What Is Feng Shui and How Can I Use It in My Apartment?

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice and can be used in interior design. Explore the history and purpose of feng shui for your apartment.
KK By Katie Kane on October 19, 2022

Heard references to feng shui in the context of interior design but aren’t quite sure what it is? Here at HILLS Properties, we love learning about the different ways you can decorate a space, and we want to share the basics of feng shui with you! Whether you’re interested in totally redoing your décor or just want to use some of the ideas of feng shui for your living room, this guide will get you through some of the basics.

The Origin of Feng Shui and Its Meaning

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice. “Feng shui” as a term actually means “wind-water,” and the practice intends to connect and harmonize you and your environment. The ideas behind feng shui include balancing the energies of a space to encourage good fortune and health and are based on Taoist beliefs that space and objects possess energy. 

As a practice that incorporates spiritual, personal, and design concepts, fully incorporating feng shui can be quite intricate. We’ll help you pick up the basics with this article, but keep in mind that there are lots of details of the practice to explore further if you’d like.

The Basics of Feng Shui

As a traditional practice, there are several main ideas and many detailed concepts underlying feng shui. We’ll focus on the commanding position, the five elements, and the bagua area as an introductory overview. Like any long-lived practice, however, feng shui has been adapted and used differently over the years. There are varying schools of thought around the practice, and a basic overview necessarily omits some of the details of traditional feng shui. You may also find you have to adapt some of the ideas for your apartment, but don’t worry—you won’t be the first to modify feng shui for your space.

The Commanding Position

One of the main ideas in feng shui is that of the commanding position. The commanding position is essentially the best place to position important furniture within a room. This is also often one of the simplest feng shui concepts to incorporate into a space. 

The commanding position in a room is considered to be the one furthest from the door without being directly in line with it. Ideally, you’ll want to position your bed, desk, and sofa diagonally from the door when possible. Additionally, you’ll also want to position your furniture so you can face the door with a clear view while using it. Feng shui also requires that a commanding position has a strong backing, like a windowless wall. 

The Bagua Areas and Your Space

Example feng shui bagua map with the names of each area in a floor plan section
Example feng shui bagua map with the names of each area in a floor plan section

Bagua maps are used to balance spaces with life aspects or circumstances. This practice is one of the essentials of feng shui but is also one of the most complicated because there are several different ideas around it. Some bagua maps revolve around the compass, some around the energy of the year, and some encourage placing specific areas near the front entrance.

Additionally, some sources may recommend starting with one or two areas of your home you want to improve, while others insist that maintaining balance between the areas is paramount. Sometimes, you’ll see different associations between the elements and the bagua areas. You may also need to make adaptations to the bagua areas to fit them all in your home. It all depends on your comfort level with adapting feng shui and your willingness to make changes in your space. 

To get started, you can search for the bagua map type you’re interested in following (compass-based, entrance area-based, etc.) online. Once you’ve got a map, you can superimpose it or make a quick sketch of the areas over the layout of your apartment for a guide on where to incorporate the different themes. You can also apply a bagua map to a smaller space rather than just your whole home. Consider starting small by planning out one room first. Most maps will show eight areas centering around you and your health in the center.

Here are the areas, what they represent, and what you can do to enhance them (no matter where your map puts them in your house):

  • Family. This area is related to family and new beginnings and is associated with vertical elements, rectangular and columnar shapes, and blue and green colors. It is also associated with the wood element.
  • Wealth. Associated with prosperity and abundance, the wealth area can be completed with purple, blue, or money-like colors (green or gold), rectangular and column-like shapes, healthy plants, and wood. Stovetops are also said to be related to wealth within feng shui practices, even if they’re not in this area of your home on the bagua map. 
  • Health. Usually the center of feng shui maps, the health or center area is supposed to support the other areas and is associated with a theme of foundation and with the earth element. Consider incorporating calming décor in this area.
  • Reputation and fame. Associated with acclaim and visibility, the fame area is associated with red colors and the fire element. Consider incorporating triangular and pointy shapes in this section.
  • Partnerships/relationships. Related to themes of passion and love, this area is associated with earth and fire. Consider incorporating reds, oranges, pinks, and yellows into this space, and incorporate furniture and accessories in pairs.
  • Children and creativity. Associated with joyfulness and creativity, this area of your home is best enhanced with pastels and white and metallic décor, and it’s associated with the metal element. Consider incorporating rounded furniture and accessories in this space. 
  • Helpful people. Often also associated with travel, the helpful people area is best paired with gray and silver colors, as well as rounded or circular shapes.
  • Career. Often paired with the water element, the career area is related to work and life paths. Use dark colors, water features, and curved or wavy-looking or free-flowing shapes in this area. 
  • Knowledge. The knowledge and wisdom area is, by definition, related to the other areas as well since expanding your knowledge can benefit other aspects of your life. Try for blue and green colors and calming décor in this area. Black and other muted colors can also be used. 

Balancing the Five Elements With Feng Shui

Stemming from the Taoist tradition, feng shui incorporates the idea of the five elements. Although you’re likely already familiar with the earth, water, and fire elements, wood and metal are also included in the five elements. In feng shui, the idea is to balance these five elements within your home or room. Using these elements and their qualities associated with them, you can make modifications to improve the energy of different spaces, especially with the guidance of the bagua map. 

Here’s an overview of the elements and the design ideas to use in balance:

  • Earth. This element is related to stability, safety, and grounding. Incorporating earth tones, like browns and cream colors, should help balance this element in your décor. You can also consider incorporating crystals, landscape imagery, or square and rectangular shapes as well. This element is sometimes associated with the knowledge, partnerships, and health bagua areas. 
  • Water. The water element is associated with abundance, cleansing, calmness, and the flow of emotion. Along with the color blue, consider bringing in reflective surfaces, water features, and free-form or curved furniture and items, especially in the career bagua area.
  • Fire. Associated with strength, enthusiasm, and energy, the fire element can be represented visually in a number of ways. Of course, incorporating reds can give the balance of this element a boost, but so can adding purples, candles, electronics, and natural lighting. This element is associated with the fame bagua area.
  • Wood. The wood element is related to spirituality, life, creativity, and growth. This element can be brought into balance with live plants and flowers, wooden furniture, floral prints, and green and blue colors. In terms of the bagua map, the wood element is often related to the wealth and family areas.
  • Metal. Related to clarity, focus, and efficiency, you won’t want to forget to balance metal in your home. This element is related to metallic colors, but also white, grays, and pastels. Incorporate round shapes while balancing this element. You may want to especially focus on incorporating these elements in the helpful people and children and creativity bagua areas.

How To Use Feng Shui in Your Apartment

Feng shui as a practice has many different variations, so you can find ways to incorporate it into your space, no matter how detailed you want to get with using it (just keep in mind that traditional feng shui may differ from your adaptations). Whether or not you deep-dive into all of the intricacies of feng shui, considering these concepts could help give you new ideas for making a dull or empty space fresh and interesting.

If you’re new to feng shui, you can always start with one room in your apartment. Consider using feng shui for the bedroom you’ve been struggling to decorate, for example. You can even feng shui a desk or a very small area to get started! If you’re not sure how far to delve into redecorating or selecting décor based on feng shui, you can just use the idea of a commanding position to choose places for your furniture and try to focus on the ideas of balance when decorating. 

If you’re looking for a way to refresh a mostly furnished space, you can even consider just using the bagua map as a guide for moving your wall décor and knickknacks around to refresh your environment. Consider balancing shapes, colors, and spatial use throughout your room or apartment, rather than finding only matching décor. To get an idea of how to do this, you can even consider visiting art galleries and other curated spaces to see how others meld a mixture of décor and artwork styles into a cohesive space. If you’re stumped on how to balance out some of your décor, plants can make great affordable fillers for spatial balancing.

Looking for a New Place? Find It With HILLS Properties! 

A man moving into his new apartment

Although you might not be ready to go out and find a new apartment just to feng shui it, (although we wouldn’t judge you if you did!), we can help you find a new place if you happen to be looking for one. At HILLS Properties, we have apartments available in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Just see our locations to apply for one of our available apartments near you. Now that you know how to use feng shui, you can get extra excited about decorating that new space, too.

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