7 Rules of Mindful Renovation

featured this month on Hunker by Laura Lambert

  image credit: Describe the Fauna  via  Hunker

image credit: Describe the Fauna via Hunker

There's mindful eating. Mindful breathing. But mindful renovation? Well yes, of course. The mindfulness revolution absolutely belongs in the home, because home is where we retreat, recharge, and reimagine ourselves. But what is mindful renovation, exactly?

"One of the ways that my teachers describe mindfulness is paying attention to all the details in your life, whether it's making a cup of tea or your environment," says Anjie Cho, an architect and feng shui consultant who practices mindful design and writes about it on her blog, Holistic Spaces. "Mindful renovation is also like that."

Mindful renovation is informed by so many things that Cho has embraced in her own life — feng shuimeditation, Buddhism, as well as architecture and design. It's about slowing down and paying attention to how the space around us makes us feel, and using that quiet intelligence to inform design decisions. It's also about making choices — like using high quality, green materials, or paying your craftsmen well — that have a thoughtful impact on the world around you. And it's as much about the process of renovating as it is the colorstextures, placement, and finishes.

...read full article

If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.

Q&A Sunday: Best Feng Shui Location for an Altar or Shrine

Best Feng Shui Location for an Altar or Shrine.png

I read your "9 Feng Shui Things in Bedroom" and find it helpful. I'm currently remodeling my whole home. My question that I've tried to find an answer to in my books and online: Where is the best position to place an altar...what direction, and is the bedroom not a good place to have it? I am a single woman and my bedroom is in the front right section of the bagua map. 

Carolyn K., 

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for your question, and I’m so glad you like the MindBodyGreen article, “9 Things That Should Be in Your Bedroom (According to a Feng Shui Healer)”.

Wonderful that you have an altar (or shrine) in your home. My first response would be to ask what’s most appropriate from your teachers and spiritual lineage. If there’s no specific place required, the next suggestion would be to locate it where you will use it. I’m assuming this is where you would practice meditation, so it’s a good idea to have it placed so that it works for you functionally. 

When I created my first altar, it was after I started studying and practicing BTB feng shui. My teachers taught me that, if we’d like, we could create an altar in the BTB feng shui tradition to honor the teachings and as a focal point for our attention. We were even encouraged to assemble “altar committees” in class so that we could have a special sacred place in the classroom. Here we offered an image of the teacher (a Buddha and/or Professor Lin Yun), a musical instrument, a red ribbon on a stick, saffron water, rice, and a mirror in a rice bowl.

Since I live in a small New York City apartment, I have my shrine in the living room. I’ve even included a photo of it here. If I had more space, I would like to have a separate shrine room near the rear of the home. It’s ideal if the shrine can be in a more private space. I’ve been told that the bedroom traditionally is not great, as it’s seen as disrespectful for the Buddha’s image to gaze upon our romantic activities. But remember, the mundane and functional is as important as the spiritual and transcendental. It’s up to you and your specific situation. I can only share guidelines.

I have a spiritual Buddhist shrine, but there are also secular altars that you can create. Laura Morris (together we founded the Mindful Design Feng Shui school) has a blog post about more secular altars. An image of a deity is not required... you can even have a vision board or beautiful inspiration piece of art, like from my talented friend Amy T Won. On my shrine I also have a manifestation list and my ikebana cutters. The cutters are there to remind me to "cut my thoughts" and a tool of my contemplative art practice.

Since I practice BTB feng shui, the direction is not important. However, my shrine is located in the commanding position of the living room. And when I sit to meditate, I face the shrine, so I’ve also placed a small convex mirror so that when I’m sitting, I can see behind me as well. This corrects and places me in command as I meditate. But the Buddha holds the leading seat - the seat that’s most in command.

On a final note, wherever your altar ends up, you can see what area of the feng shui bagua maps it corresponds with. Or alternatively, if you have total flexibility, you could choose the feng shui bagua map location based on your intention. For instance, the Knowledge (dark blue) area would be wonderful if you seek to deepen your self-cultivation. The center area of your home, or the Health area, would be useful to have your altar become the central focal point of your life. A shrine in the New Beginnings area might give you a sense of freshness and nowness every time you sit to practice.

As with so many aspects of BTB feng shui, the optimal placement of your altar does depend on you and your preferences. Of course it helps to observe any feng shui guidance, so I would encourage you to consider the feng shui bagua and the energy of the area when selecting your altar space. Don't forget to arrange your altar with intention as well!

by Anjie Cho

If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.

Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!

Visit the Holistic Spaces Store

DIY Terrariums with Margaret West


Terrariums are increasingly popular houseplants, but arrangements can get expensive. My talented and crafty sister, Margaret, shared with us how to make beautiful miniature terrariums with succulent plants, so you can make your own arrangement!

A terrarium is generally a transparent enclosure or similar container for cultivating plants. This version is not sealed, but is enclosed in a small container. Margaret’s interest in miniature terrariums started while browsing Pinterest. She opted for succulents, as they are a bit heartier than other houseplants. Their ease of care makes them a good choice.


Margaret browsed the web for instructions on assembling her terrariums. Everyone has a slightly different way of doing things, so Margaret recommends you adapt her instructions based on what materials you can find.

So, let's get started!!! 


First, the supplies:

THE CONTAINER.  Margaret used glass containers she had left over from flower arrangements. You can find vases like this second-hand at thrift stores or garage sales. Have fun finding containers in interesting shapes! It’s helpful if they don’t have a lot of patterns on the surface of the glass, obscuring the view of your plants. She also used hanging glass terrarium globes that were purchased online. They are easy to find as single pieces or in larger sets in bulk. Margaret prefers the flat bottom globes, they are simpler to travel with because they do not roll around. She also recommends the globes that are meant to be votive candle holders. The additional holes make it easier to water the plants.

SOILOrganic soil is always preferable to synthetic-chemically treated potting soil. Margaret recommends an aerated mix such as a cactus blend, rather than general potting soil. The cactus blend has more sand and rocks mixed in. She likes “E.B. Stone Organics” Cactus blend. If you can’t find an aerated blend, mix some porous rocks, such as perlite, into your mix.  


GRAVEL.  Gravel is easy to find at a pet store or aquarium. Margaret opted for the neutral earth tones, but she’s seen people use colored glass, black or white stones, and even sand instead. The size of the gravel depends on the size of the container as well as your preference. If you’re using 4” diameter globes, a 3-5mm pebble size is appropriate. For larger container, you can use the smaller pebbles, or go bigger, like 10-16mm.

ACTIVATED CHARCOAL. You can find this at your local pet store or aquarium too. It’s mixed into and used to filter the soil and minimize any odors. Any leftover activated charcoal you have can be used in a satchel in your closet or shoes, again to minimize unwanted odors. 

SUCCULENTS. Margaret suggests you purchase 2" or smaller sized plants at your local nursery. In NYC, I love Sprout in Brooklyn. You can also find varieties of small succulents on Etsy. Margaret’s favorite at the moment is the Echeveria, because they look like little roses and come in different colors. Avoid purchasing cuttings, which don’t have roots yet. Instead, look for potted plants with root systems.

ADDITIONAL ITEMS. A spoon, mixing bowl, and soft bristle brush, such as a ½” wide paint brush.

Finally, it’s time for the assembly!  If possible, this part should be done outside to minimize the clean up.

1.  CLEAN THE CONTAINER. It is a good idea to start with a clean container. It will get messy as we assemble the terrarium, but starting out clean keeps the cleaning you’ll do later to a minimum. The soft bristle brush is excellent for wiping off the dust.

2.  MIX THE SOIL AND CHARCOAL. Combine 5 parts soil with 1 part charcoal, and mix thoroughly. Add water to this mixture; the soil should be moist, but not wet. How much water to add will depend on how dry the soil is to start with. We recommend ¼ cup increments. Add a little at a time; you can always add more water. If you overwater, just add a little bit more soil and charcoal. Make sure the entire soil mixture is combined well.


3.  PREPARE THE PLANTS. Squeeze the outside of the plant container to loosen the soil and roots. Then tip the plant upside down and lightly pinch container until the plant comes out with the roots intact. Gently massage the root system, to release the loose dirt. The goal is to have the root system exposed and loosened, because there will not be enough room in the container for all the soil.


4.  ADD GRAVEL.  Now is a great time to rinse your hands off. With clean hands, add gravel to the bottom of the container. Margaret suggests using a spoon to ease the pebbles through the small opening of your container. Add about 1/2" layer of gravel for a 4" bulb. Then add a thin layer of charcoal on top of the gravel. This layer of gravel and charcoal will drain the soil, which is especially helpful if you overwater.

5.  ADD SOIL/CHARCOAL MIXTURE AND PLANT. Next add a couple spoons of the soil mixtures into your container. Margaret likes to make a well for the plant to go into, with more soil towards the back of the container. Loosely wrap the root system into a ball, and gently place the succulent plant roots down into the soil. Move the soil around with your fingers to gently pack in the roots. At this point, you can add more soil as required to cover the roots. 

6.  FINISH OFF WITH SOIL AND GRAVEL. Once you have the soil level as you like it and the plants where you want them, spoon a single thin layer of gravel on top. This is decorative and also helps to keep the soil layer in place. Use the soft bristle brush to clean off any dirt and gravel from the sides of the container as well as from the plant(s).

And voila! Your own beautiful miniature succulent terrarium!

If you need some inspiration on the plant arrangement, check out Margaret’s Succulents Pinterest board. You can also look at Sprout’s gallery. Margaret reminds us that odd numbers tend to look best, but two can also work. Pay attention to the size of our container.  And look around the web for inspiration!

CARING FOR YOUR NEW TERRARIUM. Keep the terrarium in indirect sunlight. Although succulents love sun, because it's a terrarium, the heat gets amplified like the greenhouse effect. Lightly water your plants every two weeks, or as needed. A good way to tell when using a glass container is to water when you start to see the soil turn light brown and dry. Be careful not to overwater! Remember that succulents need very little water. 

by Anjie Cho


Margaret West is my fabulous and brilliant younger sister and mother to my adorable nieces, Mia and Julia. Margaret has always enjoyed doing crafts and DIY projects.  She lives with her family in Seal Beach, California.  Follow her on Pinterest


Q&A Sunday: Mirrors in the Bedroom

Is it bad feng shui to put a mirror in the bedroom?

Angela M., Los Angeles, CA

Hi Angela,

I often am asked this question about mirrors in the bedroom. In BTB Feng Shui, we believe that there are no issues with having mirrors in the bedroom. In fact, we recommend mirrors in two situations. 

The first situation is if you cannot put your bed in the commanding position, located in such a way that you can clearly see the door while not being in line with the door. If this is not achievable in your bedroom, you can adjust this with the use of a mirror. I often recommend that my clients purchase a new standing mirror and position it so that when you are lying in bed, you can clearly see the door in the mirror.  The command position is absolutely critical in the bedroom because this is where you spend many YIN, or passive, time and you are more susceptible to the energies around you.  

In BTB Feng Shui, we also suggest a round or oval mirror above the bed for couples like in the photo above. The round shape symbolizes unity and wholeness within the relationship. The couple can see their reflection together within this circular shape, without any hard or sharp corners. This adjustment promotes continuity and togetherness in a relationship. Since this is above the headboard, be sure to fasten anything that goes above your head securely for safety. I would also recommend checking out our post on feng shui and headboards.

Note: There are other schools of feng shui that teach that mirrors add too much energy in the bedroom, or that mirrors should not face the bed. In BTB Feng Shui we respect and honor all other schools of feng shui. In fact, I agree that it may be startling to see your reflection while in bed in the middle of the night. If you use mirrors in the two ways I've suggested above, you can't see your own reflection while laying in bed. Remember, the goal is to create a relaxing and conscious environment that supports you and your needs.

by Anjie Cho

Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!

CURERS - Healers and Practices

featured this month on Free & Native

We were inspired to start our Saturday IG Story CURER series to highlight some of our favorite healers teachers, expanders, and thinkers. We asked some of our CURERS to now share their own go-to healers and healing practices with all of you. Stay tuned Saturdays on @freeandnative IG for a new CURER each week!

So honored to be featured among Katie Dalebout's healing practices! 

iii. Katie Dalebout • Let it Out

Feng Shui consultant Anjie Cho of Holistic Spaces (NYC + LA)-- has designed and cleared every space I've ever lived in which as helped so much. I wouldn't live anywhere without first having Anjie clear it and set it up optimally according to Feng Shui principles.

Sacha Jones, Stiggly’s Holistics NYC, Sacha is one of the coolest, smartest, women I’ve ever met. She’s an herbalist, holistic health counselor, and officiates weddings. I don’t know where I’d be without her wellness and life guidance.

...read full article

Q&A Sunday: When You Cannot Move Your Bed

How does one deal with a space (such as a small NYC apartment) where moving the bed or having two nightstands is not possible?

Sacha J., New York City, NY

In feng shui, the most ideal layout of the bed would be such that there is space on both sides of the bed with nightstands and lamps on each side of the bed. Your bed location is one of the most important things to consider in feng shui philosophy, because it's where you spend many YIN, or passive, hours sleeping. So where your bed is placed greatly affects you when you are most susceptible to influence.  

So, why does it matter if you have some open space on both sides of your bed? When your bed is pushed up next to the wall, the person sleeping on the closed side of the bed may feel constrained or trapped by life. Also, the side of the body that's facing the wall has less energy (chi) flowing around it, so it may become weaker. If you sleep alone, you also may have the issues with the side of the body facing the wall.  

What can we do about it? Well of course, the ideal situation is to change the location of the bed. If that's not possible, as Sacha suggests, you can try to safely and securely fasten a large mirror on the wall. This would be the wall the bed is pushed up against. The mirror will expand the space next to the bed to help alleviate the feng shui and energetic blocks. Now, I know this is going to bring up another question I often get asked: Isn't it bad feng shui to put a mirror in the bedroom? No, it depends! And in this case it's okay, as long as you make sure it is securely attached to the wall so the occupants feel safe. Take a look at this Q&A Sunday answer for insight around when mirrors in the bedroom are okay.

Thanks for your question, Sacha.

by Anjie Cho

Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!

Benefits of Low and Zero VOC Paint

VOCs (Volatile Organic Compound) are chemicals added to paint for a variety of reasons including color enhancement, increased adhesiveness and increased ease of spreading. Despite these conveniences, VOCs are extremely dangerous to humans, and the use of them in many paints results in indoor air being anywhere from 3-5 times more polluted and harmful than outdoor air.

What can you do to prevent this? Buy low- and zero-VOC paints, which are now available from almost every brand. Though the main, and obvious perk to using low-VOC paint is reducing the toxicity of your breathing air, benefits do go a bit deeper.

Lower Toxicity

According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), VOCs are some of the environment's arch enemies and a huge risk to humans as well. One of the easiest ways to reduce this risk, both for our environment and our bodies, is to use paints with lower or no VOCs.

VOCs are even more toxic to those with high vulnerability to smells and chemicals as well as allergies. Using lower VOC paints reduces the uncomfortable side effects for this group of people as well.

High exposure to paints with excessive VOCs can result in a wide variety of complaints, from watery eyes to respiratory infections, and in some cases, even cancer. Using paints with a lower level of VOCs can directly reduce these health risks.

No Smell!

Low VOC, No VOC paint contains zero or a minimum amount of compounds, which basically makes the paint almost unscented when wet, and leaves it with no smell at all as soon as it is dried.

Better for the Environment

The toxins emitted from regular, high VOC paints end up in the atmosphere and ultimately the ozone, adding to an already colossal problem of greenhouse gases. Using paint with reduced VOCs significantly decreases the amount of toxins that are released into our ozone. In addition, these paints reduce toxicity in landfills and water, as excess, discarded paint is nowhere near as toxic.

Low or zero VOC paint is also very easy to clean and requires only soap and water, rather than heavy chemicals. One more point for low VOCs versus air-killing chemicals.

by Anjie Cho

9 Amazeballs Ways to Fit In All Your Teen Needs in the Bedroom

featured this month on Houzz by Eva Byrne 

A teen bedroom is a place of refuge, a private retreat from family life. You’ll need to provide somewhere to sleep, somewhere to study and somewhere to store clothes. With clever planning, you can accommodate these needs in even the tiniest of spaces. Think in terms of a ship’s cabin to squeeze the most out of every available centimetre.

8. Max the make-up

A teen girl will always appreciate even the tiniest of dressing tables. Your bathroom will thank you, too, with one less demand on its use.

Slip a narrow table within the run of wardrobes, perhaps near the window to maximise that all-important light. Add strong artificial light for night-time use, and, of course, a large mirror. A drawer beneath the dressing table would be handy for lotions and potions.

...read full article

Visit the Holistic Spaces Store

Change Your Color, Change Your Life

Change Your Color, Change Your Life - 2.jpg

Your home environment has a huge impact on your mood and your life. In order for your space to truly nourish you, you need to consider all the details in your interior design. And among the most important elements of design is color.

Color has the power to transform not only spaces, but also the people in them, by changing the flow of energy, evoking specific emotions and producing physiological changes in the body. Color has a profound influence on our mood, perceptions and actions.

If you make conscious decisions on the colors you choose to surround yourself with in your home, you can deliberately create a healthy and balanced environment and life for you and your family.

How do you want to live? How do you want to FEEL? Choose your colors accordingly.

This article reveals the emotional power of five popular colors:

1. Red

Red is a powerful color that evokes strong emotions.  It stimulates the body and mind.  Red increases your metabolism and your blood pressure and makes you more alert. Because red stimulates appetite, food tastes better when surrounded by red (so it is a popular color for dining rooms). Red can make a person feel passionate and excited.  But beware – too much red can evoke anger and lead to anxiety.

2. Blue

Blue acts as red’s opposite. It is serene and mentally calming. It decreases the pulse rate, lowers body temperature, and reduces appetite. Strong blues stimulate clear thought, and lighter blues calm the mind, aiding concentration. Thus, people are often more productive in blue rooms. If you need a little kick in the pants, try blue for your home office.

3. Yellow

Yellow is emotionally energizing and uplifting. It has been proven to stimulate the brain. This stimulation can make you more alert and decisive. It helps memory and promotes clear thinking. With a yellow kitchen, you just might not need that extra cup of coffee in the morning!

4. Green

Green is often used in decorating for its calming effect. It helps balance and soothe emotions. Green relaxes our muscles and helps us breathe deeper and slower. Studies show that those who have a green work environment experience fewer stomachaches. But watch out! Although green creates feelings of comfort, it can also cause laziness.

5. Purple

Purple is a mysterious color. It is the combination of two complete opposites – red and blue. Purple can be invigorating or calming, depending on how much red or blue is in the shade. Pure purple takes awareness to a higher spiritual level of thought. It encourages deep contemplation or meditation. Consider bringing purple into rooms where you want to feel creative or spiritual.

Remember that color has a far-reaching effect on emotion and behavior. Decide how you want to feel and the actions you want to take in a specific space, and use color to achieve your goal.

To read more about colors and feng shui, read here!

by Anjie Cho