I'm a real newbie when it comes to Feng Shui, although I've known about it for a long time.
When I lived in Norway, one of my friends gave me this little book as a gift, knowing I was a designer and might enjoy it. She practiced a bit of Feng Shui and, well, she had a nice life. So maybe she was on to something?
Lucky for me, I have a good friend who practices Feng Shui as a designer and is a true believer in the process and benefits.
Today I’m excited to share my blog with Amanda Gates, interior designer in the Nashville, Tennessee area.
Her work is beautiful, colorful and globally inspired. She promotes sustainable living and products, which spills over into her design style. I feel like she’s my hip little design sister. ;-)
Amanda is going to answer some of my very basic questions about the practice of Feng Shui and how it relates to interior design.
Carla: First of all, tell us a little about your business and your path to where you are today. How did you become interested in Feng Shui, become educated, and then come to practice it in your work?
Amanda: Feng shui...well...it totally fell into my lap — no joke! I was at a borders bookstore (remember those?), and this woman walked up to me and said, “You don’t need that book, you need this book.” And she handed me a Feng Shui book.
Her name was Marlene and she had a Phd in metaphysics. She taught at the local university and she sent me down the rabbit hole. After that I dropped med school, signed up for design school, and the rest is history.
And I should also mention that my main instructor from school was a feng shui master - so I knew I was on the right path. That was over 20 years ago and I haven’t looked back!
Carla: I imagine there are lots of tips you can share that are specific and actionable, but let's start with a general overall understanding of some of the basic tenets. I'm guessing those tenets drive all the tips and application of the process. Can you give us the simplified, easy-to-understand version of the overall concept? [Insert smiley face grin, knowing that's probably like asking an accountant to explain taxes or something. :-) ]
Amanda: It’s actually quite simple. Feng shui is about creating an environment that supports you rather than depletes you. So think about your environment as a level. You know those things handymen use? When the level is off, you know the item is not balanced. It’s crooked and it feels funny because it’s off. In fact, when you see the crooked item what do you want to do? Fix it and straighten it. Feng shui is no different. It takes a little bit of practice, but most of us know instinctually that things are crooked or off. Feng shui is the level, the tool, to balance things out so they feel good.
Carla: How does the average homeowner, who wants to go about using Feng Shui in their home, begin? Aside from reading, studying, accumulating the information and hopefully applying it correctly on their own, would a personal consultation with a practitioner (is that what you're called?) be in order first? I am completely in the dark here about how it works!
Amanda: In my opinion, the one that counts, haha, the best way to go about it is to first hire a practitioner. There is a lot of misinformation out there about feng shui — there really is — and a homeowner can get really overwhelmed, quickly.
My fear is always they’ll become overwhelmed and then give up. Or freaked out and give up. Here’s what you need to know about feng shui: It’s a tool to create an environment that works in tandem with your goals. It’s not about clutter, moving furniture, or even asian decor (although it can include those things), but it’s about working from a full tank. Leveling out your space so that together you can go out and kick butt in the world.
Carla: What would a consultation be like?
Amanda: Each practitioner is different. I’ve been studying for over 20 years and I’m currently going to school to get my master level in feng shui. I take feng shui and what it can accomplish very seriously.
SO my consultations are extensive. But some practitioners are just getting started, so their methods will be entirely different. I also think it depends on the style of feng shui they studied.
My consultations start with a floor plan. This tells me everything I need to know about the person who lives there. What most people don’t know is that our floor plans alone shape our experiences. Our homes are literally our third skin - so they eat, sleep, and breathe our energy. It sounds bananas, I know. I totally get how this can sound wacky, especially if you are new to feng shui. But from your floor plan alone I can get a snapshot of what you are experiencing in life. I can see infertility, mental illness, nagging problems, health issues, money issues, arguing, conflict, even why you can’t find the love of your life or get your career off the ground; plus way more.
In fact, just last week I was working on a plan that had a small, seemingly insignificant detail that to most would mean nothing; but, to me, I saw health issues in the head and neck with little support from family and friends. So when I mentioned it to the homeowner she was shocked because she was just diagnosed with thyroid cancer and was struggling to get anyone to help her.
Your home doesn’t lie and tells me everything I need to know :)
Carla: Would you do a walk through and discuss recommendations on furniture arrangements, etc.?
Amanda: A local consultation always includes a walk through. A feng shui consultation can easily be 4-5 hours. I rarely move furniture, unless it’s necessary. It really depends on what is showing up for the homeowner and what their goals are. If they are struggling with respect at work, you better believe I’m gonna be moving furniture. But more often that not I’m working on an energetic level.
Here’s the thing: the type of feng shui I practice is based on intuition and mystical knowledge that’s been passed down. Now without getting too weird here, there are two ways to approach a physical result. The Ru-shr which is the logical, explainable cure that's within our experience and knowledge so we can explain it; or the Chu-shr - the illogical, completely unreasonable cure that is outside our experience and is often unexplainable. Which is no different than praying to god and having the FAITH that it’s going to show up.
For the first 12 or so years of my practice, I did Western feng shui, which works more with the Ru-shr. Mainly because people would get a little uncomfortable when I got too “woo woo” on them. But here’s the thing: I wasn’t getting the kick ass, mind-blowing, unexplainable results that I wanted. I would get results, but I wanted holy crap this is unbelievable results! So when you work on an energetic level like the Chu-shr, many times it goes way beyond moving the furniture.
Carla: Would it be an ongoing consulting-type process? Like I said, I am completely in the dark here about how it works!
Amanda: Great question!! It all depends on your goals and intentions. And here’s the thing: I will rarely do 100 things when I am out at a home - even though there may be 100 things I could do to help you get the results you want. Let’s take infertility (I get this one a lot!). I have all sorts of really great tools to help a person conceive. But do I need to do 50 cures? No. Typically one or two will work. But, depending on your personal Chi (energy), we may need to implement a couple of other things. There is no one system that works for everyone. But when the baby is born, your goals and intentions will shift. That booming career you once craved may turn into something entirely different when the baby, or two, shows up.
So as the intentions and goals change so does the feng shui.
Carla: As a designer, do you use Feng Shui in all your design work?
Amanda: Yes, I have two services I provide: a VIP concept service for DIYers, and a full service interior design. All of my full service and VIP concept services include feng shui in the mix. Now that doesn’t feng shui the whole house, necessarily; but, if you hire me to do, let’s say your living room, that room will be decorated with intention. Or whatever room it is you hire me to do.
So, for example, I recently was hired to do an outdoor, free-standing porch for a homeowner. Her back yard is raised above the driveway so you look up at this porch (her house is on a hill). I designed it with feng shui practicality in mind so that it felt comfortable and “leveled”. Remember the balance I spoke of above?
Well a friend stopped by and suggested my client move stuff around because she couldn’t see all the furniture as she looked up at the porch. What she didn’t know was that the design was done intentionally. Because the porch is up on a hill, safety is an issue. Whether you realize it or not, your subconscious is always on high alert keeping you out of danger. It’s that evolutionary fight or flight. If the furniture had been laid out the way the friend had mentioned the client’s subconscious would have been screaming: danger! danger! This affects the thyroid and the adrenals, and, over time, could deplete the homeowner’s health. So, when I say that my design practice is “Design with intention” I mean it’s literally designed with intention!
Carla: I’m hearing that feng shui really kind of guides your design decisions.
Amanda: Absolutely. It has to. I work off the five elements and many other feng shui principles. The best compliment I can get from a client is... “Omg, this space is incredible, and it feels so amazing!” That’s not just a beautiful space with great interior design (although that helps!), but that’s good elemental feng shui in practice. It’s why our slogan is “Design that feels as good as it looks!”
Carla: Okay, now let's talk tips. I'm particularly interested in furniture arrangement, living rooms, or especially family rooms. Are there some tips you can share about the arrangement of furniture in this space that often has a big tv, a fireplace, and is most likely open to the kitchen/breakfast room?
Amanda: Okay, so here’s the thing about feng shui: you can have anything you want, anywhere you want, and furniture doesn’t always play a role. Now I know what you’re about to say... “Hold the freakin' phone!!! That goes against everything I’ve ever known about feng shui.” Am I right? Like I said above, there is a lot of misinformation out there about feng shui.
With that said, there are some things that must be taken into consideration. It depends on where this room falls into the floor plan, what life area it represents, and what is showing up for the homeowner. The big thing with furniture is feeling comfortable. So if you don’t feel safe, that fight or flight response will kick it into high gear.
Are their sharp corners; does the layout make sense; does the room feel leveled?
So for example let’s take an open concept room that has a sofa and four chairs. The sofa and two of the chairs are on a wall, but the other two chairs are floating in the room. If those chairs that are floating have low backs, you better believe they will be the LEAST favorite chairs in the room. You consciously don’t notice, but trust me your subconscious is taking notes on everything - and those low, floating chairs don’t feel safe.
As for the fireplace: this can really depend on where it falls in your floor plan. And it depends on the homeowner’s personal Chi (energy). So, for example, let’s say the homeowner has a dominant fire element, having a fireplace in the center of the home could be explosive on many levels. This is where consulting a practitioner will be helpful. Trying to figure out these nuances on your own could be frustrating at best and disastrous at worst.
Same for the kitchen. Where is it located in the home? The front? The center? What type of kitchen is it? This is where my craft truly shines. The layout is what tells me what is showing up in your life. The furniture plays a very small role - unless you are a hoarder.
Carla: I had one question from a fellow designer on Instagram who asked about bed placement. Does is it have to face east? Is that a tenet of Feng Shui?
Amanda: I do not practice compass feng shui. And here is the theory on that from my Professor: "We use a moving bagua (a map of the life areas in our homes) to correct for the weaknesses of absolute direction. Directional feng shui can put you at risk or harms way. You cannot become a prisoner of absolute direction because it can give up your power.”
Our principles strongly believe each space is different and has a power position that may not lend to absolute direction. If you are told to face East, according to your birth date, but your back is to the door, that is a weakness of direction. And you are now in harm’s way.
So, when it comes to bed placement, it’s always best to face the door. That is the power position so you can SEE what is coming at you in life.
Carla: Is the practice of Feng Shui applicable to other aspects of life besides interiors? Is it related to other arts or practices?
Amanda: Feng shui can be applied to many things, and it ties to many things. It can be used on land, a house, your desk, your car, even your cell phone.
Carla: Have you had any strange or unique requests or happenings with a Feng Shui project or consultation you're able to share?
Amanda: I recently did a large home with many challenges. The homeowners were experiencing a lot of water damage, and they were struggling with their son. Because so many strange things were happening in their home they suspected ghosts. Turned out they did, in fact, have two civil war ghosts on their property, but those guys weren’t contributing to their challenges. So they hired me to work with them. While that isn’t really what I do, I was able to eliminate the ghostly activity and, more importantly, fix the feng shui so that the chaos would calm down.
Probably one of the most bizarre things that ever happened was a gal called me a couple of years ago crying, saying that she didn’t understand why I practiced this feng shui because it just doesn’t work. I asked her why she thought that and she said that her finances were a wreck and. after doing everything, nothing worked. I asked her what she had tried so far and she said she put popcorn on her toilet. I couldn’t help but laugh because I thought, “Where on earth did she hear that?” Well, she apparently read a quickie article online that said popcorn boosts wealth if you place it on your toilet.
A LOT of misinformation out there — hahaha!!!
Carla: What's on the horizon for you and your biz? Can people outside of your area book a consultation or get some help with Feng Shui, design, and holistic living?
Amanda: Things are really rocking and rolling for us. It was recently announced that I was selected to be on the DBC advisory board, which is a great honor. I’ve also been nominated as one of the top 3 interior designers in Nashville. But the biggest celebration this year has been being chosen as one of the top 25 blogs in the world from The Global Design Post. They researched thousands of blogs for over six months and wanted to select designers that had a unique perspective. They chose my blog as one of the top 25 because they said I made feng shui cool and approachable. I really love that because my goal is to show people that you can have an incredibly beautiful space that is intentionally designed with feng shui purpose.
I also have a book coming out this fall and another on the way (maybe beginning of next year).
As for what’s to come after that? I can’t really say. But we have an incredible marketing plan that is about to roll out this fall that’s geared at educating people about feng shui and the possibilities it can provide them. Our world is in disarray, and we are living in some pretty nasty times. So now more than ever I want people to have spaces that light them up and make them feel good!
I do consultations all over the world. In fact, I do more consultations out of state than I do in Nashville! We can do it via Skype and phone; or, if you are so inclined, I can also fly out and do a personal in-home consultation as well. The sky is the limit. And when your feng shui is right, you’ll be breaking a lot of glass ceilings!
Wow! I feel like I got a great crash course in feng shui! How about you?
If you have some questions for Amanda, leave them below. She’ll be answering them herself. You can also get in touch with her via her website and these social platforms.