What is Feng Shui?

Furniture ArrangementCredit: Anna Hape on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
Credit: Anna Hape on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
Feng Shui are two Chinese characters that literally translate to 'wind' and 'water', respectively. It is rooted from ancient Chinese belief dating back from 3000 years, where the position of the elements can affect the flow of energy, or chi. [1] Proper arrangement of structures or furniture can lead to good luck, while the opposite can lead to bad luck.  
Being a Chinese descent, I am very much aware of how the Chinese can become really superstitious when it comes to furniture arrangement. My parents are Feng Shui believers. It can be frustrating when I am trying to fix the house only to be suddenly reprimanded by them for disrupting the flow of chi. However, as I learned more about this integral part of Chinese belief, I am starting to gain more and more insights about home improvement. Some of the practices do make a lot of sense. In fact, after applying a few rules, I realized that the new arrangement made me feel more comfortable, relaxed, and focused at home.
Thus, I have compiled below a short list of the "sensible" Feng Shui rules that you can also apply to your own home. If you are planning to give your home a new look, you may want to keep the following rules in mind:

Rule #1 The Bed

Credit: Prayitno on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
The bedroom is a place of relaxation after a long day of hard work, so the placement of the bed is a crucial element towards a good sleep. According to Feng Shui, there should be no windows or doors behind or in front of the bed. Imagine yourself lying in bed, knowing that there is a window behind you. You wouldn't feel secured sleeping in that position as someone might be lurking from that window (funny how it will still feel that way even if you are living on the upper floors). If the window faces directly at the foot of the bed, it will also make you feel uneasy. If you have multiple beds in a room, avoid placing your bed in front of the doorway. It will be very difficult for you to sleep well, as other people passing by the door will disrupt your slumber. The best position for the bed is with its headboard against a wall without any windows or doors. The door should be at the side, where you can monitor whoever enters the room.

Rule #2 The Living Room Sofa

The Sofa
Credit: staralee on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
Much like the placement of the bed, the sofa should be placed in such a way where you can monitor who enters the house. It is best that the sofa set is against the wall and facing the door, so you can easily see new visitors coming in even while you're in the middle of, say, watching TV. Do not place the sofa where your back faces the door. You might just get startled by a newcomer. Also, avoid facing your back against the walkway.

Rule #3 The Home Office or Study Room

Home Office
Credit: Dave Dugdale on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The main furniture piece of this room is of course, the table. The placement of the table will determine whether you will focus on your work. Having a conducive environment for work is ideal for this room, and the crucial element to get this effect is your table's placement. Same with the bed or the sofa, your back should not be facing the door. You are doing something important, and someone barging in behind you might just disrupt your concentration. Maybe you have some top secret things to do, and having your back facing the door might just give away your secrets. The same applies to windows. No windows should be behind you. Your table should also not block the doorway. You will just get distracted by the people passing by the door, as you may tend to turn your head sideways to check what's going on. The most ideal placement is to have your table facing the door, with your back against the wall or a book case. It will be a bonus if you have a window beside the table. You will have something to look at for your work's inspiration.

Rule #4 The Mirror

Credit: Richard on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
Mirrors have the ability to startle you when placed in the wrong location. If you don't believe in bad luck, you still don't want to startle yourself, right? Mirrors placed in front of a bed or a door is a no-no. If you just woke up, you will think that your own reflection is a different person and may get alarmed. You should avoid placing a mirror in front of the door as this may also cause an alarm. As you can see, the general idea here is to avoid putting a mirror in places where it can lead to your distress.

Rule #5 Lighting

Credit: Alex on Flickr (CC-by-2.0)
If you want to give a good impression to your visitors, the living room is your starting point. Lighting plays a huge role to set the right atmosphere. Having a well-lit living room is a good Feng Shui practice. It will make your guests (and also yourself) feel welcomed. Bright light wards off bad luck and improve your mood. Lighting may come from natural light through the windows. If you don't have enough windows, you can adjust the brightness by adding more light fixtures in the room. On the other hand, your bedroom doesn't require as much amount of lighting as in the living room, as too much brightness may not be conducive to sleeping.

Rule #6 The Size of the House and the Number of Dwellers

Credit: SpaceShoe | Flickr
A big house is for big families. A small family only requires a small house. It is not a good Feng Shui to have the other way around: A big but nearly empty house feels lonely, while a small crowded house may inconvenience the dwellers. Of course, if you have to choose between the two, a small house with a big family is much better than a big but empty mansion. Having the right size of the house is something to keep in mind when choosing a house, so that you can still maintain close relationships with your family members without invading too much of their privacy.

Rule #7 Cleanliness

Tidy Room
Credit: blakespot | Flickr
Everyone wants a clutter-free home, so does Feng Shui. Special attention must be placed at the entryway. You don't want these clutters to greet your guests. Even if you don't see the connection of bad luck to clutters, having a neat and organized home is at least a sure way to improve your mood. An organized home will make you feel more organized in life. It can also make you happier.

Now that you've learned a few of these rules, you can see that Feng Shui is not just a tradition or a belief, it is also an art. It places great importance on the effect of the house on the dwellers, not only in terms of luck, but also in terms of mood, ambiance, and emotions. I hope that these rules will give you some insights for improving your home. May your house give you warmth, peace, and happiness.

For More Information

Feng Shui that Makes Sense - Easy Ways to Create a Home that FEELS as Good as it Looks
Amazon Price: $21.95 $11.99 Buy Now
(price as of Aug 14, 2015)
If Feng Shui is an entirely new concept to you, this book is a great starting point. In this book written by Cathleen McCandless, you will learn about the origin of this belief and how its principles can be applied in your home.