Blog: Joy Naylor & Diane Bennett

From visions of banana chairs to Compuware's recent hiring of an arts curator, companies are showing their humanistic side via art in the workplace. Art and design entrepreneurs Joy Naylor and Diane Bennett of Distinct Designs,Inc., a corporate interior design and art consultancy, offer up their perspective on local artists and art selection for businesses.

Post 3: Joy Naylor - Feng Shui Design is Energy

People ask me, does feng shui design really work?  Yes it does!  I have applied the principals of this ancient Chinese art of placement with many clients and they have had very positive results.  

Take away the mystery and know that feng shui is all about good design, common sense and intention.  Those who benefit the most make an effort to understand the principals of feng shui and are enthusiastic about putting them into play.  As a designer, I have always worked with the energy of spaces.  Feng shui provides a way to talk about that energy.  I apply the theory of the five elements derived from nature.  Yang energy is active and yin energy is quiet and still.  For example, spaces like commercial buildings and shopping places should be made very yang with lot of bright colors with an air of activity and positive energy.  For a business to be most successful, the office space should be more yang than yin, designed to be bright, airy, organized and with no dark quiet corners.  Residential spaces require less yang energy than a place of business. Nevertheless, to keep a balance, yang energy should still dominate. That’s why we typically do not paint a bedroom red as red is a fire (active) color and one would probably find it difficult to rest and sleep in that very yang energy.

The first step to good feng shui is clutter clearing.  This, by the way, is no small matter in our culture – most of us have way too much stuff!!!

Clients have shared with me that once they have started this first step – the process of clearing clutter from the home/office, they experience a sense of lightness.  Most of us have spaces that are used to house items that are not pertinent to our life/work at this point in our lives – things that are outdated, broken, borrowed, or duplications – not to speak of the things that you just might need someday or the items that were passed down to us (to keep whether you like them or not).  As these kinds of things are removed from the environment, many feel more in control of their lives and less overwhelmed.  I think everyone would agree that this makes good sense and some of us may even make every effort to control clutter.  What most people don't realize is some of the deeper ramifications of living in a cluttered space.  

Chi (energy) moves through our spaces like energy moves through our body.  An acupuncturist will tell you that if energy is not flowing freely through our body, there is a blockage which can affect our organs and thus our health in a negative way.  There are a number of reasons that energy can be blocked from flowing freely in our living spaces, but the main culprit is clutter.  Energy stagnates around clutter and can become musty and stale.  The space will feel of heavy and dull.  Conversely, being surrounded by things that you really love and use on a daily basis will elicit feelings of peace and control in your life.

Having a lot of stuff can be expensive.  We have to take care of it, clean it, move it around, maybe even pay to have it stored.  It has been estimated that clutter occupies about 45% of our living space.  If you calculate your mortgage payment in terms of square footage, you might be less casual about what items are added to the contents of the home/office.

Another disadvantage of living with clutter is how we are affected unconsciously.  We are energetically attached to every thing we own and whether we know it or not, it draws our attention.  This can cause a nagging feeling of heaviness, doom, and in some cases depression.

The occasions where I apply feng shui principals in my design business are very diverse.   
When designing a new space, there is a greater opportunity to incorporate ways to plan for the most auspious results.  

For example, when the Ann Arbor-based Lotus Center decided to completely renovate its newly acquired building, the owner's objective was to create a harmonious space that would support patients through to wellness.  As acupuncturists, they were very familiar with the principals of feng shui and we mutually gravitated to design solutions that met their business needs as well as the peaceful environment they desired.  Some of the areas of special attention were: the layout of the space allows the chi to easily circulate, a red entry door is dominant and auspiciously faces the East, a water wall greets you in the reception area, and the curved shape of the reception desk was repeated in furniture and artwork. Colors used were serene, patient rooms acoustically sound - all adding to the quietness of the environment.  The interior is simple, clean lines, and organized.  Once in this space, it is hard to leave!

Most consultations are not total renovations but are spaces with many existing conditions that cannot be changed.  It would be rare for me to suggest making structural changes just for the sake of feng shui.   When it is clear what the client's objectives are, the solutions can take many forms.

The objective of one of my work-from-home clients was to increase his income.  Upon entering his home, I saw that there was no specific place that he used as his workplace.
Designing an office in a designated area of his house put more emphasis on work habits  and gave him a greater sense of 'going to work'.   He committed to being organized, focused, and placing intention into his goal to improve his income.

Other individuals have come to me for assistance in selling or buying their homes.  Many times, this just entails staging the house to be appealing to prospective buyers. Sometimes, it is much more complicated.  For instance, I worked with a couple (a second marriage for both) who were struggling with how they could combine their households into his larger house and sell hers, the smaller of the two. He had lived in his house with his first wife and their children had grown up in the house.  We explored what it would take emotionally and physically to adjust the space to accommodate the new relationship.  After a great deal of angst they decided to move into a house that they chose together where they could create their life together without the residual energy of previous relationships.

So, does it work?  Ultimately it depends on the client.  It takes an openness to see space from a different perspective and a willingness to put your intention into high gear!!