The Laws of Where to Put the Sofa

The mystic phrase 风水 ( fēng shuǐ) may be on every hipster’s lips today, but it is one of the art forms which has remained largely unchanged for over 5,000 years. Whether or not you want to go along with the chi controlling 35% of your life (yep, there are pie charts for everything), feng shui may be able to make your spaces clearer and cleaner – so is it just a spring clean in disguise?

Expecting ancient tricks of the Chinese emperors, the online guides are pretty mundane. ‘Stop your door squeaking’ – sure, I’ll do that – ‘to stop it crying’. Hmm – if the door has feelings, then it has got to have a pretty rough life. The bathroom door must be kept shut at all times (but what if… you want to go to the bathroom?), as the water (yep, that’s the 水 shui in feng shui) represents wealth, and you don’t want to go flushing all that wealth away.


Despite the bathroom door perhaps not being the key to your successes, wealth really was water in sixth century China. Southern China is very hilly, meaning that the fact water flowed down the hill was essential to their lives. The hills also acted as a natural wind block – they had found the perfect wind-water balance: 风 (water, feng) 水 (water, shui).

Oiling your doors may not bring you prosperity, but choosing where to set up camp can definitely be a matter of life and death, so the wind-water feng shui principles ensured plentiful harvests and healthy livestock in imperial China. However, I’m interested to find out whether it has any true meaning today in our happiness and wellbeing.

The premise of integrating nature and design seems like a good one, but that seems like all that can be agreed on. Some say that the spreading out of objects will get the chi flowing, whilst others advocate hanging crystals around any areas of the room which don’t fit into the rectangular centre (sorry, modern architecture…!). Some objects are labelled as bad for the chi, such as cacti and mirrors facing the bed.

There’s definitely something about a space which feels rather than just looks good which we haven’t quite put our finger on yet. What do you think? Is feng shui the answer to design? Can it turn your life around? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Things I’ve learned this week:

  1. The door has a pretty rough life, and can only let its feelings out when it squeaks.
  2. Wind-water balance can be life or death.
  3. You’re gonna need a hell of a lot of crystals to make up for your modern house. Sorry.

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