Thursday, February 14, 2008

Selling your home quickly with Feng Shui

Curb Appeal, Home Staging
by Jennifer Emmer, of Feng Shui Style

When people walk into a home for sale, they decide within 15 seconds  whether they want to buy it. Obviously first impressions count! Although we recommend a full blown Feng Shui consultation for pumping up all areas of your life, if you're selling your home, the common sense principles of Feng Shui are especially important to increase your bottom line in a major way.

What if your home could attract not only buyers, but money, success or even love? Feng Shui practitioners believe that arranging your environment can enhance your life in all of those areas. Now that Feng Shui is becoming a household word, people are starting to embrace it for use in staging their homes for sale in the cooling real estate market.

What is Feng Shui?

Originating in China almost 6,000 years ago, Feng Shui literally means “wind” (Feng) and “water” (Shui).

Feng Shui is also referred to as “Geo-mancy” or “Earth Wisdom.” It is an ancient method of constructing and optimizing residences to bring about happiness, abundance and harmony. It includes architecture, urban planning, interior design, garden design, and placement of objects in our environment. It also involves the layout, framework, materials and colors of building structures. These rules of thumb allow us to make the most ideal arrangement in any given situation.

There are different types or "Schools" of Feng Shui. This accounts for a great deal of the confusion that exists. The two oldest forms are the Compass School, which uses a compass to determine the orientation of a home and therefore its prosperity, and the Form School, which addresses external and internal environments and their effect on the occupants.

Here at Feng Shui Style, we employ both of these schools in our practice.

Let's get down to business!

Feng Shui can appear to be similar to interior design or home staging, where experts are hired to make your home more "saleable". Feng Shui differs from interior design or home staging by addressing the following topics, as well as other less obvious ones:
  • Topography
  • Structure
  • Placement of objects
  • Yin & Yang
  • The Occupants
  • The 5 Elements
  • The Bagua
  • Full blown interior design based on Feng Shui assessment
For more details on the above, see an overview of Our Services.
One of the first areas to attack is clutter. Clutter can negatively impact a client's ability to attain wealth, and it certainly won't sell your home.

Being a Feng Shui consultant is very much like being a detective. You can walk into a client's home and "read" what's going on, just by looking around. If a client's home has a room that is all wood paneling, we would say it had "too much Wood". We would balance out the wood by adding metal and fire, to "bring the wood down" a bit. Metal and Fire could be literal, or figurative. A metal table would qualify as "Metal", but so would a large gray rug, since gray is the color of metal.

Adding Fire might mean adding red candles all along the mantelpiece of the fireplace, or figuratively, painting some of the walls red, which is the color of Fire. Oftentimes home stagers place a bowl of fruit out in the kitchen. A Feng Shui consultant might place that bowl of fruit in the South East corner of the kitchen, or the "Wealth Corner", since fruit is a symbol of wealth, to pump up the wealth of the occupants while they are selling the house.

Bright and cheery entrance in Saratoga, California, curb appeal, feng shui

The First Impression: The Entrance!

In China, red is supremely powerful. It represents relationships, fame, reputation, and wealth. It's also a fabulous color to paint your door. It's very welcoming, and it leaves no guesswork up to potential buyers. They will be able to find the door quickly and easily. It also conveys that the owners are powerful, and even thwarts burglary!
Mood lighting, curb appeal, home staging, night, feng shui

Don't forget Curb Appeal.....

A curvy walkway that leads buyers to your front door is not only good Feng Shui, it's good curb appeal. Plant some colorful flowers, especially red ones, and make sure to fix anything that is broken or dirty. If you house is overgrown with shrubs, have them trimmed back. Buyers need to be able to see what they are buying. An imaginative paint job is another way to play up your house. If you are lucky enough to have interesting architectural details, use different coordinating colors to maximize the effect. Yellow is welcoming and it makes the house feel grounded.


It may seem obvious, but the best thing you can do for your home is to clean it (thoroughly) and remove all the clutter. With Feng Shui, you want to affect all the senses of prospective buyers. Even if the place looks amazing, a cat box smell can be a real show stopper. Light some pleasant smelling candles during your open house, or simmer a small pot of water on the stove with cinnamon or other spices in it. It will fill the home with a smell of something baking in the oven.

Men's favorite scents? Fresh cut grass, apple pie, and vanilla. If you can find a way to have all three going at your open house, bravo! [Interesting note: "Tommy Girl" perfume contains all three scents...]

Women's favorite scents? Warm scents (like vanilla) top the list of Midwestern women's favorite scents. Women in the South go for clean/soapy scents. Almost everyone loves lavender and roses.

The Kitchen, carrera marble island, red chairs, home staging, contrast, feng shui

The Kitchen: The #1 Deal Maker or Breaker
Avoid the two red flags - outdated and dirty

If you can swing it, the biggest bang for the buck is replacing outdated fixtures, countertops, etc, with inexpensive but lush-looking solutions....such as:
  • a stainless steel "cover" for your dishwasher, which will instantly update it
  • painting your fridge to match updates appliances (see more on this below)
  • a concrete poured counter which you can color with any stain you like, then seal
  • tiny glass mosaic tiles for the backsplash - a great way to inject color into the kitchen.
In both kitchen and bath, you can regrout the tile - in lieu of replacing it - for a fresh, clean look.


Vinyl tile and linoleum are the most cost-effective quick fixes, but make sure you choose something that either looks REAL, or desirable. For example, if you go with vinyl, choose one that looks like stone, not one that looks like vinyl.

For linoleum, you could do a really retro checkerboard with two modern colors - like alternating brown and robin's egg blue tiles. Of course you want to update the whole kitchen with the same scheme - so paint the walls and/or cabinets to match whatever you choose for the floor.

kitchen, feng shui, home staging, lighting, modern

Men tend to love demolition. Before the man in your household pulls out the sledgehammer, consider this:

The fact is, probably 80% of kitchen cabinets out there can be salvaged! Many just need a coat of paint, or stain (dark stains are in). Remove the cabinet doors, take them outside, and sand them before painting or staining. New hardware (drawer and cabinet pulls) covers a multitude of sins, and can steer your kitchen into the 21st century. Pay attention to contrast. For example, if you go with dark cabinets, make sure walls and floors are lighter, to create contrast, and keep things light.


If you can't afford to do a full-blown renovation in the kitchen, use appliance paint to cover up your old "harvest gold" 1970's appliances. For more, click here:

Update Your Kitchen for Under $100 with Appliance Paint


In the kitchen, stage it so people can imagine cooking there. A large bowl of Granny Smith apples is a wonderful design touch. Or, put a bottle of wine on the table, with a decorative cheese and cracker plate next to it. Help the buyers use their imaginations.
Asian style spa bathroom, feng shui

The Bathroom
Make sure people want to rest in your rest room!

In Feng Shui, the bathroom is about getting rid of waste - consequently, you want to make the experience as pleasant and "spa-like" as you can. Add some plants, seashells, or other things from nature. Spring for some new colorful towels to quickly change the vibe. Remember, a can of paint costs about $25 and it provides the single biggest impact.

To create the illusion of space, many people are replacing their old sinks with new "retro" pedestal sinks, which create visual space by exposing more of the floor. If you prefer a vanity/sink combo, go to a stone & marble place and ask for a granite "remnant". Use this as your countertop for a really luxurious and updated feeling. You'll save a lot of money this way - especially if you do the demo yourself.

If your bathtub is basically in good shape, but has resistant stains, it is possible to apply a new coat of enamel with a paint sprayer. Get a professional to do this for you. Look in the yellow pages under "bathtub resurfacing". You can also change the color of a dated tub to something more neutral this way.


Scour your filmy shower door with one part muriatic acid and 10 parts water. Scrub it with steel wool. After rinsing, your shower door will look brand new.

The Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom, home staging, feng shui, gender neutral furnishings, bright, airy

The master bedroom should appear large, balanced, and "gender-neutral". This means that a flowered bedspread and pink walls are out. A classy duvet cover is a great inspiration for a design theme. Colors like beige, brown, cream, yellow, gold, maroon, and green are "gender-neutral".

If you need help, call the pros. People definitely need to see the master bedroom as a large, luxurious space. Remove personal items, such as framed photos, and stacks of papers. The buyer wants to picture what it would be like to move right in. Having personal items around makes them feel like an outsider.

Seeing the outside from the bedroom is a big plus. If you can, install french doors that lead to the garden.

feng shui, home staging, living room, color, lighting
Living rooms - fireplaces, seating and lighting

If you have a fireplace, consider yourself lucky. If it's blah, you can quickly add zing by either painting it a contrasting color to the wall, or adding decorative hand painted tiles on the surround, for example. Keep items on the mantle to a minimum. Just a few key pieces is all you need. Put at least one tall, dramatic item on the mantle - a vase with flowers, a tall statue, candlesticks, a topiary, etc.

Hang either a key piece of artwork over the fireplace, or a mirror - but make it dramatic. If you have a historic home, do not do any major work to the fireplace without consulting a professional. You could seriously bring down the value of your home by disturbing original elements.

When grouping your seating, make it "L-shaped", or "U-shaped" not "confrontational". In Feng Shui, when two couches are placed opposite each other, it actually causes people to become confrontational with each other, instead of having a nice flow of conversation.

To make the room feel more formal, make sure each piece of furniture has an end or side table. To make the room feel less formal, use a large ottoman instead of a coffee table. Stage the room with a snack or fruit on the coffee table, and some soft music playing. By all means, unless it's 90 degrees out, have a fire blazing in the fireplace! If your fireplace doesn't work, put a large candelabra inside, and light candles on it.

feng shui, home staging, home theater, bonus rooms

Playrooms, Home Theaters, Bonus Rooms
Show off your square footage

Anyone lucky enough to have these types of rooms should pay special attention to their impression. Don't make the mistake of thinking "Well, this room is really big, so they won't notice the:
  • fake 1970's wood paneling
  • ugly and stained carpet
  • horribly mismatched furniture
  • cold industrial blinds
  • blah white paint job..... etc.
Sometimes less is more. Take a long, hard look at the room. What jumps out at you as "wrong"? If it's furniture, you are lucky. Remove it! An ugly paint job is another easy fix. When repainting, make sure you use a gender-neutral color that appeals to widest audience. If you have paneling that you want to get rid of, paint it! You can degloss the paneling with TSP, or a light sanding. MAKE SURE TO PRIME the paneling first, before painting. Use a low-gloss paint (like eggshell), which will minimize the lines of the paneling.

Since basement rooms are often paneled, I prefer to paint over it, since the vertical lines help give the feeling of height, and therefore space. Furthermore, many a hapless homeowner has removed their paneling only to find a nightmarish situation underneath. See the "All you ever wanted to know about paint but were afraid to ask" section.

Regarding floors, did you know that linoleum is back in style? Amazing! There are many new, fun colors available, too. It's very reasonably priced, environmentally friendly, lasts forever, and comes in easy to install tiles. For playrooms, pantries, laundry rooms, and even finished garages, you really can't beat it. For more on this, see the links below.

Home theaters are becoming more popular, as people want a place to hide their enormous TV's. Cardinal rule of seating? Try not to have people's "back to the audience". In other words, you don't want to walk in the room and bump into the back of the couch. Make sure you have enough lighting. Lighting can often create a mood that can radically change the feeling in the room.

For example, changing the lighting from flourescent to an incandescent pink lightbulb can take the room from industrial/cold to warm and inviting in about a minute! Pink lightbulbs are available anywhere you find lightbulbs, and they are VERY light pink - to cast a subtle glow around the room.

vintage linoleum, colors patterns, home staging, feng shui, Armstrong

What Is Linoleum?
From the Armstrong website:

Genuine linoleum, not to be confused with vinyl, is a classic, invented nearly 150 years ago and still completely relevant today. Environmentally preferred linoleum is made from natural, raw materials. Linseed oil, which comes from the flax plant, is the primary ingredient. (In Latin, linum is the word for linseed and oleum means oil.)

Other ingredients include wood or cork powder, resins and ground limestone. Mineral pigments provide the rich colors. The ingredients are mixed together, then rolled out between two cylinders (a process called "calendaring") onto a jute backing. The linoleum is then cured in ovens for 14 to 21 days.

The resulting floor is then rolled on cores, ready for installation. Sheet linoleum is available in many thicknesses. 2.0 mm is suitable for residential use. It is sold in a two-meter (or 6' 7") width size.

All about paint.....

We heartily recommend Benjamin Moore paint colors - especially the historic line. Also, the new "Affinity Line" has been specially mixed so that each color coordinates with all others in the collection.

Benjamin Moore Homepage

Explore color with the Personal Color Viewer.

No two homes or the families that live in them have exactly the same personality and color is not only a wonderful way to showcase your home but also to express your family's personal style.The goal of this lens is to give you all of the information you need to select the perfect palette for your home painting project by bringing all of the resources together in one location. Choosing the color should be the fun part of the painting process!

IMPORTANT NOTE: We custom mix colors to specifically pump up certain areas in your home. For more information about this, please email us at:

Unique features, large windows, views, living room, colors, home staging, feng shui
Play up your unique features

In Feng Shui, water is like money, flowing around you. If you have a water view, by all means play it up. Other super selling features are sun porches, wraparound porches, large windows, guest cottages, detached garages, finished basements, swimming pools, fireplaces and original historic details.

Any way you can distinguish your home will help it sell. 

To pump up your home's "reputation", place red objects in the southern part of any room. Red is Fire, and Fire is the Element of Fame/Reputation.

Feng Shui and your personal taste

Feng Shui is really an art, or a science. People often worry that Feng Shui will "clash" with their personal style. Others fear that it is a religion! Feng Shui is definitely not a religion. It is a way of balancing out an environment such that the energy meanders and flows in a beneficial way - and that, in turn, is palpable to the occupants and guests.

unique style, home staging, feng shui, play up features, color

People tend to fixate on things they have heard, such as "Purple is wealth". While purple is definitely a prosperous color, if the client doesn't like it, we can offer a variety of other options, depending on their personal taste, and what's best in the environment.

One of the most important elements in selling your home is your garden, or landscaping. If your home is a palace, but no one wants to come in because of your yard, you're losing out on multiple offers. We routinely work with landscapers to maximize the curb appeal of your home.

Balance is what Feng Shui strives to attain and, whether it's your business or your home, having the right energy flowing through it is crucial. Oftentimes, after we Feng Shui a seller's home, they are so pleased with the results, that they decide to take it off the market and stay!

Top Ten Feng Shui Hints for Selling Your Home
  • Make sure you cannot see a toilet from the bed. If your bathroom is directly in view, mask it with a decorative Japanese screen, or hanging curtain.  home staging, clutter control, decluttering, lighting, light, bright, airy
  • Make sure your feet are not pointing out the door while in bed. This is the "death" position. If you have to angle the bed, do it. The bed should be symmetrical - with matching nightstands and lamps. 
  • A headboard is key. If you don't have one, get one, or make one. Paint the bedroom a soothing, light, neutral color, such as green, gold, taupe or beige.
  • Clutter is the opposite of Feng Shui. Go for S-P-A-C-E by clearing out EVERY unnecessary item from your home. 
  • Paint your door red! (Unless it's facing East...)
  • Let there be light! Add lighting or mirrors to blah areas to pump up the energy.
  • Keep your porch and outside lights on at night! Make sure people can see your house numbers - make them large!
  • There shouldn't be any heavy beams or heavy light fixtures directly over the bed. You can paint beams the same color as the ceiling to make them visually "go away".
  • When planning seating arrangements, make sure no one has their back to the door.
  • Go for Yin, as well as Yang. Make a nice flow throughout the house by adding a round dining room table.

Visit our Feng Shui site at: Feng Shui Style

Friday, February 01, 2008

Kitchen Design & Feng Shui: Are you pumping up your wealth, or burning it up?

In Feng Shui, the kitchen represents nourishment and prosperity. How you design and decorate the kitchen can dramatically influence your health, and, surprisingly, your wealth.

The first thing to bear in mind when considering any Feng Shui advice is that ultimately, Feng Shui is a complex practice with several different schools, and the recommendations will vary from school to school and from one practitioner to another. So too, advice will differ depending upon the unique home - and the unique people living in it. Despite the fact that different schools may have diverse views on some topics, there are basic Feng Shui principles that apply to all kitchens.

First things first....

The first thing to bear in mind when considering any Feng Shui advice is that ultimately, Feng Shui is a complex practice with several different schools, and the recommendations will vary from school to school and from one practitioner to another. So too, advice will differ depending upon the unique home - and the unique people living in it. Despite the fact that different schools may have diverse views on some topics, there are basic Feng Shui principles that apply to all kitchens. At Feng Shui Style, we use the Compass School and Form School, the two oldest forms of Feng Shui.

Kitchen Placement within the Home

The first thing to consider when looking at the kitchen is its placement in terms of the whole house. We can't always decide where each room in a house or apartment will be in relation to the others, but if you're working with new construction or doing extensive renovations, ideally the kitchen will be in the back of the house, at least behind centerline of house.

In any case, it's better if you don't see the kitchen immediately upon entering the house, as this can cause digestive, nutritional, and eating problems. Having the kitchen at the entry point can also mean that guests will come over and eat and then leave immediately, and such a placement can also encourage the inhabitants to be obsessed with cooking and eating (of course some people don't find this to be a problem).

If your kitchen is in the front of the house, don't panic; there are always remedies. Try to hide the kitchen from the entrance - or at least "screen" it. You could hang sheer or beaded curtains over the kitchen door, or install louvered doors. Another idea is to provide something delightfully eye-catching across a hall or in a vestibule near the kitchen. That way, attention is diverted from the kitchen upon entering.

Kitchen Layout

It is very important for the cook to be in a "commanding position" while cooking at the stove. The cook should be able to clearly see the doorway without turning around. Renovating a kitchen so this is achieved can be particularly challenging. Many modern kitchens have the range facing the wall.Many Feng Shui consultants recommend hanging something reflective, such as a mirror or a shiny sheet of decorative aluminum, over the "backsplash" area of the stove. The reflective surface can be any size, but the bigger it is, the more powerful the correction will be. In China, the number of burners on the stove represent the families' wealth. By adding a reflective item like a mirror behind the burners, you are effectively "doubling your wealth".

Kitchen Islands

For a dramatic solution to the "back to the audience" dilemma, consider installing a cooking island. Placing the stove in a central island allows the cook to see the entire room, including the doorway. Beyond the Feng Shui benefits, a cooking island is practical. The wider your view, the more you'll be able to comfortably talk with dinner guests or keep an eye on the kids as you prepare the meal.

A Stylish, Compact Kitchen Island

This island has all the necessities, yet it exudes sophistication with a soapstone top, and rich wood with Craftsman detailing. What a gorgeous solution to a Feng Shui problem! Instead of isolating the cook, families and guests often gather in the kitchen and participate in the meal preparation. Also, busy working couples use dinner preparation as an important time to unwind together.

The 5 Elements
and the Kitchen Triangle

A good kitchen design is based on a traditional triangle model, with the sink, refrigerator and range making up each point of the triangle. There should be a 6-8 foot distance between each appliance; this allows for maximum convenience and a minimum of repeated moves. Because you'll have that space between each of the major appliances, it should be easy to adhere to the Feng Shui principle of having fire elements separated from water elements. A good way of separating fire and water is to add something made of wood in between, such as a plant or a painting of a plant.

The Kitchen Stove

The stove represents health and wealth, so you want to use the burners on the stove top equally, rotating their use rather than habitually using a particular one. This correlates with getting money from multiple sources.

A regular stove, as opposed to a microwave, is preferred because it is more in keeping with the Feng Shui belief that we should slow down, become more conscious of each activity, and do activities with intention. Heating a quick meal in the microwave is certainly convenient, but doing this may not lead to the most serene state of mind.

Many Feng Shui consultants (including myself) are concerned with excess radiation and electromagnetic fields and advise against a microwave altogether. A steamer and a toaster oven can achieve everything that a microwave can, with better quality. Obviously, each home and family will have to find their own balance between modern conveniences and optimal Feng Shui practices.

In summation

The kitchen should be kept neat and uncluttered, and any broken appliances should be thrown out. It is better to have no toaster than one that doesn't work. In Feng Shui, windows should not be placed over stove because heat represents prosperity, and you don't want your prosperity flowing out the window.

Luckily, Feng Shui isn't only about having a room with good ch'i, or energy; it's also simply a practical guide for design. For this reason, Feng Shui can be used with any style of room. Some of the most popular trends include:* a contemporary look, with solid colors, wood and granite, stone or marble* a luxurious look, with carvings, corbels, and cabinets with legs* a Craftsman or other simple style.

Any of these styles can be successfully combined with the principles of Feng Shui to make for a kitchen that's functional, up-to-date, and easy on the eyes.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

In Layman’s Terms...

Simply put, proper Feng Shui will make you feel fabulous in your home or office. It’s largely common sense. For example, it just feels better to have your back to a wall and see the door in your office. To have your back to the door, you tend to feel anxious that someone will sneak up on you. This makes you less productive. This is also why in a restaurant, men prefer to take the seat against the wall, looking out, with a view of the widest expanse of the room. They instinctually feel more able to protect their partners in this position. They are also safe from attack, which undoubtedly hearkens back to hunting and gathering days. Feng Shui intuition runs very deep, and we all feel it. Knowing how to manipulate it is another matter. Feng Shui is about taking care of a myriad of rules and details like this, in your home or office, which all add up. The overall effect can be improved dramatically by using these rules to adjust your furniture, objects, colors and materials. Once you learn about Feng Shui, you will never see the world the same way again.

There are many facets to Feng Shui, and it takes many years to become a certified Feng Shui consultant. For example:
  • Topography
  • Structure
  • Placement of objects
  • Yin & Yang
  • The Occupants
  • The 5 Elements
  • The Bagua
  • Full blown interior design based on Feng Shui assessment
For more details on the above, see:

Feng Shui Overview

There are also what I call “mundane solutions”. In other words, if you wanted to be wealthier, a mundane solution might be to read up on the stock market, save a certain amount of money every month, or look for a new job. A Feng Shui solution might be to add a large purple flowering plant to your wealth corner. That way, when you entered your house, you would see the purple plant and it would be like a visual reminder that you were attracting wealth.

Combining Feng Shui with ‘mundane solutions’ produces the best results. For instance, you wouldn’t “pump up” your relationship corner, and then sit home every night. How would you ever meet anyone? Feeling great in your home has a profound affect on how you feel in general, when you’re out in the world, and consequently explains why people have such marvelous results after doing a consultation. You give off very attractive “vibes” when your house has proper Feng Shui.

Finally, there is luck (heavenly and earthly), and fate. Some combination of all of this will determine how your life unfolds. There is no such thing as “perfect” Feng Shui, so it is not something to obsess over. You may implement changes quickly, or slowly, and watch what happens. It is a fascinating blend of art and science, and many people become enraptured with it as they embark on the journey.