7 Things at Home That Are Killing Your Concentration

featured this month on apartment therapy by Caroline Biggs

  image credit:    Diana Liang    via apartment therapy

image credit: Diana Liang via apartment therapy

Finding it hard to concentrate on things while you're at home? There might be some things in your space that could be working against you.

To figure out what items at home could be inadvertently killing our concentration and fussing with our focus, we called on Anjie Cho, architect and feng shui educator, for help. Read ahead to see what she had to say.

1. Poor lighting

According to Cho, lighting can make or break your ability to focus when you're at home. "Often it's a lack of lighting that affects your concentration," she explains. "When it's difficult to visually focus, it in turn affects your mental focus." She suggests setting a lighting scheme that closely resembles natural light, because it's "the most soothing to the eyes," and employing dimmers when necessary "so you have flexibility."

2. Sitting with your back to the door

"When you're sitting at your desk, or in a place where you're trying to focus and concentrate, it's beneficial to see the door to the room." Explains Cho, "When your back is to the door, your stress levels increase and part of your attention is in protection mode; who knows who can creep up behind you!"

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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.


Brighten Your Apartment: 6 Simple Tricks

Not everyone has the luxury of having big windows that let in ample sunlight. Most apartments have at least one room or space that is continually dark. A dark room can cause accidents, eye-strain, and even a sour disposition. If you’d like to illuminate your space – without taking a sledgehammer to your walls – try a few of these apartment-brightening tricks. A brighter space will lead to a brighter mood!

Paint your walls a light color

Dark walls actually soak up the light, making the room seem darker – even when you put the lights on. But lighter colors have a higher LRV, or “light reflectance value.” LRV tells you how much useable light is reflected by a surface. Wall colors with a higher LRV help to spread light deep into a space. 

Use eggshell or semi-gloss paint

Flat finishes absorb light, while glossier paints reflect the light back into the room. One warning, though: Because of the light reflection, a glossy finish does call attention to any flaws in the wall.

Keep your ceiling white 

It’s amazing the difference that a white ceiling makes on a room. Even if you have dark walls, a white ceiling will help keep the darkness from overwhelming the space. My go-to color is Benjamin Moore Super White in a flat finish -- it's the most reflective for ceilings.

Add more lamps

Yes, this seems obvious. But many apartment dwellers rely solely on overhead lights to illuminate the rooms. Light needs to come from various levels – low, middle, and high. Combining uplights on the floor and lamps on tables around the room with overhead lighting will create a brighter, more comfortable space. In feng shui, uplighting can also lift your mood and energy.

Hang large mirrors

Large mirrors can act like windows, reflecting the light back into the room. 

Choose reflective surfaces 

Just like walls, other large surfaces can absorb or reflect your light. Opt for glossy countertops, add glass panes to your hanging artwork, and place mirrored trays on top of dark tables.

Light is important for your physical and mental health. So make sure your home is gets as much light as possible!

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.


Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui for Career Growth and Direction

Feng Shui for Career Growth and Direction.jpg

I just wanted to say thank you for your amazing podcast! I am also still deciding which Feng Shui school works best for me but I love learning about Feng Shui and your podcast really taught me so much. My whole apartment is located directly above a laundromat. I'm interested in tapping into some good energies for mine and my boyfriend's careers. I need to figure out what direction I want to go in career-wise, and my boyfriend is hoping to grow his business. Thanks for all your help Anjie!

Amy A., Easthampton, MA

Hi Amy,

Thank you so much for listening to the podcast and for submitting your floor plan. Maybe one day we’ll start the podcast again! But I’ve had a busy year working on my book,  and launching Mindful Design Feng Shui School.

From your email, you’ve indicated that you and your boyfriend would like to have some feng shui advice on how to improve your careers. The boyfriend wishes to grow his business, and you would like some direction and clarity on your career in general.

Feng Shui for Career Growth Floor Plan.png

I appreciate the time and energy you spent on this floor plan, and even drawing it up on the computer! Everything is part of the story for you, including the appearance of this floor plan. My first observation was that that you’ve drawn this with a very thick black boundary. In fact the boundary is even thicker at the front door, and I had to spend some time to even find the front door on the plan. Of course all of this relates to your careers. This tells me that there may be some blocks in how business and career opportunities find you. You and your boyfriend can make a bit more effort to put yourself out in the world more. It can be literally getting out of the house more, as well as opening your mind up as well. 

It's interesting that you live above a laundromat. A few things come to mind...living above a lot of things spinning around in circles. And also people coming in to clean their "dirty laundry" and coming out fresh and clean! Finally, the ritual of cleaning. So maybe in your life, you spin things around a few times, but end up with freshness and new beginnings!

A little more on the entry, since the entry and this large block is in the Benefactors area, I think that it would be beneficial to look for helpful people and to travel outside of your comfort zone. Are there mentors you can work with? Are there friends or colleagues that you can reach out to for support? Be sure the entry is clean, uncluttered, and bright. If you need to, add some lighting, or a brighter light bulb. Make sure the outside of your door is clean, and your house number is clear and easy to see. 

The entry is super important to career. It’s how the world finds and sees you. 

For your boyfriend, he would like some growth in his business, so I would recommend a green plant in the Recognition area of your home, which is in the living room where the table is. Near the table by the window would be a perfect spot for a new healthy green plant or tree. I’ve been loving fig trees lately like this one. The leaves are so lush and soft. The wood element can support and enhance the fame and recognition he needs to see growth.

If you want to have some more clarity and direction, keep your windows clean and clear. Even if they’re clean right now, clean them again! The windows symbolize the eyes of the inhabitants of the home. Keep your eyes open and clear so you can start to see what’s the best direction for you. So you can begin to notice the messages from the universe to direct you towards your life path.

Finally, the both of you can attract more helpful people and benefactors, which is in that entry area. Besides the suggestions above, you can also ring a bell like these to activate the benefactors area. The sound and vibrations will spread out so that helpful people will come to your support. It’s even more powerful if you can do this every day between 11am and 1pm for 27 days in a row! 

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!


How to Spring Clean & Green your Beauty Cabinet with Anjie Cho

featured this month on Modern Minerals by Mo Mi

  image credit: Lotus Wei

image credit: Lotus Wei

In the late summer of 2015, I was in Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan where I found a book titled “108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces“. I was in a bit of a rush, but snapped a photo of this because I knew this was something I needed to read. At the time I was with my Mom and said “I would love to meet this designer one day”. A year later, my friend Katie Hess invited me to a super moon soirée on the roof top of building in Flatiron. I sat down next to Anjie and we started talking and I immediately knew we were going to be friends. It wasn’t until in 2017 that I had finally got around to organizing my photos when I found this photo I had taken in 2015 to remind me I wanted to read this book, and to my surprise the author was my incredible friend Anjie Cho! Since getting to know Anjie and watching her on YouTube, I often turn to Anjie when I’m feeling like something could be made better or for practical solutions to improve the flow of energy and balance in my space. Learn more from her podcasts HERE.

I wanted to find out more about Anjie for some advice on how to Spring Clean our beauty cabinets and asked her for some advice…Check it out!

...read full article


How to Choose Your Bathroom Vanity Lighting

featured this month on Houzz by Yanic Simard

The bathroom vanity is a special part of the home, but one that can sometimes get overlooked. In a primary bathroom, it can be the central hub for many important parts of our self-care and the true workhorse for much of our daily routines. For this reason, bathroom vanities need carefully selected lighting to live up to their full potential. There are many options to choose from, all of which work in different scenarios and can be used together to get the best of both worlds. Read on to find out how to pick the right bathroom vanity lighting.

Use a Single Sconce Above the Mirror If:

  • You don’t have room on one or both sides of the mirror to fit a pair of sconces.
  • You have a very wide mirror with no breaks in between.
  • You have a tall space and want to dramatically accentuate the height by adding a focal point up high.

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Power Houseplants: Dracaena "Janet Craig"

Power Houseplants - Dracaena %22Janet Craig%22.jpg

Last week we learned about the Golden Pothos, one of the most common and easy-to-grow plants on the list of 50 houseplants that purify a home or office. This week, we're getting to know the Dracaena, commonly known as Janet Craig, one of the top five plants in this collection!

As we know, houseplants are powerful and useful feng shui adjustments and are excellent additions to a holistic space to improve mood and indoor air quality. The Dracaena is one of the best options for the latter use and is a great choice for office spaces, as it is one of the best removers of trichloroethylene, a VOC that is produced by photocopiers and similar machines. The Janet Craig is also one of the top five ranking plants in removal of formaldehyde, a much more common volatile compound produced by many household items, from fabrics to grocery bags to upholstery and more. 

Similar in appearance to the lucky bamboo we often use, the Dracaena is a lush plant with dark green leaves that can grow up to ten feet tall! If you don't have that kind of space, there is a Compacta version that only reaches about three feet. This version is actually ideal for indoor growing, especially if your space lacks light or you're a forgetful gardener. It's hearty enough to live through neglect and low light, and it can live for decades! 

To Grow Successfully:

- Look for any light available in a dimly lit space. The Dracaena can grow in shade, but it will move more slowly. Its ideal environment is shade with some sunlight.
- Keep a temperature of 60 - 75 degrees. This plant can grow in lower temperatures, but the leaves may be yellow, rather than green.
- Keep your plant's soil evenly moist, and don't let the roots dry out. 
- If possible, fertilize every two weeks in spring and summer
- Clean the leaves occasionally with a damp cloth

Check out the plants on our How to Grow Fresh Air post, and let us know which one you'd like to learn about next!

by Anjie Cho


The Ins and Outs of Sick Building Syndrome

The Ins and Outs of Sick Building Syndrome.jpg

Much of my work pertains to homes, apartments and other personal spaces, but the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ) relates to your working environment as well. In modern times, we spend a little less than 1/3 of our time at work on average. That's a lot of time in the same space! Unfortunately, these spaces are often poorly ventilated and filled with a host of other issues that lead to sick building syndrome, which is as gross as it sounds. 

Sick building syndrome is a collection of symptoms that seem to be caused directly by spending time in a certain building, often an office. These symptoms can include anything from headaches, dizziness and sensitivity to smell to asthma attacks, flu-like symptoms and even personality changes! Long term, they can even lead to cancer, pregnancy difficulties and other more serious issues. Not only do these issues cause us to feel poorly, they can also result in higher incidents of missing work and difficulty being productive when we do make it in. 

These effects can be caused by many factors, including:

  • external pollution (think car exhaust, radon, asbestos, lead paint) that leaks indoors through ventilation
  • VOCs off gassed by a number of office supplies like manufactured wood furniture, carpet, printers and more
  • Off gassing from clothing, fragrances and personal products
  • Insect or vermin droppings 
  • Mold and mildew
  • EMFs from small appliances like microwaves
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Ventilation issues

The good news is that there are ways to avoid sick building syndrome, and while many of them are reserved as actions for landlords and building owners, some of them we can do at our desks! If you own a building you suspect of making people sick, take care to use proper ventilation, remove and replace water stained carpet, upholstery and ceiling tiles, aim to use materials that do not off gas as much, and educate yourself as well as possible to help prevent sick building syndrome in your space. Changing out your air filters regularly with HEPA filters can be very effective as well! 

If you're an employee in a sick building, be sure to bring the problem to the attention of someone who can make changes, but you can also consider bringing in a small air purifier for your office and adding plants to your desk and office space that can help to absorb harmful VOCs. Check out our favorite options

Generally the symptoms of sick building syndrome are relieved when you leave the building, but if you leave one place and head to another polluted place, you're not doing much good! So work to make your home as holistic and green as possible to give yourself a safe place to rejuvenate and heal from a long day at the office!

by Anjie Cho


This $429,000 Upper West Side One-Bedroom Could Use a Gut Reno, and Here's How to Do It (With Cost Taken Into Account!)

featured this week on Brick Underground by Leah Hochbaum Rosner

The best thing about this $429,000 top-floor one-bedroom at 140 West 71st Street in Lincoln Square is that it’s south-facing, “so it’s going to get a lot of light,” says architect Anjie Cho. Also, she notes that the prewar building, the Danielle, allows owners to sublet their units without any residency requirements—a rarity for a co-op.

That said, the apartment definitely has a few issues, most notably “the weird wavy column on the wall in the living room,” says Cho, mentioning that she supposes it might be some sort of drain. “It could be hard to work with.”

Here’s what she’d do to deal with that peculiar pole, as well as the rest of this outdated Upper West Side residence that she calls “a major major fixer-upper.” Her recommendations:

The living room (pictured above)

The first thing Cho would do is make sure the electrical system is up-to-date. If it isn't, an overhaul is in order since “it could be quite old,” given that the building dates back to the 1920s. And if you are required to get it up to code, you’ll need a permit, which, she says, "could be costly.” But it’ll be worth the expense, removing the danger of the system shorting out when you want to plug in your hair dryer, for example, or worse. Safety is, after all, paramount.

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Q&A Sunday: LED Bulbs vs. Full-Spectrum Bulbs

In terms of BTB feng shui, what is the opinion of LED bulbs? Do they emit EMFs? I thought full-spectrum bulbs were better.

Rita, on How to Buy New Light Bulbs Without Guessing

Hi Rita, 

Thanks for your question! Feng shui doesn't really take this sort of detail into consideration, and in my work with BTB feng shui, we haven't touched on light bulbs much. In general, I believe this would be more of a Bau Biologie question. 

However, we did do some research in attempt to help, and this is what we found!

First, the term "full-spectrum" seems to actually refer to the type of light a bulb puts off, ranging from infrared to near-ultraviolet, and there are available full-spectrum options in CFL, LED and incandescent. It is worth noting that, like with greenwashing, there are bulbs that specify "full-spectrum" that actually do not include the entire spectrum and aren't much different from an average bulb. 

That said, there does seem to be evidence that LED bulbs give off more EMFs than incandescent, in the form of "dirty electricity." Most research and writing confirms that LED bulbs do emit a certain type of EMF, known as dirty electricity, which is caused by products that transform the type of electricity flowing through wires into other types (from AC to DC) in order to provide lower voltage and use less energy

If this is a concern for you, you can try halogen incandescent bulbs, which are clean, or look for high-quality, high-efficiency LED bulbs that do not use a transformer, as they are safer than traditional LED bulbs with regards to EMFs. 

In any case, I would definitely recommend researching further into available lightbulbs and Bau Biologie for more information! 

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!