2017 - IRISH EXAMINER - FENG SHUI WILL IMPROVE SENSE OF FLOW AND ENERGY - MARCH

Carol O’Callaghan meets Nina Kati, an interior designer who applies principles of the ancient Chinese practice of feng shui to Irish homes.

Feng shui was the interiors buzz word about 20 years ago, but treated with the western urge for a quick fix approach and the relentless push of new home interior trends, it went out of fashion.

Apparently, placing a money tree in the south-east corner of your house didn’t necessarily turn financial woes to joys, nor did the love-lorn, symbolically making room in their wardrobe to occupy garments of Mr or Mrs Right, always achieve a happy ending. Hardly surprising.

Feng shui rules say a bed must have a headboard for support. The colour blue is said to promote calm restful sleep.

Since then, this 5,000-year-old Chinese approach to positioning buildings, division of internal space, and how people can live in a way that will enhance well-being, health, relationships and prosperity, has filtered into mainstream building development, but a bit of study is required to get to grips with the fundamentals, rather like yoga or Pilates, where exercises off the internet won’t make you an expert, or even competent.

Feng shui is now used by Fortune 500 companies and the likes of Nike, Bill Gates, Dreamworks, Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey, and even an American president with a penchant for wall-building, although it’s doubtful he consulted a feng shui master on that particular subject, as any blockages are considered a no-no.

Closer to home is Nina Kati, an award-winning, Co Waterford based interior designer for whom feng shui is core to her practice. “The home is our outer skin,” she says.

As part of a makeover of what had been a drab traditional style family home, Nina focused on a complementary colour scheme and paid particular attention to feng shui remedies by positioning the hob, which is associated with prosperity, in a direction that is auspicious for the breadwinner, and at a distance from the sink as the elements of water and fire do not mix.

“So feng shui is concerned with the energies of the home and the people living in it.”

She’s hired by private individuals to remedy problems with their homes within the interior design context, and by businesses too, with a regular gig as guest speaker and advisor to visitors at the Self-Build exhibitions in Dublin, Cork, and the UK.

She had a guest spot on an episode of RTE’s Room to Improve, which drew the biggest viewing figures of the series.

“The ideal situation is to talk to people before they start building, even before they buy the site,” she explains.

The reason for this comes down to energy called ‘qi’, (pronounced ‘chee’), which Nina says flows around and through your house, determined by the direction the house faces, and its compatibility with the personal energies of the occupants, something determined by their dates of birth.

Nina applied pops of cheery colour in what had been a cold coastal cottage. Using existing furniture she made three separate zones - kitchen, dining and sitting, with chairs arranged so no one sits with their back to the main door.

Factor in the bagua, a chart which divides the house into nine areas, each representing distinct life situations like relationships, family, career, health and prosperity, which might need attention, and you have the gist.

But maybe you’re already in your house and happy, but life isn’t quite how you want it despite your best efforts.

“You may need a feng shui audit,” says Nina.

“The most common problems I see in Ireland is houses having too many toilets so they’re flushing away their good luck. Or the front door is lined up with the back door which means your luck is coming in, but going out again.”

Other no-nos she says are having the foot of the bed facing the bedroom door.

“This is the coffin position because it’s the direction people are carried out when they die.”

The brief for this country cottage was to create a bedroom with an emphasis on comfort for a client who had recently been bereaved. Using pretty colours and soft furnishings which included a fabric wall treatment behind the bed, the design aimed to add more comfort and support restful sleep.

She also advises not to have a toilet near a kitchen as you’re placing bad waste energy with nourishing food energy. And where a mirror is placed on a wall opposite the front door to reflect more light into the hall or to expand the impression of its size, she says all it does is bounce good energy coming in back out again.

Vertical floor to ceiling vinyl lace-effect panels in the coastal cottage help to divide the three zones and harness the ‘qi’ energy to create cosy and more nurturing areas for conversation and to lessen the harsh acoustics.

“Look at your front door inside and out,” she says, “make sure it’s welcoming, and clear the area so energy can come in unimpeded. Decorate the hall in a beautiful colour with mirrors on side walls, not facing the door.

If you have an office or study at home, don’t sit with your back to the door as you won’t feel completely comfortable.”

Core to feng shui is that energy flows without obstruction so Nina advises a practical springtime decluttering session to get rid of things we don’t want or use, and to make a list of repairs needing to be done.

“Everything in the house should be convenient and user-friendly,” she says.

“To keep on top of good habits once established, I start each season with a clear-out, so you stay in control of your surroundings and your life as a result.”