In the second of her four-part series on designing your home for health and harmony, Nina Kati shares her Feng Shui styling tips for halls and living rooms.

Furniture is an investment so buy the best you can afford. As well as making a style statement and complementing your home, furniture should meet your needs and outlast the latest trends.

A feng shui scheme does not need to be minimalist, bland or bare, but relies on balance and harmony, nature and the elements, psychology and the senses. The décor should be calm, neutral, simple and uncluttered. Use natural materials and soft colours for a harmonious scheme. Rooms should not be overstuffed and there should be no hard or sharp edges or too many straight lines. Use timber mouldings on sharp edges and to soften the exposed corners of walls. The room should create a calm state of mind, order in the occupants’ lives, promote clear thinking and decision-making, and encourage harmonious interaction between people. The setting should be one that creates ambience, and the layout should encourage the easy flow of conversation. Full length curtains create a softer atmosphere and add comfort and warmth. Beams create division between people and are oppressive. Avoid placing a seat directly under a beam or you will find it little used. Plants positioned under a beam will do not do as well as those placed elsewhere.

The hall is the first impression people have of your home – a personal view of your private sanctuary – so it should be bright, welcoming and inviting. Sitting rooms are associated with the pleasurable company of others and should encourage good social interaction. Dining rooms are associated with the enjoyment of food, pleasant conversation and good digestion. Glass tables don’t work well as guests concentrate on their legs and feet and then end up leaving much too soon! Work spaces in the home are associated with inspiration and achievement. Ensure there is plenty of free desktop/work space so that will think more clearly, memorise things more easily, make quicker decisions and get the work done more efficiently. Every room has a ‘power seat’, i.e. the most protected position in a room where a person can sit with their back to a wall with a view of the door (and window if possible).
Furniture is an investment so buy the best you can afford. As well as making a style statement and complementing your home, furniture should meet your needs and outlast the latest trends.

Start by taking into account a room’s focal point, such as placing seating around a fireplace in winter or facing a set of French windows during the summer months. To create interest and for a softer effect in a room, you can mix different styles of furniture to achieve an eclectic mix, rather than choosing everything to match which can look contrived. Some furniture in a scheme should be upholstered to provide comfort and to soften the acoustics. To create an informal atmosphere, choose low furniture (preferably of an oval or round shape) to give a more relaxed impression. Natural wood tends to soft a scheme, creating a more gentle effect. Avoid very tall overwhelming items of furniture that give the impression they could topple forward at any moment. If the room is small or has little light, choose furniture which takes up less space visually i.e. low, transparent or which allows lots of floor space to be seen underneath it. For safety reasons there should be plenty of room to move between items of furniture and this tends to give a more relaxed flow to the space.

Remember that small details contribute to the overall scheme, such as the style of knobs on a cupboard and the quality of the finish on a cabinet. Leave space in bookshelves for more books, so that shelves don’t become overstuffed and inaccessible, with the result that they look messy and just don’t work any more. An interesting rug, a fabulous painting or objet d’art will create visual interest through the use of colour, texture or form and add personality to a scheme, whilst helping to bring about a cohesive and unified look. Lights should be shaded so as not to create glare and electrical cables should be concealed from view. Light has a gathering influence (like the fireside) and we tend to bend towards it like plants do. Artificial light should mimic daylight as closely as possible because light stimulates life and affects your mood as well as the atmosphere of a room. Up-lighters can be uplifting and crystal chandeliers encourage sparkling conversation. Windows should also be clean as they represent our view of the world and how the world sees us. Mask unattractive views with voiles and maximise a positive view such as an attractive garden.

Integrating the principles of interior de sign and Feng Shui achieves a m ore cohesive and unified result that is both balanced and harmonious.

Choose comfortable seating that is not too squashy, so that people can rise from it easily. To encourage conversation, seating should be positioned so that people face each other (either opposite or in a U-shape) and situated close enough so that someone can easily hear what another person is saying. It is considered confrontational to see the back of someone’s head when entering a room and if people are seated with their back to a door they will feel uncomfortable, as though they may be under threat of attack from behind. Furniture should be flexible and adaptable, such as an extendable dining table or a footstool with concealed storage for magazines and newspapers that can double up as extra seating or as a coffee table on which to place a tray. It is worth noting that shiny, glossy surfaces are higher maintenance as they attract dust particles easily and show scratches more noticeably than a matt or satin finish, and also items placed onto glass surfaces make a jarring sound – not exactly music to the ears! Voiles on a window can help protect furniture from fading by reducing and softening direct sunlight, which is especially important in south facing rooms. Don’t forget the finishing touches which can really make a difference to a room. For instance, hang pictures at eye level so they can be properly appreciated and make sure ornaments are cleverly grouped with a common theme bonding them together, rather than dotting them around individually which only creates a cluttered effect. Ornaments should be displayed carefully so that they are positioned in pairs, particularly in the home of a single person, or grouped together to promote the company of others.

Doors should open smoothly and quietly or there will be arguments in the home. Make sure that there is adequate ventilation and air circulation, natural daylight and an ambient indoor temperature throughout the house. Finally, avoid displaying objects or ornaments that evoke bad memories. Instead use items that create positive thoughts and evoke pleasant memories. Stimulate the senses by using scented candles, fresh flowers and textures that feel good to the touch. Have pleasant music playing softly in the background and display photos of happy people enjoying themselves, but not with their backs to the viewer. Integrating the principles of interior design and Feng Shui achieves a more cohesive and unified result that is both balanced and harmonious. This powerful combination of design techniques has an effect of subtle suggestion rather than the obvious, and has the added advantage of being sophisticated, timeless and classic.

Nina Kati is an interior designer, feng shui consultant and tutor. She specialises in combining feng shui with interior design to create balance and harmony. Nina trained under a Chinese master to learn authentic feng shui, which concerns the relationship between our homes and us, and is about matching people to their homes and workspaces. In 2009, she won the Businesswoman of the Year Award (South Tipperary). This year she celebrates 10 years in
business. Her interior design and feng shui  services range from an hour’s advice to one  day services and from small schemes to full  projects. She also runs interior design and  feng shui workshops. Visit  www.workingwonders.ie or contact T: 051  646 273, M: 086 812 6730