The Art of Feng Shui

The art of creating a peaceful, natural environment at home or office

Mountain Traditions, Fall/Winter 2005

F or 25 years, Jaan T. sold furniture, art and gifts for the home. About a decade ago, she began to put her dual degree in psychology and design from East Carolina University to good use when she made a transition from selling home décor to creating spaces through feng shui, or the “art of placement.”

Ferree and other practitioners believe that when feng shui design is implemented properly in a home or business, it can create a supportive environment that can bring out the inhabitant’s true nature. Feng shui works through subtle combinations of organization, space planning, psychology, ecology, interior design and common sense.

“We are meant to live in nature,” says Ferree, “and we wall ourselves off from the natural world in our offices and homes.” Feng shui incorporates the elements of nature in overall design in myriad ways. For earth there is wood; for fire, candles; for water, fountains and mirrors; for air, chimes. A balance of the elements helps make a space feel comfortable and stimulates the chi or energy of the room.

Ferree was inspired to begin her studies and work with feng shui when she heard Terah Kathryn Collins, author of The Western Guide to Feng Shui, speak at an Empowering Women Conference in Atlanta in the mid-1990s. Feng shui aligned nicely with Ferree’s own vision.

“I wanted to create houses and spaces which are psychologically healthy,” she says. Ferree studied with Collins and later with a much more traditional feng shui teacher, Thomas Lin-Yun, a Buddhist from China with a temple and followers in New York. Ferree studied with him at Harvard Divinity School.

Her own unique style has evolved through a combination of Western and classical Chinese approaches to feng shui.

Her psychological perspective has led Ferree to emphasize the initial consultation with her clients. This interchange provides crucial information for implementing the clients’ vision for their space.

“I interview people to find out how they use their home or office,” says Ferree. “I also inquire about their goals and ambitions. Then I ask: ‘What is supporting you now? What is not working? How does the environment affect you psychologically?’”

With answers to these questions, she may assess the problematic areas and recommend feng shui treatments aligned with her clients’ goals and desires.

The feng shui home

Suzanne Walker-Wilson’s mother gave her the gift of a feng shui consultation with Ferree in 2001 when she was a stay-at-home mother. Walker-Wilson’s husband and two small children were invited to take part in the consultation with Ferree.

“Jaan led us in an important exercise. We went through multiple rooms in the house and disposed of things we were not using or no longer wanted,” says Walker-Wilson.

Ferree also recommended some feng shui treatments in their Asheville home. One in particular stands out clearly in Walker-Wilson’s mind.

“I have an antique cherry breakfront with doors, and Jaan encouraged me to open it up and make it an altar for all that we love and expect to come into our lives,” says Walker-Wilson.

The family has embraced this feng shui treatment in earnest. Now Walker-Wilson’s husband and two small boys add photos of beloved places and people, precious objects and other items on the altar. The altar eases movement and flow in the main room of the house and reflects the family’s changing moods and priorities.

“Jaan has an ability to weave spirituality, art and practical concerns,” Walker-Wilson says. “It’s a sheer gift.”

Feng shui treatments that Ferree recommends are suitable, simple and often inexpensive. Before their first consultation with her, Gregory and Nancy Forsythe of Asheville had a limited knowledge of feng shui. Gregory had undergone acupuncture treatments and used Chinese medicine. Nancy had limited exposure to Chinese culture, mainly through her husband’s experiences.

One of the Forsythes’ primary concerns was that when guests visited their home, they were confused about which door to use. From a feng shui perspective, the home’s dual entrances, located on the right and left sides of the house, were creating confusion for guests about how to enter the residence. Something as simple as an entrance can be critical for proper energy flow and movement throughout the house.

Ferree’s ideas on an effective feng shui treatment were simple.

“She suggested a different lighting scheme in the front yard, along with some visual cues that would draw people to the correct entrance,” says Nancy. Since their consultation in August 2004, the Forsythes have obtained some low-level solar lighting and installed it near the door through which they want guests to enter. The light illuminates the steps.

“We also obtained a sculpture of a griffin and some garden art which resembles a bear, two birds and a turkey,” Nancy says. People now enter the Forsythe residence via the left-hand door and there is no more confusion.

Ferree encourages her clients to choose decors that reflect their personalities. She prefers to use environmentally friendly products for feng shui work.

“I recommend full-spectrum lighting and sustainable green building materials to my clients whenever possible,” she says. Full-spectrum light bulbs or fixtures offer the same wavelengths as the sun and illuminate a space well.

At businesses

As a practitioner of feng shui, Ferree has become more adept at creating environments “where you cut down on the friction and all you have to do is show up to be your best.” This ability helped her transition easily into feng shui consulting for businesses.

She has implemented some feng shui treatments at the Laughing Seed restaurant in downtown Asheville.

Laughing Seed owners Joe and Joan Eckert wanted their vegetarian restaurant to have an international menu and ambience. Ferree set out to design a space with a cosmopolitan feel that also reflected the Eckerts’ objectives and personalities. She found an abundance of material to work with. The Eckerts are world travelers and have amassed photography and art collections with a global scope.

Ferree advised them to hang a selection of their travel photos on a wall behind the bar. In the Eckerts’ collection she also found photos and art that activate a sense of movement or evoke travel to foreign lands. These she calls portals. Portals have openings, entrances or windows that offer a glimpse of another culture or landscape.

Another feng shui concept Ferree incorporated in the Laughing Seed was the idea of creating doors or thresholds, which she describes as “windows into another space.” The upstairs seating area is an example. Ferree wanted to define the space as an “environment conducive to conversation, intimacy and connection.” She recommended that local metal artist Paige Davis design an alluring trellis to the upstairs area. Another way she set the tone for upstairs seating was to use a natural light filled window during the day to draw people upstairs. In the evening, the same window is illuminated with lamps on both sides. Some carefully placed plants near the window draw the eye there, too.

Ferree says feng shui does not have to be expensive. Treatments can involve the use of existing resources or rearrangement.

At the Mountain Microenterprise Fund office in Hendersonville, Ferree implemented feng shui changes appropriate for a nonprofit’s budget. At the entrance to the office, Ferree suggested plants to evoke life, growth and excitement and a wind chime on the right side to lift the chi or energy. In one meeting area, Ferree selected prints that exemplify power and teamwork and some restful pieces such as scenes of a waterfall, mountain or stream.

Ferree feels her most effective feng shui changes are in the main meeting room.

“When I arrived, the room had some folding chairs. To make it feel comfortable and welcoming, I purchased a love seat at Habitat for Humanity and a nice rug, and a friend of Mountain Microenterprise Fund donated a coffee table,” says Ferree. “Now this room looks inviting. Creating a comfortable space helps makes the process of seeking advice for a small business easier.”

During the whole process of reinvigorating the space, Ferree balanced the elements of nature and carefully selected art with uplifting symbols suitable for the organization’s Hendersonville membership, made up largely of women and Latinos.

Such seemingly simple enhancements are aspects of feng shui that can be successfully implemented in designing effective, loving and engaging interiors.

“Having the intention of paying attention to your environment,” she says, is intrinsic to the process of energy flow and is one of feng shui’s basic principles.

Jaan T. Ferree lives in Asheville and works from her home. She can be reached at (828) 252-8718 or by e-mail at