shui practices.

The flow of Qi is why it’s so crucial to make sure your entryway is a calm space, and distinct from the hurry of the world outside. If you have a large open plan home, either an apartment or a house, then make the most of your extra space by incorporating as many feng shui elements into your entryway as you can: these are water, fire, earth, metal, and wood. You don’t need a literal embodiment of these elements, but instead, you could channel them into paint colors, water features, and the addition of small houseplants, alongside wooden furniture like this unit from Home Depot.

Not every home has enough room to dedicate so much attention to their entryway. If that’s you, then you’ll want to adopt different tactics as you feng shui your home. Those with long narrow corridors at the front of their home can direct energy to the living spaces by placing a centerpiece - either a piece of furniture or art - at the end of the corridor, inviting Qi to social spaces rather than becoming trapped. 

Or, if you have an entryway that opens directly onto a living space, then be sure to create a zone of calm by avoiding putting furniture too close to the door, and allowing energy to freely move around these areas instead. You’ll find that this buffer zone is not only good feng shui, but allows those entering your home to have more time to adjust to their surroundings. 

What is feng shui? Image of entryway with wooden furniture

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Open up your sleep space  

Now that we’re past the entrance to your house, the single most important room of your house to apply feng shui to is your bedroom. That’s because those who practice feng shui believe it affects the rest of your life deeply; it’s the place of sleep, relaxation, and fundamental personal relationships. 

The first thing to think about as you transform your bedroom is the placement of your bed. Feng shui dictates that you should never position your bed so that your feet are facing the door, or with your head directly next to the entry point, as this blocks Qi from manifesting within the room. To create the best environment possible, position your bed with a solid backing behind it (rather than floating in the middle of the room) and avoid blocking your windows if you can too.

You should also prevent placing your bed directly under overhanging beams and shelves, as they create a negative downward force that can throw you off balance, according to feng shui. This is especially important concerning a shared bed, as the practice believes that a beam hanging over a bed can cause a divide in energy. The same rule of symmetry applies to installing nightstands in your bedroom; you should always have one on either side, so you don’t throw off the essential balance. For more tips on maximizing calm in your sleep space, check out our feature on the 5 bedroom design mistakes that could be affecting your sleep.

3. Work in a smarter way  

If your bedroom has become your home office over the last year or so, then you might be struggling with how to incorporate both work and rest in the same space. Feng shui can help with this dilemma, by helping you assess exactly what you need your workspace to bring to your life, rather than the other way around. If you spend a minimal amount of time working from home, shrink your desk size down to reflect this, and get back to enjoying your bedroom as a haven of relaxation. Desks like this one from Walmart will free up plenty of space in your room. 

If you’re going to be working from home for the long haul, then think differently about how work affects your space. You can do this by finding the ‘Command Position’ of your bedroom or office, which, in feng shui, is the most empowered position to deal with the challenges life might throw at you. It should be a spot where you can survey the room, and see the entryway, so you’re more in control of what might happen. 

You should be empowered by the ‘Command Position’ to feel more positively about the challenges that will arise as you work. To go one step further, why not hang motivational art or quotes, and feel inspired as you work.  

What is feng shui? An image of home office with motivational message

(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Banish clutter  

Nobody likes a messy home, but in feng shui eradicating clutter in your home is essential if you want to banish negative energy. Built-up clutter gathered on sides or around your home prevents the balance that feng shui is centered around, and leads to a disorganization of energy, which becomes blocked and dragged down.

To work toward a more focused and balanced home, try and get rid of clutter and things that do not serve a purpose. If the idea of relentlessly sorting your things makes you feel a little panicky, then start small, getting rid of things that are easiest to let go of. Or grab a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and try and apply her world-famous tips.

What is feng shui?

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Create cohesive social spaces  

Similar to the bedroom, applying feng shui to living and dining areas requires real focus as to what you’ll be using the space for. In most cases, these will be your spaces for socializing, and this should be your principal thought as you organize your furniture and decor. You should focus on the positioning of your sofa specifically when tackling these rooms, remembering not to have any seats positioned away from the door, where energy flows in. 

Also, try to create social spaces with a circular design, whether that be with chairs or your choice of furniture, to break away from lines and create more of a united surrounding. This is so Qi can flow around the space rather than being consistently blocked off. Adding mirrors to these dining spaces is also popular within the practice, as they’re seen as a harbinger of wealth (and they’re pretty good for maximizing the impression of space too).

Feng shui can be nicely applied to garden areas too. Organize your garden furniture so that you still have a focus on everyone being able to see and interact with one another, and tie the same principle into any pathways you have too, by curving them rather than opting for straight lines. For more inspiration on how to bring freshness to your garden, check out our guide to the best landscape design software

What is feng shui? Image of living room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Incorporate plants

Plants are a staple of many home interior trends, but with feng shui, plants are principally thought of as a cherished living thing, which can bring positive energy into the home. Concentrate your plants into your living areas, rather than your sleep space, and improve the vitality of those spaces instantly. You can benefit from the addition of plants when it comes to the five essential elements of feng shui too. 

You can make plants in your home work to your advantage by placing them in corners to relieve sharp edges and create more of a cohesive atmosphere, as well as picking plants, like this aloe vera from Home Depot, or a money tree, that promotes positive energy. 

Molly Cleary

Molly is the Staff Writer for the Home Section at Top Ten Reviews, joining the team after finishing college. When she's not writing she enjoys baking and embroidery, as well as getting stuck into a good book.