Feng Shui Your Way to Optimized Energy and Organization

featured this month on Tech Connect

I'm so excited to be featured on the Tech Connect podcast! Heidi and I chat about using feng shui to organize and optimize the energy in your life. Tune in here to listen as we talk what feng shui is, how our physical space influences us, dealing with messy teens, tips on placing furniture and more! 

by Anjie Cho


Listen: Feng Shui at Home in the Year of the Monkey

Happy Chinese New Year! To welcome the Year of the Monkey, I joined up with one of our favorites, Ian Power from The Home Discovery Show, to talk feng shui for the new lunar year and the Year of the Fire Monkey. Listen in for what to expect from the fire energy of this year and feng shui tips for starting off the Chinese New Year right! 


Listen: Color and Lights

I'm happy to, once again, be a guest on The Home Discovery Show with Ian Power! This time, it's all about color and lighting. Ever wondered what Kelvins are or how a regular looking light bulb can be considered "blue" or "red?" Or how lighting matters in feng shui? We've got the answers!


How to Improve Your Feng Shui

featured this week on Gates Interior Design, by Amanda Gates

I'm so excited to have chatted with Amanda Gates for her podcast, Design 101. We discuss mindset, working with your environment, feng shui for your wallet and much more. Check it out below and download the podcast here

Interior design and feng shui are intrinsic tools to create balance and harmony in your home. When your space feels as good as it looks, your mood is lifted, you feel lighter and grace is easier to achieve. Everything just seems to work, and a slower pace sets in – like taking in a long, deep breath.

I recently spoke with a marketing firm that told me feng shui and interior design were different. That essentially, I needed to separate the two and be one or the other, otherwise, my brand didn’t make sense. My favorite remark, “start a hobby blog about feng shui. It will attract those who like it.” It got me thinking, are we really that far off? Is acquiring sustainable harmony in our lives  only for “those” people? Carol Olmsted recently wrote that one of her feng shui colleagues was featured on their local news station for “odd jobs“. As Carol so eloquently stated, “I’m entering my 18th year of Feng Shui and working with a Fortune 100 company on the interior design of 23 floors in their new headquarters, and the media is still calling Feng Shui an odd job?”

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Interview transcript:

AG: Welcome everyone to The Design 101 Podcast. My name is Amanda Gates and I own Gates Interior Design in Nashville, Tennessee. My company specializes in living a stylish and holistic life. My goal with this podcast is to celebrate all the blessings that we receive from a well-designed life. I hope to introduce you to inspirational people, teach you new ways to live better and empower you to design your best life through intention. There are many ways to achieve balance and harmony in our lives, but it all starts at home. Join me each month to be inspired, transformed and motivated to live your best life.

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome to Design 101. I’m your host Amanda, and today’s guest is architect, Feng Shui interior designer and bestselling author, Anjie Cho. In the late ‘90s while attending college, Anjie was fascinated by the way that spaces interacted and integrated with the lives of the people that inhabited them. She fondly recalls that she was the only student in her architectural photography class that captured images of people while everyone else focused solely on the building structures. It was then that she began to see how her design work fully came to life, and thus, she decided to focus her talents on interior spaces. Her desire to understand this symbiotic relationship between space and its occupants led her to investigate and integrate holistic principles of Feng Shui, environmental psychology and sustainable green design in her work. 

From Cal Berkeley, a LEED accredited professional and certified Feng Shui consultant, Anjie’s goal is to create spaces by enhancing balance and harmony, sustainability and her focus is creating nurturing and supportive environments for her clients. Join me as I sit down with Anjie today to learn more about Feng Shui, spaces, sustainability and architecture. Anjie, welcome to the show, I’m so excited to have you on today!

AC: Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for having me.

Yeah, I’ve been stalking you on Twitter for probably about a year, maybe 2 years now. It’s been a while, and it was funny because I’ve had this podcast now for about 3 years and my better half, we were in bed a couple of weeks ago and he said, "Why don’t you ask her to be on the show?" I thought, "Oh my God, that’s a brilliant idea!"

Oh, I’m so flattered. You’re talking about me when you’re in bed!

Yeah, I know, that’s definitely good Feng Shui, right? But yeah, I’ve been a Feng Shui consultant for about 15 years now, and I just always felt like you really aligned with a lot of the same values that I had. I’m not an architect, but I am an interior designer, and I just always loved your approach to design and a lot of the words, that the way that you do your designs. The words that you used were really what aligned with me, and I think that’s what really attracted me to your style. I loved the fact that you were an architect, because literally from the ground up, you’re approaching a space with these ideas. So give us a little bit of background about how you got started. What made you decide to want to go in to architecture and ultimately become a Feng Shui interior designer and everything that you do?

When I was growing up, I always wanted to be an artist. I was very artistic, but I had these Asian parents that said, “Well, you want to be an artist, so that means you should be an architect.” So somehow, I was set on that path very early on and, actually, I was reading a book last year, and one of the questions was, “What is your earliest childhood memory?” So the first thing that popped in to my mind was, I love taking art classes, so I took this basket weaving class at the local park, and I must have been 10 or 9, and I just remember we would soak these long pieces of fiber. You would soak them until they softened, and then you would weave them together. I really loved that, and that was the first memory I could remember, a creative memory. I love the metaphor of that, where you take different elements and you weave them together to form this beautiful container to hold meaningful objects or memories or whatever it is. That’s really what I think brought me to architecture is that, architecture for me is really about creating a space for people to inhabit. It’s not necessarily about making a beautiful space. While that’s important, it’s also really important to create a space that nurtures and supports you.

Yes. And going back to the words that attracted me to you, those are absolutely it. Being nurturing and holistic and supportive, which a lot of it does go back to Feng Shui, but really tying it in to, it’s basically a lifestyle. It’s how to live your life so that you are filled with balance and harmony and everything that you do inside and outside of your space, you bring that with you.

Yes, absolutely. I just published a book as well, and in acknowledgments, I thank my parents for always creating safe and nurturing spaces for me throughout my entire life, because that really affects your life and it shapes you how supportive your environment is.

Yeah, I agree with that. It’s funny to me. SometimesI’ll go into spaces, and people will talk about things that are going wrong in their life, and I think a lot of it is that when you’re in the midst of it, you can’t really see the forest for the trees, but when you have an outsider come in, it’s so obvious what the “it” thing is or what they need to change. So that’s one thing that I really love about Feng Shui is, and I say this on my own website, it’s not so much about the trinkets. A lot of people associate, I think, Feng Shui with trinkets and voodoo, and they have weird associations to it, but it’s not really about that. It’s really about common sense and the way you approach everything in your life and placing those elements around you so that you are supported, and everything that you do is approached with balance and harmony and not this chaotic lifestyle that so many of us feel that we have to have in order to be productive. 

Yes. And when you talk about the trinkets, it’s funny, I’m sure you get this lot too. Sometimes clients will say, “Well, what about my crystal? Where do I put my Feng Shui crystal?” We’ll go through the whole consultation and at the end, I haven’t told them to put a crystal up somewhere, and they’ll say, “Well I really wanted a crystal.” I’ll say, “Well, I really didn’t think you needed one, but if you really would like it, we can find a place to put it.” But it isn’t about what little object you put, although those can be very meaningful and make huge changes, but Feng Shui can be about much more than, like you said, putting the individual little trinkets up.

It’s funny, I had a client about 2 years ago that, I came to her home, and I don’t know if you see this, but a lot of my consultations are mainly about 2 things: love and relationships and money. It’s always those two things. This woman called me, and she said “I read this article about getting more money in life, and I’m always broke and money’s always racing out of my house, so I put popcorn in my bathroom and it’s not working. Make it work.”

Popcorn?

That’s exactly what I said. I was like, “What? Excuse me? You put popcorn in your bathroom?” She said, “Well, I read this article and it had this whole thing about how you have to put popcorn in your bathroom, and then all this money comes in.” I’m like, “Well, I don’t think that’s the way that it works.” I took a look at this bathroom, and everything was wrong with it. The plumbing fixtures were dripping. The faucet on the sink, the hot water didn’t work, only the cold water worked. I mean, everything in this bathroom was completely dilapidated. I’m like, “There’s no amount of popcorn that’s going to fix this.”

I’m still stuck on the popcorn, but it’s so funny, because a lot of people do think that Feng Shui can be this magic pill that will change their life, and I think if you really thought about it, you know that in order to make big shifts in your life, you need to work internally AND externally. Feng Shui can be a way to one, support any internal changes you make and also let the universe know in a physical way not just by you thinking it. You say it, and you change the environment around you. It’s not a magic pill. It takes time and it takes effort.

What I have always called this is just really, not only living more mindfully, but living intentionally. So it really is a mind, body, spirit type practice. You can’t simply put popcorn in your bathroom, like you said, and associate that with, “Oh, this is the magic pill that’s going to make everything appear as it should.” Now that may help, because you’re exuding the energy of expectation, but it’s more about aligning everything in your life, because if you’re doing one thing in your bathroom and thinking that popcorn, or whatever the “it” factor is, is going to do something, but everything else is hectic and chaotic and out of order, then it’s not going to work. It’s really about that entire lifestyle and encapsulating that so that you are nurtured and can live your best life, whether you’re in your space or you’re out of your space. It’s kind of like your anchor, I guess.

Yes. Actually, tying back to your first question about how I became a Feng Shui consultant or how I started incorporating that into my work, it was totally life transforming when I realized that I wanted to study Feng Shui and incorporate it into what I do on a daily basis and how I help people in the world. I guess it was a magic pill in that way, but I went with it full-force and integrated it into many parts of my life, and it can make a huge difference.

I guess I would ask, in your own words, why is it so important that we live in this way? It’s not only living or creating an environment that encapsulates us in balance and harmony, but also incorporating sustainability, green design. It is this whole package. Why do you think it’s so important to live that way?

Well, one thing is if someone’s not ready for it, that’s okay too. But if you are interested in being more conscious in areas in your life, for instance, for me, I was working in architecture, and I was really not very happy with what I was doing. I was going to a day job, and I really disliked it. I started getting depressed, and I realized I needed to make some major changes in my life, so I had an epiphany, and I started to go to meditation, I started to go to yoga classes and I started studying Feng Shui. It was about, “What can I do, because nothing else has been working. How do I make my life better?” Then you start to see that meditation and Feng Shui principles and green design and just being conscious of your connection to the world and your connection to your environment around you, one, it gives you power to understand that you can make changes and you can make shifts and you can take your life into your own hands and really create the life that you want, and two, you start to see that you touch everyone else, and everything you do affects everyone else too. It’s almost like, when I go to meditation classes or if I go to Feng Shui classes or whatever I’m interested in, it all ends up being the same story that it’s so important to realize that we’re not islands, but we all touch each other, and we can all help and support each other, and we’re all energy and we all affect each other.

Yeah, I totally agree with that. I think that it’s interesting that you said that you had the epiphany. I’ve talked about on this show, and also on my own blog, about how I did the same thing. I was practicing Feng Shui for many years, and in the midst of it, 4 years ago, I was going through a divorce. It was the first time that...I understood and I fully believed in what I was practicing, and I did it in my own home, but it was during my divorce that I had this “Aha!” moment of, “Oh my God, this is why this works.” What I did is, I had a portion of the furnishings from our home. I had moved out of our married home in to a house that I rented, and as I was walking through the space, I was depressed, I was miserable. I was just kind of in this state, and my head knew that I shouldn’t stay in this state, because I knew I would attract more of it, but I couldn’t get out of the state. So I did the yoga and the meditation, and I was slowly getting there, but the epiphany that I had was everything that was around me and surrounded me was from that past life. So I just took this bold move and I put everything up on Craigslist as a lot and I said, “It’s for sale.” I put a stupidly low price tag on it and I was like, “Just come and take everything. No, you can’t have one or two items. It’s all or nothing.” So I did that. I sold everything down to my silverware. 

Wow.

It was great, because I really needed the money at the time. Those who are listening, divorce is very expensive, but it was such a life transforming event for me, because everything that was “in my comfort zone” was gone. Everything in my life literally changed overnight, so it was a great way for me to strip down to nothing and just start fresh. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, it was exactly what I needed to get back on track to step out of depression and the negativity that I had gotten myself on. It was a production company that actually had purchased everything. They did set design and stuff, and it ended up taking them 3 truckloads to get everything out. But as they closed the last truck, I remember that night, I had never slept so great, and I just felt I had been completely cleansed. That was when I really had my “Aha!” Because a lot of the Feng Shui studies, whichever practice you study, teach you that in order to make room for the new, you have to get rid of the old. I did it in a really big way. I mean, I didn’t just clean out my garage. I got rid of everything, but it kind of set the precedence for the universe to say, “Hey, that life is gone. I’m done with that. We’re moving forward.” Then as soon as I did that, all of these amazing things started to open up in my life.

I like to say that the universe always wants to fill a vacuum, and sometimes we’re so scared to let go of everything that we have around us, our belongings or whatever it is, our material items. We don’t want to let go of it. We need them all around us, but when we’re so packed, so full with all this energy and all these things, there’s no room for the universe to fill it with something better, and when we create a vacuum and kind of release things, we create space for the universe to fill it with something even better.

It was really a good example for me and an experience, because I could relate to my clients in many ways, but that was one area where I really couldn’t. I felt like I really walked through the fire in that experience, because it took me about a year to fully go through all of the motions and get to that point, but it was a great way for me, now when I work with clients. Like you said, for some reason, we emotionally attach ourselves to things. Whatever the comfort is that it brings us, we feel like we can’t get rid of it. But if you ask anybody who, during some type of traumatic event, whether their house is burned down or they have lost those things, at the end of it, it wasn’t really about the things. So it’s really a great way for me, when I’m working with new clients that are fearful of letting go of things, to show them that if they can just take that chance and take that leap over the cliff, that they’re going to look back and say, “Why the hell didn’t I do this sooner?”

Oh yeah, definitely. I remember one time I did a little road trip around the south, and we went to all these thrift stores, because I love thrift stores, actually. I saw all these things I used to have, and I was like, “Oh my God, I never would have remembered I had this, whatever it is. It’s totally useless. I would never want it again!” That’s just a few things. We have so much stuff. There are so many things that we have, that we have in our lives and we’ll never need them again. Do we really need them now? People are so scared to let go of them.

I don’t know why, we definitely in the last 100 years, probably even the last 50 years, have started accumulating more things. I was just reading an article the other day that our homes are twice as big as they used to be in the ‘70s. It’s interesting, because simultaneously we have, while our homes are getting larger, we’re also seeing this huge movement of tiny houses and how people are, in big ways, letting go of that big mortgage and that big house and wanting to give back to the environment and be sustainable. They’re moving in to these tiny houses, and they’re doing it and they’re more happy than they’ve ever been, so it’s interesting.

It is interesting. Actually I was just thinking about that today, because I went to a client’s apartment to measure. In New York City, space is at a premium. We’re doing probes, making little holes all around the apartment to see where we could take back space where there had been areas where the developer had built out the walls further than they needed to be, for whatever reason. Maybe there’s a pipe that we can build in at the wall much closer. But it’s crazy how they just built it like this before, and no one really cared about losing those 2 inches, but now, in New York City, and in this day and age, everyone’s like “I want those 2 inches back for that extra storage!” Or whatever it is. We just need more stuff now, I guess. But then there’s also that need for minimalism that a lot of people have. One of my friends was telling me about how she has a capsule wardrobe now and she has a capsule diet, where she just has a few things, maybe a handful of things that she goes to. A handful of things in her closet that she can just go to. You don’t have to spend all this time making a decision on what to wear, but you have these 5 or 10 things that go well together, and that can just be your go to wardrobe.

I love that, because there’s a lot to be said about the anxiety of stepping into your closet and looking at 40 different things, which there’s probably only 3 that you really ever wear the most of. That energy that you’re putting off while you’re in there of, “Holy shit, I don’t have time for this. I just need to pick something!” Then, because you did it in a rushed state, you leave the house and you think, “No, I should have worn this or maybe I should have done that,” and then you’re questioning yourself.

Well that’s another thing, a personal story that I have about my closet. A couple of years ago, I was so busy that year that I did not even unpack my summer clothes. So I ended up just buying new clothes and wearing them, and I like to tell people, when I finally went through all that and went through all my clothes and got rid of the ones I don’t wear, I actually lost weight. I had been holding on to all this stuff in my closet, and my body was also holding onto weight in that same way. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to have to take the time to go through it, and it only took an afternoon. It doesn’t really take that long, when you think about it, but we get so scared. I tell clients, sometimes they say, “Oh yeah, I keep that pair of high school jeans that you want to get back into.” But I say, “No, actually, you should let those go and give them away because, one, you’ll almost never fit back in to them. That’s the truth. Two is, for me, when I see that pair of jeans every time I look in my drawers or my closet, it creates a sense of guilt or judgment or this negativity that I’m going to be happier in the future if I lose weight and fit in to these jeans. You’re not living in the present. You’re letting something that you may or may not ever use again take up valuable space in your closet and, again, it’s just this way of making yourself feel guilty, and it takes up space in your mind. Just let go of it. Buy clothes that fit you right now that make you feel great.

I love that. That’s such a great analogy, and I never really looked at it that way, but you’re absolutely right. If you are looking at something that represents judgment and guilt, I’m not even sure if you do actually attain it, which a lot of people probably don’t, which then sets in failure. Again, you’re emitting that energy, and so you get kind of on this hamster wheel of a cycle to where you can’t ever really get out of that. And if you do let go and get into something that makes you feel totally kick-ass and you feel great that you’re in, combine that with some other things, like you’re having a great hair day, you’re in some killer heels, whatever it is, but when you feel really good, a lot of things are going to change in your day, and things are going to be better. You’re going to attract better things, because you feel so great, and you’re going to be putting that energy out in to the world.

Absolutely.

I love that, and I love the idea of the capsule wardrobe because, again, I don’t know what it is… I talk about this a lot…I write a lot of articles about this level of consumerism. I feel like a lot of us have this incessant need to fill a void, whether it’s an emotional thing…it’s probably an emotional issue…but we try to fill that void with stuff. It might be the instant gratification of the moment, but then it just stacks up in our closets. So I love the idea of really simplifying and being able to have the courage to limit it down to just a few things and being okay with that. 

It also, I think, frees your mind of that stress of having to decide. We have so many options now, people just get paralyzed. You would know, especially with interior design or architecture or with almost anything, people have so many choices that they’re completely paralyzed. They can’t make a decision, and then they stress and have anxiety about it. That’s really unnecessary. It’s not the end of the world. No one’s going to die here. Let’s just pick a sofa.

So what is it like, I mean, you’ve designed all over the place and you mentioned earlier New York. What is it like designing spaces that are so small?

Do you find it challenging, or do you really enjoy trying to maximize these small spaces? Probably the smallest home I’ve ever done was 800 square feet, and I think that’s pretty big for New York.

Yes, that’s big for New York. My apartment is 800 square feet, and it’s a one bedroom. I really, actually, like designing with constraints, I think. I like working with limitations. It gives me a structure, and it gives me something to go on. That’s why I actually really love incorporating Feng Shui into design, because yeah, we could just put this bed anywhere, for example. It could look good on this wall, on this wall, on this wall and you could base it on function. Feng Shui gives you this other set of guidelines to educate your decision and inform your decision so you can make a decision based on Feng Shui, based on the flow, based on the function and based on aesthetics, and it really gives you a clear sense on how things can be laid out in your home or in your office. So I really actually like working with constraints. I think if I had a huge house, because I mostly work in New York, if I had a huge house, it would be a little bit more difficult for me. I would think, “What do you do with all this room?”

I’m in Nashville, and a lot of the homes here average 2,500 – 4,000 square feet, so it can be challenging because, especially here, the family unit is exceptionally important, and so they want larger homes to have more space because they have pretty big families and dogs and things like that in the home. There are always areas of these homes that get neglected. It could become the junk room or the guest bedroom / exercise / dry cleaning room. They become dumping grounds. So that’s the challenging thing, is I have clients that specifically call me that do want Feng Shui, and they really want to create that harmony in their life and they have an understanding of it, and then I have clients who are at their wits end and have tried everything and aren’t sure that they’re signed up for this whole Feng Shui thing or if they even agree with it but they’re so desperate that they’ll try anything. 

Yeah, that is a challenge, but I think that people do know that their spaces affect you. I mean, there’s a reason why people save up. Their home is going to be one of the biggest purchases of their life, and the renovation would probably be the second biggest purchase, so it’s something they save up a lot of money for. Everyone wants their dream kitchen or their dream home, and people know that it really is important how comfortable and how good you feel in your space, so they know there’s something wrong, and if you can improve your environment that you could improve your life. So where Feng Shui fits in that, sometimes I tell people if you read a book, if you read a fictional novel, you could just read it for what it is. There’s a story about a girl, and she goes to school and she meets someone and gets married. Or you could start reading metaphor into that. You could start to understand the subtleties that maybe the writer did or didn’t intend to put in with the words, with the language, with the storyline, and you can find your own meaning in it, and becomes very meaningful. I say, Feng Shui can also be like that too. You could look at your desk and think, “This is just a brown desk.” You could look at your whole life like that, or you could start reading into it and seeing the metaphor in it and seeing how it affects you and finding beauty in that, and then your life just becomes richer.

That’s absolutely true, because we all have our own perceptions. That reminds me of a story I’m trying to remember. I think I might have read it in a book. I think it was one of those books of "Just Say Yes." It was talking about this scenario where this gentleman was going in to work every day. He hated his job, he hated his coworkers, he just hated everything and he hated the work that he had to do. The weekend would finally come, but in a flash, it would be Sunday at 4 PM, and he’d hit this cycle of great depression because he knew he had to go back to the office. 

So he goes to this counselor, and he says, “I’m miserable. Just give me some drugs. I’m depressed, I hate what I do, I hate the people I work with, and I just hate it.” So the therapist, I assumed that you would say, “Well, quit!” But rather than just giving the obvious answer, she said, “Well let’s just try something different. We create our own realities, and so your perception is that you don’t like your coworkers and you don’t like your cubicle and you don’t like what you do and whatever.” She said, “Instead, let’s try to reframe the way that you think about your space and your job and what you do. For the next week, I want you to go in to work, and I don’t want you to hold that dreadful feeling. Whatever it takes for you to get into a space of feeling good, whether you have to think about a happy time in your childhood or something you did fun over the weekend, or maybe you even focus on the following weekend what you’re going to do. Give yourself some kind of a target so that you’re excited. Go into work and just say yes.” It was kind of being just mindful and intentional about everything that he was doing. Your boss hands you some type of work-related project that you have to work on, and instead of saying, “Ugh, another project that I’m going to try,” you’re going to say, “Absolutely, and I’m going to get this done a day earlier,” or whatever it is. Just those little mind shifts. She said, “I want you to report back to me next week when you come in, and tell me where we’re at and how you feel.” 

So to his amazement, he does what she says, and he comes back into his session the next week, and she was amazed because he came in and he said, “Oh my God, just simply changing my attitude changed everything around me,” and his perception. What he didn’t realize is that he was so miserable all the time that his coworkers avoided him, because they didn’t want to be a part of that negativity, and as soon as his attitude changed, then they started being more helpful. They were working with them, his boss liked him…just those subtle changes completely changed his environment.

Wow, that’s a great story.

So I love hearing stories about that, because, and I’ve said this before, whenever I get around somebody that’s in this pissy mood and pissed off, it’s really about attitude is everything. Attitude is the difference between an ordeal and a journey, so which way are you going to look at it? So I love it when I’m working with a client that isn’t entirely sure if Feng Shui is going to work with them or help them, because I can use my own experience with my divorce, and then I’ve got all these other little experimental, either I’ve read scenarios or I’ve seen it happen with my own clients, that I can share with them, and then they get excited, because they want that transformation to happen in their life too. So it kind of bridges the gap, so to speak.

It does, it does.

So what are some things when you go in to a space? Do clients often call you because they want to have Feng Shui in their home or is it something that you just automatically incorporate into your designs?

It’s both. There are some people that call me not knowing that I do Feng Shui, just for architecture work, and for the most part, I will always design with Feng Shui principles. I’ll usually tell them “I actually do Feng Shui, so this is the reason why I laid it out this way. It was better for Feng Shui.” It’s interesting in the recent years, people say, “Yeah, tell me, tell me!” They’re like, “I’ll try anything!” They’re really, people are really open to hearing it. They may not really embrace it all, but I’m also very much about function as well, so the Feng Shui aspect is really important and the Feng Shui that I practice, BTB Feng Shui, gives a lot of ways to make adjustments. So say we can’t place the bed in the best position, I can adjust it with a mirror and that’s okay. If, for whatever reason, the owner would really just want the bed the other way, I can say, “Well, it’s better this way because of Feng Shui and the commanding position, and this puts you in control of your life, but if it’s really not going to work out well, I want to make sure that you have a mirror set up in such a way that you do it.” That’s on them, too, if I’m not helping them with furniture, for them to go through with that, but I always let them know. I don’t think I could design something without Feng Shui principles in mind. It’s definitely part of my style now.

I’ve had that happen too. I’ve had clients that, in a bedroom, they didn’t want their bed in the ideal place, but at the end of the day, to me, it’s more important about the energy that they emit and how they feel about the space, and, if in the ideal location, they don’t feel right about it or doesn’t feel good to them then, to me, they’re putting off awkward energy. It’s not working for them. Just simple movement, if it works for them in another spot and it makes them happy and that’s what they’re going to be putting out to the universe, that, to me, that supersedes everything.

Yes, absolutely. I had one client who, actually for her employees, she didn’t want to put them in a commanding position, which is when you face the door and you don’t have your back to the door. I was trying to explain it to her and she’s said, “You know, I feel more comfortable when I’m facing the wall,” and, shortly after that, I was talking to my mentor and I told him, and he said, “That’s really interesting, because she’s not ready to be in command of her life. She’s not ready to look at things, so you have to respect that.” If they’re not ready to look at it, I don’t think forcing it on anyone really helps them.

No, because, again, that just creates awkward energy, because they don’t feel good about it. That’s interesting though! What a great perspective to say that she’s not ready which interestingly enough, many of her employees may disagree with that, they may not like their backs to the door.

Right.

Isn’t that funny? So you’re focusing on one, and if she’s not going to be in that office, it could interfere with the others. I had that situation of my own office when I had built out my space several years ago. We had originally put our cash wrap in the center of the store, and the main computers were on the cash wrap, but I also put a computer behind the cash wrap so if somebody wanted to do some work and they didn’t want to get interference from sales, they could sit there. What I found is that even though that option was there, they would still use the cash wrap computers, because they were facing forward.

What I like to say, and this always works with men, who are more likely to be resistant to Feng Shui, I always say, “Where do you like to sit at a restaurant?” They always say, “Oh, in the very back with my back against the wall, not in line with the door but facing the door.” Men always want to be sitting in the commanding position of a restaurant.

Isn’t that interesting?

Then they get it. We also call it the mafia boss position but still, certainly when you’re at a restaurant, there are many people I know that just never want to sit with their back facing the door. They just want to be able to see the door. They don’t want some unknown person walking behind them. They want to be in control of their space and feel comfortable.

I do the same thing. I don’t like to have my back to the door, because it’s startling. If you’re really focused on what you’re doing and someone comes in, it’s startles you. So you feel vulnerable. So it really makes sense that somebody would sit in the corner of a restaurant and be able to view the space and have the security of something behind their back knowing that no one’s going to come up upon them.

I think a lot of these principles are common sense as well.

I tell that to lot of my clients. It’s not about the trinkets and the voodoo, and we’re going to put this here and do this here. A lot of it is just utilizing common sense and feeling safe and secure within your space so that it really does lift your spirits and make you feel good. We were working on a house last year that was a tiny house (they’re built on trailers), and they put a bed in the back of this trailer, and it was a platform bed that had wood that went around the mattress. The mattress sat inside of it. But because the space was so tiny and it had this wood that came out, it had sharp corners, so every time they walked to get into bed, they were kicking the damn corners. I thought, “This is just common sense. You don’t put a bed like this in a small house and kick it every night or when you’re waking up in the morning. Your furniture’s biting you. That’s not good Feng Shui. Aside from good Feng Shui, that’s just not good design.

No, and you probably will have very scarred shins.

Yes. It was funny, because before I even went to the back of the bedroom, they were talking about how, they would spend evenings in front of the trailer, but for the most part, they didn’t spend a lot of time in there. They would go out with friends or be out and about, and somehow we got around about to Sunday mornings. I asked them if they would stay in the house and read or do something like that and they said, “No, we don’t really spend a lot of time in here,” and as we ventured back and I noticed that they had this weird platform, I thought, “Good God, your association right now with this area of the house is that it hurts!” So they got rid of the platform. I think what they did is somehow they cut down the wood and kind of rounded it out, and it’s funny because she emailed me towards the end of last year and said, “We spend so much more time in there now that those things are off, and we never noticed!” I thought, “How do you not notice something that you’re hitting all the time?” I guess it became a way of life, so they just started to live with it and just associate it with well, this is the way it’s got to be. Isn’t it funny that it’s something that is hurting them, and it bothers them. but they didn’t feel like they had options to change it?

No, we see it all the time. We see the patterns, but it’s funny, people just don’t connect with it.

It’s the whole outsider aspect, like the one with the popcorn. It’s the outside coming in and saying, “Well, I think there’s a few other things that we need to work on.”

Yes, it’s so funny. I don’t understand the popcorn, but…

I asked her where she had seen it, and she couldn’t locate it, but I guess she had read an article in a magazine, some shelter magazine. I have a feeling, I don’t know for sure, but it was probably in something like a Woman’s Day or something that was more like a smaller magazine, and it probably had other things. I’m going to assume that the article was written by somebody who knew a lot about Feng Shui and probably wrote several things, and for whatever reason, this client honed in on popcorn, probably because she thought, “I have that in the pantry. I can do that right now.”

Exactly. But it’s funny, because there is one thing that story of reminds me of too. Now that I’ve written my book, a lot of people are ask me, “Oh well, what should I put in the healthy area that’s in the center? I need to put something yellow.” I say, “You could definitely put something yellow, but that’s really the most basic way that you can interpret this. One of my friends calls it Barnes and Noble Feng Shui which is really, if you want to just go read a book, which is really helpful and will help you make good changes in your life, but there’s so much more to it and more depth to it, especially if you work with a practitioner. Maybe we could make the popcorn work if we really thought about it. It’s funny how some things get taken really literally, because it’s really something, I think, originally it was developed so you would work with a master practitioner to really work with your particular energy in your space, but people want to do things on their own. Like we want to make our own websites, people want to do their own Feng Shui, and you could have some good results and start to make really great changes in your life, but also there’s like a lot that you can gain from working with someone as well.

I agree with that. I do classes at my local library on Feng Shui. I grew up in California, that’s where I first got certified, and so it’s much more widely practiced and understood and accepted, and here in the south, I think that it conflicts a little bit with religious beliefs, and so it’s been kind of an educational process of showing people how to incorporate it into their lives, and it’s just really about living a better lifestyle through common sense. I had a class in January, and I had this attendee that was there, and she kept honing in on, “Yes, but what about the elements? I need to make sure that I have the metal and the wood and the water.” I would explain to her, “Don’t focus on that right now. We need to look at the bigger picture.” I’d get through a couple more slides, and she would ask, “Well, what about these elements?” She just kept honing in on the elements and how all 5 elements had to be in every room in a particular order, and they had to be associated correctly or the Feng Shui would be wrong. And I brought that up to her as, “Well, yes, that’s what it states in a lot of textbooks, but that’s not necessarily the way that you need to focus on that. You probably need to focus on many other things before you get to that part. It’s a whole picture.” I suggested to her, “You might want to have somebody like myself come out and just take a look at your space, because you might need a little bit of the elements in there, but it’s probably much more than that.” I could just tell from her anxiety. I thought, “I think there’s other things that we could work on than just the elements.”

It sounds like she has a lot of metal element, and she might need some more wood element, but also that’s another thing too. There’s no right answer with Feng Shui. A lot of it is intuitive as well. What you would give someone is most likely not the same thing I would give someone, but it’s about who you happen to be attracted to and who you’re working with and who you get along with and what occurs to them, what comes up to them intuitively that is going to support you.

That’s a really great point, because I am clairsensory so when I go to a space, I will often tell a client not to say anything to me, because I can walk the space and I can get a feeling of what is wrong with the space, and I can often pick up right away what needs to be fixed through intuition. I’ve gone to many homes over the years, and I will know right away just from the energy of the home, if they’ve been dealing with a death or if a death is approaching, if they’re going through a divorce, I can feel that. So a lot of times, I go strictly on that before I even go in to the textbook stuff. It’s a great point that you said that everybody’s going to approach it a little bit differently, and it is an ongoing education. I first got certified 15 years ago, and my education has been ongoing. I’ve taken classes from Carol Olmstead, I’m currently taking classes from Karen Rauch Carter, I hope to be taking from Tricia Morris, who is another one who I admire. I’m constantly taking courses and new classes, not because of the certification, but because I want to see their approach and see how they see things, because it’s a great way to learn more.

Absolutely. Also, I believe and have been taught that we attract people that we need in our lives for some reason, so with a lot of the clients we get or the work that we get, there’s something that we have to learn from them as well. It’s always a learning process and it’s always evolving and shifting.

It’s funny that you say that, because a lot of the clients that I do attract are…

You said love and…

Yeah, Love and Relationships and Wealth seem to be the two that I attract the most, and I always say that nobody ever calls me for wisdom and knowledge. You’ve got to know what you’re going to do with your love or you’ve got to know what you’re going to do with your relationship and your money, but nobody ever calls for that. It’s like the least sexy gua of Feng Shui, so I always tell people.

I will say those two areas are the most popular, I think, across the board.

Well, it’s funny because I’m reading the new Tony Robbin’s book, “Master Your Money,” and it’s…

Oh, I hear it’s good.

It’s really, really good, and I write a lot of posts, not only with my local paper, but on my own blog. I do a lot of money articles, and I’ve been blogging now for about 6 years, and I’ve had people over the years say, “Why the hell do you write so much about money? You’re an interior designer!” I tell people all the time it has everything to do with what I’m doing, because I can go in to a home and I can Feng Shui ‘til the cows come home, but if subconsciously, they’re worried about money or they’ve got a pattern that they’re in this state of lack or there’s not enough or they don’t respect their money, it’s going to affect how they live in their home and the money that they attract. So the chapter that I’m in now, I’m in chapter 9 and he’s talking about how there’s basically 3 emotional factors in our lives that affect everything that we do. It’s love, money and our bodies, like fitness and how we take care of ourselves. I thought, “How true that is,” because those are probably the three multibillion dollar things that we put all of our money into, because we want to be richer, we want to be loved and we want to always look good.

Yes, those are really important things, and people are very interested in those things, especially with Feng Shui.

I write articles all the time about how to create a sense of security and how to feel good about your money. I just wrote an article on how to Feng Shui your wallet. I had this woman who called me and she said, “I need you to come out to my house. Money comes in, but it goes out quicker than I can even get my hands on it and it’s gone. It’s like I’m losing it.”

Oh, I have a way to Feng Shui my wallet. I want to hear your way.

Well, I think I have 9 tips in the article, but the first and foremost, have a really great looking wallet and a wallet that just kicks ass and you feel great about. Her biggest thing is that she always threw her purse and her wallet around, mainly her wallet. So she would be doing something, and she would take her wallet out of her purse and then she throw it somewhere. So that’s not respecting your money. That’s subconsciously just throwing stuff around. I said, “That’s a great example of why you keep losing money.” Only put 1 – 2 credit cards in your purse, because a lot of my clients will have 9 – 15, and what do credit cards represent? They represent debt. So get rid of credit cards. Only carry a couple, and if you happen to have a special credit card, I have one client that just got the black American Express card. I think he’s more excited about just getting the card itself. I think he’s scared to death to use it, but I say, “Because you feel so good about it, and you’re proud about it, put that in your wallet.” Always make sure that your wallet is pristine and doesn’t have cracks or tears. Make sure it’s in good working condition. Get rid of receipts, because receipts also equal debt and it’s trash and it’s clutter, so I always say get rid of that. And organize. I always recommend keeping your wallet and your purse organized, because if it’s disheveled or things are disorganized, then your financials are disorganized. It’s a subconscious thing. Finally, this is probably the most controversial topic ever. I always tell people not to put family photos in their wallet. I always get the most backlash from that, but I do not believe in having them. I think that a lot of people keep their photos in their phones. I think that’s a great place for it, but, to me, family photos should not go in a wallet, because it’s more about focusing on your financial health, and, to me, it’s mixing the energies.

Ah, okay, that’s a good idea. I have three ways that I Feng Shui my wallet. One is, similar to yours, to have a nice wallet or even get a new wallet. If you have money chi that you don’t want associated with that wallet, get a new one and kind of splurge on and get something nice and not second hand. Get something with new energy. The second one would be to, similar to what you’re saying, respect the money. I would say to keep all the bills in order. Have them all facing the same direction.

That’s a good one.

Not jamming in, people sometimes just jam in their dollars, and you’re not respecting your money. It also forces you to keep track of what you have in there if you’re organizing it. Then I always say to put it in order with the biggest bills in the front.

I like that tip.

I was telling one of my girlfriends that and she said, “Girl, I always do that anyway,” because she wants everyone to see the big bill first. But also, you see the big bill first, so it creates a different sense of wealth for you. Instead of seeing a dollar, you see a 50 or 100. That’s more encouraging.

Absolutely, yeah.

Then I also have people carry a piece of citrine in their wallet if they can fit it in there. Women usually can. Men may not be able to. It is a natural, or semiprecious, gemstone that attracts wealth and prosperity.

I actually included in my article the top four stones to put in your purse if you can carry them. Put them in a bag or something that helps attract wealth. I think citrine was one of them. I know aquamarine was the other one, but yeah, that’s a great idea. The other thing I also included in the article is, a good friend of mine, Chris Alexandria, wrote this book. I’d highly recommend it to a lot of people; it’s called Askfirmations, and she’s an intuitive, but she has this belief that affirmations are great, but they’re not strong enough, because you’re just simply stating to the universe that you want something. Her theory is, what she did was she changed it. She made it in to askfirmations, so you’re putting out to the universe a question that it has to answer. So I always tell people to put an askfirmation in their wallet, something to the effect of, “Why do I attract so much money so easily and quickly?” Something along those lines so that the universe has to answer that question.

Oh, interesting.

It’s a really great way, rather than saying, “I easily attract money.” It’s just so vague, and it just kind of sits there, and it’s kind of stagnant energy. 

Yeah, it’s static.

Whereas, “Why is it so easy for me to constantly and easily attract so much money?” Just by reframing the way that you do it, it leaves it open-ended so that it’s moving energy.

I think that’s great. There’s one other comment I have about wealth and Feng Shui, and I think it might be controversial, but I would like to know what you think about it, especially since you’re a designer like me. You go in to a lot of peoples’ homes, and they tend to be more wealthy since they can afford us. I’ve noticed that it tends to be that people who are wealthy have very little clutter.

Yeah. I’m filing through my head right now of all my higher end clients, and I would say that that is a true statement.

Because, I think that maybe people have a lot of money, but they feel poor. Also the people that have more of a poverty mentality tend to hold on to things, and they think, “Oh, I can’t throw away that piece of tape or whatever, that envelope, because I might need it again.” Whereas someone who, maybe has better money energy, wealth energy, they’ll just throw it away or give it away, because they know they can just buy it again. It’s not an issue. I think there’s definitely a correlation.

What a fantastic observation. I would have to agree with that.

Okay, I’m glad. I’ve talked about it with a couple of people, but I think it can be controversial. There’s always something that might contradict that. Some people have told me, “Well, wealthy people can have a junk drawer.” Yeah, of course, but people who just are so scared to throw away things tend to be those people. They don’t want to throw it away, because they’re scared they won’t have the money to buy it again. They might need it again, and they’re holding on so tightly to things, because it’s similar to the poverty mentality that they never have enough or they don’t deserve enough.

It’s the cycle of lack. There’s always lack in their life, and so they’re attracting more of it, and they don’t realize that they’re attracting more lack.

Clutter, I always say, from my perspective, clutter doesn’t have to be a bad thing. A lot of people who are absolutely nowhere close to being hoarders, I’ll come in there and they’ll say, “I’m so sorry. It’s so cluttered. It’s so messy,” and I think, “This is fine. What are you talking about?” There’s nothing wrong with that. There are, of course, extremes, but clutter has its own conversation. But I do see that correlation, and I think I’m going to start telling people that I see this correlation.

What I learned from Carol Olmstead, and I love this, is that clutter is postponed energy. She’s absolutely right, because if you’ve got that junk room or that guest room that has a bunch of stuff in it, or even that basket on your counter that you don’t go through, it is, in fact, postponed energy. You’re right, if you’re holding on to that, you’re in this mentality of lack, and so you’re not making room for the universe to fill up that vacuum. I think, too, that wealthy people, the reason that they’re wealthy is because they’re thriving, in probably their career and in their lives and other areas, and so it’s very important for them to have a space that nurtures them, and nurturing to them is not clutter. If you’re a busy entrepreneur or a VIP of a company or if you are out there really kicking butt, you’re hit every day with a lot of chaos, and it’s very hectic so you don’t want to come home to hectic. I like that observation.

Yeah, I like it too!

No, I don’t think that’s controversy at all. I think that my photos in the wallet is more controversial.

I was just thinking, “God, I don’t remember the last time I had room for photos in my wallet.”

I can’t say that I’ve ever carried photos in my wallet, but I do have some old-school, older clients that still have the trifecta, the pullout, and I say, “Okay, it’s not 1980. Let’s get them on our phone.” But a lot of people who are interested in Feng Shui-ing their wallet or their purse or just really trying to get a handle on their finances, it’s literally one step at a time. So I always start there, because it’s easy, it’s simple, it’s something that is manageable and you can do right away. It’s Feng Shui in 30 minutes or less, and it’s tangible, so I feel like if you have those other associations with your money, it’s diluting it. So if you are having money issues or you have a feeling of lack or you’re trying to pay something off or you need extra money, let’s focus entirely on one energy at a time. So it’s more about focus than anything.

I think that’s great.

Awesome. Well, Anjie, we are little bit over an hour here, which I knew we would be. I was so excited to talk with you. If people are interested in learning more about you or want to work with you, how do they get in touch with you?

I have a website, actually 2 websites. I have anjiecho.com, and that’s spelled A – N – J – I – E – C – H – O.com, and I also have a website, holisticspaces.com, and that’s,  H – O – L – I – S – T – I – C – S – P – A – C – E – S.com. So, holistic with an H. I also just recently published a book called 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces. Also, the Holistic Spaces website is online store with some Feng Shui adjustment objects. I have aromatherapy for your numerology. Those are just a couple of things. 

That’s another thing. I have numerology on my website, and everybody always says, “What does numerology have to do with design?”

Do you do the nine star ki?

I do a little bit of that, because that incorporates with Feng Shui, but I just do Chaldean numerology. It ties in very closely with how we live our lives, and our homes have a numerical vibe to it, and everything around us has a numerical vibe to it, so that affects how we live our lifestyles.

Absolutely.

It was awesome to talk with you today. I’m so glad that we were finally able to sit down and do this, and we might have to do this again because there’s quite a bit that we did not get a chance to talk about today.

I know. We had such big plans.

Always happens that way. Well thank you again for being on. I really appreciate it.

Thank you so much.

Talk soon.

by Anjie Cho


The Many Shades of Green: Bringing Zen Into Your Life

 Image Credit: The Many Shades of Green

Image Credit: The Many Shades of Green

I'm so honored to have been on The Many Shades of Green radio show for another interview with Maxine Margo. This week, Maxine and I talk post-consumer recycling, BTB feng shui,  environmental psychology and more on the path to zen. Click here to listen to our newest interview on The Many Shades of Green.

Interview transcript:

Hi, I'm Anjie Cho, registered architect and LEED AP, and this is Holistic Spaces, brought to you by The Many Shades of Green.

Today I’d like to talk to you about an exciting topic: post-consumer recycled materials.

It’s actually pretty confusing – what does recycled mean? What does post-consumer recycled mean? What’s the difference? 

Post-consumer recycled content indicates that a portion of the content is made from recycled materials that you or I put in our recycling bins through private or public means. That means this material has gone through the hands of a consumer.  Otherwise, just “recycled” means that it was likely made from virgin material such as leftover scraps from factories and over-produced items.  

Why post-consumer recycled? When you recycle, it eventually needs to be purchased by someone to recycle.  If people like us are purchasing post-consumer recycled products, we create a market demand for those post-consumer materials.  Sadly, if there’s no market for the recycling, all the material we recycle may just end up in a landfill.

Also it wouldn’t hurt to have a good percentage of the paper and plastics that already exist to be salvaged and reused for post-consumer recycled products. 

In conclusion, I encourage you to make a choice for post-consumer recycled materials whenever possible. By creating a market and demand for post consumer recycled products, we can support and grow the infrastructure for more environmentally GREEN living!

MMR: Hi, I’m Maxine Margo Rubin, and welcome to The Many Shades of Green, our program that engages in conversations that move to raise your eco consciousness. My guest this week on The Many Shades of Green is Anjie Cho, founder of Holistic Spaces. She’s a LEED certified green architect, a BTB Feng Shui Practitioner. She has written a new book entitled 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces. How do you create functional, sustainable and balanced spaces within your home by using Feng Shui techniques? What steps can you take to enhance the flow of chi? Anjie will give us some ideas and green tips that will make your home more harmonious and set you on a path to Zen. So Anjie, how are you?

AC: I’m so good Maxine. How are you?

We’re on that path to Zen right now. We’re going to get in to your book in a little bit, but I wanted to get in to Feng Shui right off the bat. It didn’t come in to the States until about the ‘60s, is that right? I read that in one of the paragraphs in your book that I actually read, yes.

My mentor must have written that. Yes, it came in to the ‘60s and it got popular in the ‘70s and ‘80s through professor Lin Yun, who is the founder of the BTB Feng Shui School.

Now BTB Feng Shui, how does that differ from another form of Feng Shui, other areas of it?

There are many schools of Feng Shui. There’s BTB Feng Shui, there’s the Compass School, there’s Classical Feng Shui, there’s Form School. There are a lot of different schools, and also every culture has their own form of geomancy, which means looking at the land and the space and the environment and seeing how to best locate yourself.

So the difference with BTB, generally, is that it’s more of a westernized approach to Feng Shui. It’s more recent, and there are 2 main characteristics. It doesn’t really prioritize the cardinal direction, for instance north, south, east, west aren’t the most important thing. What’s more important is where the energy comes into the space, so that would usually be the front door. We call that the mouth of chi.

The mouth of chi is the front door of an apartment or a house. So when you walk in, you’re going to feel in a particular way because of the energy or the way things are placed or what’s in your house. What would you want to have in your front entrance that will make you feel the energy is positive?

Well, the front entry is the first thing that you see. Even if you live in a house that has a garage and you come in through the garage door, your front entry represents your face to the world and how the world sees you and the first thing that people see. So that symbolism says a lot about how opportunities come to you, how the world sees and views you. So some simple things that can improve the energy of your home looking at your front entry…one is to brighten it up. Make sure that the bulbs you have there are very bright. You have the opportunity to bring a lot of brightness in that space. A light bulb represents fire energy. Another thing is to keep it very clean and tidy, By keeping it clean and tidy, you automatically watch what’s happening in that space. You’re mindful of that space; you pay attention to it on a daily basis. Another thing that you can do is make sure that your door can be found. A lot of times, especially in New York City apartments, you don’t even know how to buzz the front door. There’s no buzzer, there’s no number. If your friends can’t find you, how can opportunities find you?

Yeah, if your friends can’t find you, you’re definitely in a bit of trouble. Now, you mentioned tidy, and I know there’s a lot of different thoughts about tidy. They say geniuses have clutter and then they create through their clutter, I mean, or the clutter just builds up around them but they still can focus. Yet clutter also can present problems in terms of how you’re organized, how your life is, so if something’s cluttered, do you need to work on it forever? Are there steps you can take to start doing it in increments and what is behind that theory of de-cluttering your space?

Well, clutter is really a modern day phenomenon. We didn’t have clutter in ancient times. We didn’t have so much stuff, and that’s one thing that, when we think about green initiatives, we think about reducing, reusing and recycling, but we often forget the first one is reduce. How do we reduce the amount of extra objects that we have in our homes? There’s actually an Einstein quote that says “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Right, that’s where my genius reference came in. Thank you Einstein.

Those were actually two extremes. If you have a very cluttered desk where you can’t find anything, of course that impacts how well you work, how clearly you think. But if you have an empty desk, and nothing is going on, then it also means that there’s also nothing going on in your mind, nothing going on in your work, you don’t have anything happening, so that we would say it’s very yin. 

So you need balance, actually.

You need to be in the middle. Maybe it needs to be a process of clutter and removing. Because maybe if you take snapshots of the desk at certain times, it might look cluttered, it might look empty, but life isn’t static like that. We’re constantly moving. So when you approach clutter in your home, I think the first thing to think about is: is it really representing a block in your life? Is it really causing angst in your life? For instance, for a while, I had a lot of magazines piling up, and every time I saw them, I thought, “Those magazines that I keep meaning to read and I’m not going to read and they keep piling up.” It becomes a source of guilt and it weighs on you, and that takes up a lot of energy to ignore that. So if it’s representing a block in your life, then it’s definitely something you should address but if it’s not bothering you, you don’t need to worry about it.

I have that with mail. It just piles. The mail I need, I address. The mail I don’t need, which is from anything and any place, it just stays there. We started keeping mail in the mailbox that we didn’t want to bring in, or mail that we didn’t need to address, certain catalogs, certain things. I think we drove our mail lady crazy. Sorry! But again, the clutter issue is definitely a problem, and achieving that balance is the way to go.

Well, there’s that one approach where you only handle it once. Like for your mail, if you touch it, you need to deal with it. So make sure you only have to deal with it one time, so if you touch it, you throw it away or you address it.

That’s one way to approach it. And also it’s okay, like I said, it’s okay to have some clutter. For instance, my sister has 2 daughters and she has a table that’s her homework table. It’s a clutter table. You just throw everything on there, and you make a space in your life to accommodate things that are messy and that you can’t address right away. So maybe it goes in that area and eventually, you clean off that area when you got sick of it.

In achieving this balance, also, it’s, I think, important (and I read) that you take time to meditate and have some space to do that, and if you have a little tiny apartment in New York City, a studio, I mean, how do you figure spots to do that? I mean, where would you go in such a small space?

One of my meditation teachers, he says it’s really great to have a spot that you always go back to. For instance, if you had to make your bed area, for instance you have to create a bed every time you went to sleep, it would be very challenging, and you might just sleep on the floor sometimes. So same thing with meditation; if you don’t have a designated spot, you may not do it very often, because it’s not there. I hear you’re saying, not a lot of people have room, but the space could be while you’re sitting at the edge of your bed, or it could be sitting on your sofa or could be sitting at your desk, because when they talk about space and meditation, it’s not just physical space but also creating space in your mind and creating space between your thoughts and creating space within yourself.

There’s so much stress, and I know people do not take time to meditate which is something they should do. How would you get the message across the people to take that time and as a part of the Feng Shui practice to do that and how would they do that? What message would you tell them?

Well I feel that meditation is definitely an important thing to incorporate in your life, but if you’re not called to do it, maybe that’s not the right thing for you. But if you are called to it, you could go take a class at a meditation center. I go to Shambhala center, and they’ll teach you ways to incorporate it in to your life. I think one of the biggest benefits of meditation for me, is that I rarely take the time to be compassionate enough to myself to give myself a break and just be present and think. I’m always thinking about the next thing I need to do or the next person I need to take care of or the next meal I’m going to have, and that’s all okay, but if I can sit down and just be with my thoughts, then I can let all those thoughts happen and absorb them and watch them, then it creates space in my mind to really be able to focus on things. Otherwise my mind just, without the meditation, your mind just becomes like a wild animal.

Right. Well, people need to take a chill time in their crazy workday, and it’s kind of hard to do, but maybe even connecting to nature, go outside, go to a park. I know there’s eco-psychology which is something that seems to be sprouting up, and again, I saw that in the book, a reference to it. What is that about?

Oh, Environmental Psychology?

Yeah, Environmental Eco Psychology.

There’s one book I was reading where there have been some studies done where people are in hospital spaces, and they heal faster when they see green space or they have access to green space. You can start to see that someone’s actually healing when they begin to look outside of themselves and worry about things besides themselves, so maybe about their environment. So one of the amazing studies they did was, I think they studied the same amount of people with the same surgery, and the ones that had a view to green space and trees healed much faster, and they needed fewer pain killers than the other group.

So the study was in a hospital setting or…

In a hospital setting.

Wow. So the people who saw greenery felt better even looking out a window, not necessarily being outside, but just seeing it, and the people that didn’t weren’t healing as fast. So that really shows you that we need to get outside, and we need to have space outside. Now, how could you bring some of that green inside?

Well, we’ve talked a lot about plants before in these interviews, bringing in plants, but even bringing in the color green. So, you forgot to ask me…

We’re going to get to that in the next half now. We’re really going to get green in the next half, because I want to hear all these shades that I don’t even know about.

Well, you can definitely bring in some plants, and not just small, little, dinky forage plants but bring in a big, 3 foot fern or ficus tree or something. Bring in some living plants. Not only does that bring greenery in to your space, it improves the air quality, and it improves your ability to take are of something outside of yourself. It works in a lot of ways. And also bringing in the color green, because the colors of nature are much more soothing to the eye. We’ve just evolved that way, and that’s another thing that these environmental psychologists have studied: how colors affect our eyes, how it affects our wellbeing and our emotions.

So we’re going to talk about more green because I’m very interested in various shades of green, or the many shades of green.

We’re here with Anjie Cho. We’re talking about green things and Feng Shui and the relationship with color and space and energy. There’s something called the bagua map which has 8 trigrams. We’re going to learn now what that is, and then we’ll focus on some of the colors, one of them being one of my favorites, well, my favorite color, which is green. So can you give us a little background on that bagua map?

Sure. The bagua map is the Feng Shui map, and it’s a conceptual grid. It’s a 3 by 3 grid, and it creates 9 different areas, although there are 8 trigrams, but that’s for another conversation. The 9 areas represent 9 different areas of your life, and it has different connections. For instance, the first one we’ll probably talk about is new beginnings, which is related to green, and it’s related to wood, the element of wood. It’s related to a certain area of your home, it’s related to family, it’s related to the spring. It’s also related to Chinese medicine, the meridians. They also use the 5 elements in Daoism; it’s the same thing. 

What are the 5 elements again, so the people know?

The 5 elements are wood, fire, water, metal and earth. 

Okay. There’s a group called Earth, Wind and Fire so they’re pretty close.

They’re close, they’re missing one...

I love their group,

… the metal. They’re a metal group, right?

They use metal, right. So in terms of the colors and the numbers, there’s a number associated with each color as well. So let’s start with green. Also, how many shades of green are represented? Tell me about that.

The green area of the Feng Shui map is called, the Chinese name is Zhun, and it’s related to new beginnings and family, and also it relates to the season of spring, like I mentioned before. It’s interesting we’re talking about the many shades of green, because there are many shades of green. What do they represent? I would say very light green would be a very yang green. When you think about light green, you think of a sprout pushing out of the ground and there’s that very forceful energy…

To push it out.

… to push it out, yeah, to come out of the shell, to push through the soil and to really grow. That’s why sprouts are so nutritious, because they have all those enzymes, and they’re really full of life energy, so that would be lighter green. As you get medium green, that’s more neutral. You remember earlier we’re talking about balance, you can go to one extreme with other. Medium green would be in the middle. Dark green would be more related to a mature tree. Think of a huge…

A redwood or something?

… a redwood, yeah! That deep dark green relates more to knowledge. The greens, in general, are all very healing and supportive, because the color is really comforting to us, and it also reminds us of growth and trees and expansion and change and moving on to a better place from where we are now, so it represents new beginnings as well.

New beginnings and plants and trees and grass, but there are also blue-green waters. There are deep green waters, so that’s another thing. That’s a flow. You need water for anything to live. So is there a water sign? Is there a water color? Is there a water number?

Well actually, green and blue are both related to wood in Feng Shui system. Wood element is related to plants and greenery and life and that cycle of life. Water is actually related to the color black, which is depth of wisdom. If you think about an ocean, if you’re out in the middle of the ocean and you’re looking at the water, you actually see black. There’s so much going on underneath, and you can’t see what’s happening underneath but there’s a lot of motion and a lot of activity deep in the ocean, so that’s where black comes from.

Now, these were all from the Chinese Feng Shui, ancient…how far back does this map go? I mean, just curious about the origins of it and what the thoughts of the ancient Chinese people were when they, whoever, developed this.

Well this Feng Shui bagua map that I use is a newer map so it’s I don’t know how many thousands of years, but it is quite old, but there was one before that called the former heaven bagua, and I don’t think I’m qualified to talk about it today, because it’s really complicated, but it’s a little bit different. It’s a little bit different, but water is also related to this black area of the bagua map which is related to your career and your path in life and how you move through the world.

It’s interesting because when we think black...people dress in black at funerals, people, black…

In China, they wear white and they wear black at weddings, or they used to.

Interesting. So it’s kind of a different, an Asian culture thing that brings different colors to different things so I would imagine that white at a wedding…

Well black is also…

Black in the wedding?

So black is the absorption of all colors, and white is actually the reflection of all colors, so white is almost absence of color where black incorporates all color. So it makes sense that it’s knowledge and depth of knowledge because it’s absorbing all the energies to create that black.

What about red?

So red. Red is…

Got to get red in there, fiery and cool…

Exactly. Red is very fiery, it’s passionate, it’s related to fame, the fame area of the Feng Shui bagua map and...

Fame? So all the celebs have like red things in their…

They have good fire chi, yeah. It’s how the world sees you and how people recognize you. It’s your reputation and how you appear to others.

I also saw in the book to get red sheets, get red lingerie so…

Yes. Are you wearing any red lingerie today?

I’m not even, I’m actually wearing black and blue. I don’t know.

Actually there’s fashion Feng Shui too, how it affects your clothes. So the blue is actually very, it’s like a royal blue, but I would say with the black, you’re dressed very water.

I’m water? I like the water. Born in August, I like the water. So this information is in the book and there’s also a lot of tips in the book. Could we go over a couple of tips for people to be conscious of saving and reducing and things that they should be looking out for in terms of what they need to do to make their carbon footprint a little less as well?

Sure. My book is about really simple things to incorporate Feng Shui and green design in to your home. So one is that you could stop using bottled water and to get a filter in your home. I love to get the seltzer machines so you don’t have all those seltzer bottles. That’s one really easy way. Another is to look in to getting a green energy provider into your home so you’re not just getting the regular dirty energy but you’re putting your dollars towards renewable energy like wind energy.

We have green energy, I have them, I use them so…

Great.

Anything like them, they have similar companies out there so that’s really important. What other tip can we have for the spring? One more.

One more. To refresh your space by getting rid of 9 things in your closet.

9 things in your closet?

Yes, 9 things. Can you do it?

Can I do it? You come to my house, oh God, I can’t even imagine what is going to happen over there but…

Once you move 9 things out of your closet, I promise you, things will start moving in your life.

Okay, I’m going to start doing that, because I need to be moving. So those were some tips. I hope everyone jotted all those things down and we’ll jot them down, and Anjie, thanks for being here.

You’re welcome, thank you for having me.

Okay. We’ve been talking with Anjie Chi, founder of Holistic Spaces, Feng Shui practitioner and designer as well as a LEED certified architect. Anjie has written a new book entitled 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces which is available on amazon.com and you could also go to, what’s your web?

AnjieCho.com with a J, A – N – J – I – E – C – H – O.com or holisticspaces.com.

Okay, I wanted to get that in there. So this book will definitely help you lead a greener and more balanced life, which is good for the soul. So thanks for joining us for The Many Shades of Green.

by Anjie Cho


About the host

Maxine Margo Rubin has been involved with the media business as a content producer and part-time co-host for Air America (Marc Sussman’s Money Message), and hosted and produced Village Green on WDFH, a show which focused on topics of environmental sustainability and progressive social issues.


Feng Shui and Color for Spring on The Home Discovery Show

last week on the Home Discovery Show

canstockphoto6229584.jpg

How can feng shui and changing colors help you adjust to each season? What effect do you have on your environment? The Home Discovery Show's Ian Power and I talk color, lighting and what it means for newly budding spring. Check it out! 

Interview Transcript:

IP: Home Discovery Show is on the Corus Radio Network. My name is Ian Power. I want to bring in Anjie Cho, a holistic interior architect and author, sought after expert in the fields of Feng Shui and Green Design. A registered architect and certified Feng Shui practitioner, Anjie creates beautiful spaces throughout New York and beyond. The entire world is yours Anjie. Nice to have you on with us again.

AC: Hi Ian, so nice to be back.

Your book is already a best seller. Congratulations. That’s quite an accomplishment! That also tells us that there’s a huge interest in the things that you do and you talk about. Your book is 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces: Feng Shui and Green Design for Healing and Organic Homes. Just a quick overview on your book.

Well, my book is 108 tips in which you can incorporate Feng Shui and Green Design principles in your home. Simple things like what colors mean and what they symbolize or how can you save water in your bathroom, just small little digestible bits that are easy to implement so you really have no excuse not to do it.

Excellent. What’s happening in New York right now? You’re in New York. Is it snowing, raining, slitting?

It is getting a little bit warmer. It’s still pretty cold. It’s 40 degrees; I don’t know what that is in Celsius, but the snow is gone. It did snowed on the equinox though, which was a couple of days ago.

Well, here we’ve been in full on spring mode for at least a couple of weeks and last time we spoke, we wanted to get you back during spring to talk about color, because I know that’s really important. What is the relationship between spring, color, Feng Shui and how it relates to interior design? Can you talk about that a little bit?

Sure, of course. Humans are very visual. We’re very visual people, so color is a really great and easy way to change the feeling of your home and to change the mood in your home. So you could either do that with paint or adding accents, and spring is a great time to kind of refresh things. Spring is about new beginning and starting anew, so great spring color is green. Greens are really healing and they represent growth, and blues are also similar to greens. Blues and greens are both very comforting and they’re healing, because they actually remind us of the natural world, and the wavelengths are actually shorter, so in a physical way, it’s more comforting to our eyes.

That’s interesting. When you say blue, most people, when you just say the word “blue,” they think of the “blues” and they also think that blue, the color, is a little bit colder.

Well, it really depends on what shade of blue of course, right? So grayer blues can be cooler and maybe more depressing, and if you have that thought when you think of the color blue, then definitely go for green which is more hopeful. But we’re also talking about summer too, which will soon be around the corner, and as it gets warmer, that’s when, actually, blue is really good because it is cooling, and the color blue actually helps to cool down your spaces.

Okay. I’m thinking now, I don’t want to paint every season, obviously, so will these colors still work in the winter time when that rolls around eventually?

Absolutely. And besides painting the walls, you can add accents into your home through plants or pillows or rugs. Pillows, you can easily change up and plants are green all the time, but green is actually great for all year round because plants reminds us of the seasons, because they usually reflect what’s happening. Indoor plants like a little bit darker green in the colder months and they might start to flower in the spring and summer months, and that reminds us of the change of season.

Does Feng Shui play into the colors or the colors into Feng Shui? How does one relate to the other?

Feng Shui looks a lot at color and so, again, the colors, for instance green and blue, are very comforting and expansive, and they also represent the wood element. When you think of the wood element, you think of a plant, a plant that’s growing and expanding and growing from a small seed and growing in to huge redwood tree. You think about that growth and going from that energetic little sprout to a big, grounded, supported tree, and that symbolism can affect your life when you surround yourself with things like plants or the colors green and blue, because it encourages the growth and expansion in your life.

You do, obviously, residential properties. You also do commercial properties. When you’re doing an office, for example in a commercial property, is there a different technique or different form of Feng Shui applied to, let’s say, a commercial office than, let’s say, your home office?

In terms of color? They’re pretty similar, I think your home office and your work office, but for instance, a retail store, you might want more active colors like orange and red. I’m doing a retail store right now that we have a lot of black. You have more opportunities to get more exciting, I guess. In homes and offices, you want something more neutral, because you spend much more time in there and so your mind and your eyes don’t want to be activated all the time. You want to also have some time for rest and relaxation.

How about lighting inside the home? What role does that play in Feng Shui?

Lighting is really important. One thing that people don’t realize is that light represents the fire energy, so when you have more light and you have a home that’s able to be brightly lit, that represents being able to have more opportunities for advancement and to be able to see. Do you see the metaphor? When you have a lot of light, you can see more clearly what’s coming towards you. And it doesn’t mean that you need to have your lights at full blast all the time, but having the opportunity to clearly see your space around you translates into your ability to see opportunities coming to you and to your life.

Sure. And one of the things that, and we have to leave it here, but it must be noted that a lot of what you do, and I don’t know if it’s just your practice, Anjie Cho, if it’s Feng Shui related, but you’re very eco-conscious and you’re very energy efficient in all the things that you do.

Well I think that when you say energy, that can go in two ways. That can be a more esoteric energy, but also actual electrical energy, and they go hand and hand. My hope is that people begin to see how you can impact the environment around you and how, in turn, the environment can impact you. Once you realize you have that ability to change the world around you, and it can change you and support you, you really become able to shape a happy and nurturing life.

Holisticspaces.com is the website for Anjie Cho, interior architect, author and sought after expert in Feng Shui and Green Design....Anjie, thanks so much for your time. We’re gonna get you back in a short time from now, and we’re going to talk more about this and learn more about what you do. We really appreciate your time. Anjie Cho, HolisticSpaces.com. And we’ll be back in a moment on The Home Discovery Show on the Corus Radio Network.

Click here to listen to my other interviews with the Home Discovery Show

by Anjie Cho


From the leaky faucet upstairs, to an entire back yard overhaul, when it comes to projects around your home, the advice you need is heard weekly on Vancouver’s CKNW Home Discovery Show.

Join Ian Power every Sunday from 10 to 11 am PT as he’s joined by experts on home renovations and upgrades, plus the latest tools and tricks from the trades.


Visit the Holistic Spaces Store

Healthy Living with Patti Green: How Feng Shui Changed the Flow in My New Home!

featured this week on Healthy Living with Patti Green

Healthy Living's Patti Green and I worked together on her new condo in Florida to add a little positive feng shui and make the space a beautiful and nourishing space for Patti and her husband. Check out what we did! Patti wrote an article and we did a radio interview. 

...read and LISTEN: full article

Interview Transcript: 

Welcome to Healthy Living with Patti Green. Get the latest on health, fitness, beauty and fun as Patti and her guest share simple tips, ideas and valuable insight to motivate you to live life to its fullest.

PG: Today I’m delighted to welcome Anjie Cho, who’s a registered architect, Feng Shui interior designer and bestselling author of 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces, Feng Shui and Green Design for Healing and Organic Homes. Since 1999, she’s been creating beautiful and nourishing environments throughout New York City, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Los Angeles and beyond. Anjie, welcome to my show.

AC: Hi Patti, thank you so much for having me.

Thank you for coming! I’m so excited that you’re here. I’ve always been so inspired by the ancient art of Feng Shui and I’d love it if you could share with the audience, what is Feng Shui all about?

Feng Shui is an ancient art of placement that was developed in China, although all cultures have some form of Feng Shui where they look at how to position themselves in the most positive way within their environment. Feng Shui just happens to come from China, and it looks at how to locate pieces of furniture in your home to achieve the best flow. That’s on a very, maybe superficial, level but on a deeper level, it’s really about being able to see your environment as a metaphor for your life and being able to realize that your environment represents your life and you can make small changes within your environment that will create a small shift and positive shifts in the direction that you want your life to go.

So essentially Feng Shui can be architecturally, it could be interior design, but people can also Feng Shui to improve and enhance the way money flows in to their income stream and/or they can Feng Shui aspects of their relationship to be improved. Is that true?

Yes, absolutely. There’s many different aspects of life that Feng Shui can affect like money, wealth and relationships and health, also your knowledge, your career, your children, your ancestors… Almost anything in your life, you can look at how to improve it with Feng Shui.

With you being a number one architect on national scale, you’ve actually adopted Feng Shui as a very big part of your practice, and today, just for simplicity’s sakes, we’re going to give our audience 5 simple tips to Feng Shui your home without having to do any renovation. So basically with these tips that we can incorporate, people can add these to make real shifts in the way the space makes them feel.

Yes, because I think a lot of people think, “Oh, I can’t move anything around, I can’t move out wall or have a rental or I don’t have enough money to do renovation,” but there’s so much that you can do without renovating, so I wanted to share with you some of those tips today.

What would be one of the tips that you’d like to share with everybody?

One great tip is to add a wood element to your space. The wood element relates to how flexible you are in life. It relates to growth. So we talked about relationships and money, so you could think of it as growth in your income or growth in your career or growth in your relationship. The wood element, if you think of wood, you could think of plants or trees, the wood element relates to flexibility, to growth, and also it’s very healing and generates human heartedness and kindness. One easy way to add wood element to your home is with green plants. Now, ideally you want living green plants but you could also add some fake plants or silk plants as long as they’re a very good quality, very realistic and they look great. Patti and I were talking about this last time we spoke, and, for instance, if you have a home that you’re not at all the time, like a summer home, you’re not able to keep up with watering these plants all the time, or if you have, say an apartment, that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight or there’s an area in your home that doesn’t get a lot of sunlight, you can absolutely use a fake plant. I think a fake plant is better than a dead plant.

No, I’m sure. Now, when you say a wood element, I mean, it might sound simple but can someone just add a piece of wood?

Wood is a little bit different actually, and it depends on the different Feng Shui consultants, and I support all different schools of Feng Shui. What I’ve been taught by my teachers is that like a piece of wood, a brown piece of wood, is more related to the earth element because its color is brown, and it’s also deadwood. But some people would say, yes, it’s wood but to me, I think the most effective way to add the wood element would be to add a living green plant or something green. There’s something that you learn from having a living green plant. You have to take care of it. You have to pay attention to it. I had one in the corner of my house, and my husband and I forgot about it for a couple of weeks, and all the leaves died. So it does cultivate this mindfulness and teach you how to take care of something other than yourself and to be aware of your environment, so it works on many different levels.

Okay. So adding a wood element, which would basically be a living green plant or a very high quality fake silk arrangement, flowers and/or tree, that you would place anywhere in your home, or does it make a difference where?

It really depends on what you want to work on. To keep this interview simple, I would say that you could put one in your entry, one in your bedroom and one in your kitchen.

I love it. Alright, so what’s the next tip?

Another tip would be to brighten your entry, the entry of your home, because your entry represents your head or your face to the world. It also represents how opportunities come to you. A great way to brighten your entry is to, one take a look at your bulb. Make sure it’s not burned out, or it might be a really low wattage. I would encourage people to replace their light bulbs in their entries to higher wattage, so you have the ability to keep your entry very bright so that opportunities can find you. The light bulb also represents fire energy, so it adds more fire, passion and recognition. If you’re in a dark room and someone lit a match, you would be drawn to that and you would see it. That’s kind of that energy that you create in your entry and then attracting opportunities towards you by getting a new bright light bulb and having a bright entry.

I love it. Now is the entry way in a vestibule inside or an entry way that would be a light that people would see on the outside?

Both would be ideal.

Alright, we can do that. And then tell us the third tip.

The third tip would be looking at your chairs in whatever room you happen to have your TV. Most people have their TV in their family room, and usually, you have all your seating in the room facing the TV to watch TV, but it also makes sense to have some seating that doesn’t face the TV, and that inspires conversation and connection. So just take a look in to how all your chairs are arranged. If they’re all facing the TV, it doesn’t inspire connection, family, it doesn’t really inspire you. It’s more about staring at the TV, right? So I would encourage people to look at how their family room is set up, because it’s a family room! You want to spend time together, and maybe just move a couple of chairs around so they’re not all facing the TV.

That’s inexpensive.

Yeah, that one’s pretty easy, and it will really help support your relationships in your home.

It makes a lot of sense. I know that we’ve got one of those sectional couches, but it all faces the television and it doesn’t really inspire much conversation. But we do have another seating area that’s sort of centered around the coffee table, and it does inspire conversation and connection. I’m definitely going to try to add a piece of furniture in the main TV room just to add that element. I think that that’s really important.

I think so too, because how you position yourself in an environment really does matter. When you’re sitting on a bus side by side, you’re not facing each other, you actually feel very comfortable sitting close to someone, right?

Yes.

If someone was facing you, you could be further away, but that inspires conversation and eye contact, so it creates this different dynamics between the person. So you want to create situations in your home where you inspire relationship and cultivate them, rather than cultivate silence and disconnect.

What’s the fourth tip?

The fourth tip would be to look under your bed at what storage you have. Your bed is really important. It represents you, and it’s great to have space under the bed if possible. That means not to have any storage under the bed, because it may represent unconscious blocks in your life. So if you have to have some storage under your bed, the best things to store would be any soft items such as blankets or pillows, things that are bed related, linens, and avoid anything like old love letters from an ex or anything sharp. You don’t want anything negative, because you’re sleeping over that energy, and it affects you while you’re passively sleeping.

That’s kind of cool. I would never have thought of that but, in thinking now in my mother’s home, where she used to live, she had these storage bins full of these books and all this old stuff. They designed these tubs, these plastic tubs, to specifically go under the bed, they’re pretty shallow! But currently in my home, I have nothing under the bed so I’m feeling safe. What’s the fifth?

The fifth tip I have is to look around your home and see if you have any broken objects. For instance, I had a client who had this broken lamp that she had in her home for a long time, and she always meant to repair it but she never got around to it. When you have these objects in your home that are broken or need a repair, it’s a really good idea to either just get it repaired or to let it go. Give it away or toss it, because it can represent stuck or broken energy. For me, if I saw like this lamp that I meant to fix in my house every day, it’d be a constant source of a little bit of guilt like, “I should do that. When am I going to get time to do that?” It just weighs you down all the time to have that there, and we have enough things to do in our lives. We don’t really have to add more to our lists, like repairing a lamp, so either repair it or let it go.

Okay, that’s an inexpensive fix as well. I know when speaking to you, I told you about our sort of winter home, if you will, and it’s just a condo, nothing exciting, nothing big, and you’ve given me some tips of what I can do to enhance this space and basically Feng Shui it for better energy. In my blog that we give the interview going live, I’ll share with you how things have shifted in our lives with the wood element that I’m going to be adding, the brightened entry way with a new lighting, adding the chairs to the family room. I don’t have anything under my bed, so I can’t do that and I’m going to check around for any broken objects, yet, I don’t think I have any, but we bought this from somebody else, there could be something I’m not even catching. So I’m going to do a full walkabout and then report back.

Ooh, I can’t wait to see the blog post.

I know, I can’t either. Now Anjie, you do have another element to your practice, and if you just go in to it briefly. “Green” is such a big word now, everyone wants to save the environment and people are trying to recycle and repurpose. Is that would green design is about, or what is it all about with how it relates to architecture and Feng Shui design?

In architecture, green design is a very broad term. It could incorporate looking at sustainable building materials and go so far as to look at how you dispose of building debris and also the lifecycle of things or how the air quality is in the space, and it could go really into depth. I think on the easiest level, I like to work for my clients on the very simple level as to how to incorporate green living practices to their home, because when you teach people small things that they can incorporate in to their lives that include green living, then they begin to see the connection to everything, and this is also how Feng Shui is related too. I think Feng Shui is the original green design, because it really looks at how does your environment affect you, and how do you affect your environment? This is the same thing with green design. I like to teach people about simple things like, how do you cut out toxic cleaning products from your life? Or how do you incorporate recycling in to your everyday life? Then they may start to get more interested and start composting and make bigger changes, and then, hopefully (there are clients that I have that would prefer to use more sustainable materials, such as bamboo plywood, which is rapidly renewable and grows faster) maybe using reclaimed materials instead of new materials. But sadly, a lot of times in construction, it’s actually more cost effective and time effective to use new materials, and sometimes it’s almost impossible to try to renew something, so I do my best, but I think it’s about small stuff.

I love it. I mean, basically, people can make small incremental steps. Just like you said, composting and/or recycling, that’s simple. Changing their toxic cleaning materials to more green. Those are great ideas, but then also breaking it down to, if someone’s building out a space, maybe speaking to their architect or builder about certain sustainable types of materials that they might be able to incorporate that can sort of save our planet, if you will.

Yes.

Okay. Well, Anjie, I know that you’re a very sought after expert in the fields of Feng Shui and green living, and I thank you so much for being in our show today. 

Thank you so much Patti, it was so much fun.

It’s been great and I’ll report back.

by Anjie Cho


Coffee Break with Sabra: How to Get Started Renovating Your New York City Apartment

I'm excited to be featured on Sabra Sasson's "Coffee Break with Sabra!" For this interview, we chatted about what it takes to get a renovation project started in New York City, and how having an architect along for the ride can really be an asset. Check out what we have to say!

Interview transcript:

SS: Welcome to The Coffee Break with Sabra where we answer your burning questions, the questions you didn’t ask, didn’t know to ask or were afraid to ask. We ask them for you. Each week, we bring you another 20 minutes, so that you can get your answers and get back to having a productive and fabulous day. Today, we are here with Anjie Cho. She is the bestselling author of 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces, Feng Shui and Green Design for Healing and Organic Homes. Anjie is an architect for clients such as Satya Jewelry and is a sought after expert in the fields of Feng Shui and Green Living. Anjie Cho is a registered architect and certified Feng Shui consultant. As a graduate in architecture from the College of Environmental Design at the University of California Berkeley, she’s been creating beautiful and nourishing environments since 1999. And today, she’ll be speaking with us about how to get started renovating your New York City apartments. Welcome to the program Anjie.

AC: Hi Sabra! Thank you for having me.

Thank you for being here. I think that this is a really fabulous topic to talk about today. I know that when people buy real estate, whether it’s a house or apartment, a lot of times they want to put a little bit of themselves into the place, their own style, maybe through decorations or the right piece of furniture or paint, but sometimes a little bit more drastic measures are taken into account, like structural changes and things like that. So I thought it might be good if you could start out with talking with us about those instances where an architect is needed and maybe point out some nuances where New York City maybe unique to other areas.

Sure, of course. So I’m a licensed architect in New York City, and a lot of times when clients or perspective clients give me a call, they really want to know if they needed an architect. So in New York City, it’s a little bit unique because we have a lot of apartment renovations rather than single family homes. So if you have an apartment, this is geared towards you, and it’s not going to be as relevant if you’re talking about Brooklyn with a single family home or somewhere outside of New York City, so mostly Manhattan. So to look at whether you need an architect, generally, it really actually depends on the requirements of your condo board or your co-op board but technically, legally, New York City would want to have you file for permit with an architect for any time that you move, add or remove walls. So those are the times that you have to have an architect. Now, if you’re just painting your apartment, that you don’t need an architect for. And sometimes, if your co-op board or condo board is more lax, they may not make you file for anything, but technically, legally you’re supposed to file, does that make sense?

Yeah, definitely. Can you clarify little bit more?

Yes. So for instance, I do a lot of apartment combinations, so if you’re combining two apartments, it someone has an apartment and they buy the apartment next door to make a larger apartment, they want to combine them. So you would then be removing a wall and combining the apartments or a lot of times, people want to open up their kitchen to the living room now. If you take out that wall, you generally need to use an architect. There’s also another instance. If you want to move plumbing around, say if you have your kitchen sink on one wall but you want to move it under the window, most building management boards will require you to file that work with an architect. 

So this comes to a point, there’s a difference between a designer and architect. Now, I’m a licensed architect. That means that, just like you Sabra, like with an attorney or as a doctor, I’ve taken exams. I actually took 9 exams. I apprenticed for a number of years, 7 years actually. I have a degree in architecture and I’ve also passed all these exams in order to become a licensed professional in the State of New York. I have to do continuing education. Licensed architects are only people that actually say they’re architects and the only people that can sign off on your drawing. Well, actually, you could get a licensed engineer, a professional engineer, to sign off on your drawings too, but you need a licensed, either a PE or RA, which is a registered architect or professional engineer, to sign off on the drawings to submit to the city for you to get permit to do that work. So that’s when you need an architect.

Now, with a designer, there are no certifications required or licensing required in New York for a designer. So someone could wake up tomorrow and decide they want to be a designer, but in order to the work legally, you need to find a licensed architect. So that’s really important. If you do need to do work with an architect, make sure that the person you’re working with is not misleading you and telling you that they might be an architect when they’re not.

That’s really important. So it sounds like it’s essential, actually, to these projects because you need to have the sign off in order for them to what, be legal?

Yes. So, for instance, most co-op boards won’t even let you do the work without a permit, so you would have to hire a separate architect, if you hired a designer, that could sign off on the project. So you would have to pay extra for another architect to do the work, if you could find an architect that will work with a designer, because usually, there’s a little bit of a conflict between those two parties as well. 

But I also wanted to go back and talk a little bit more about how you know you’ll need an architect. Usually what I tell my clients and perspective clients is to contact your condo or co-op board, and ask for something called the “alteration agreement.” This alteration agreement documents and outlines all the requirements required for you to do any kind of work in your building. Even it doesn’t require an architect, they generally want you to look at the alternation agreement. There might be a decorating agreement as well, if you’re just doing paint, and that tells you all the insurances that are required, and specifics they have required, the hours of work of the building and so forth. That’s also a good opportunity to open up a conversation with either the management, or maybe the super in your building, to say, “Hey, I want to just take down this wall between my kitchen and living room. Do you know if they’re going to make me submit a permit or get a permit for this?” So it’s a good way to start conversations, but it changes with each building. But like I said, technically, if you take out any walls, if you move, remove or add any walls or relocate any plumbing, you are required by the city to do the work, but not all buildings will require that. Some buildings will let you get away with it without getting a permit. The only danger is that, say a neighbor wants to complain, and you don’t have a permit, they can complain. They can ask the DOB, the Department of Buildings, to come and do an inspection, and then you would have to stop work and you would be fined and then you would have to file the work.

So your project can be interrupted if a neighbor complains and you don’t have the proper permit is what you’re saying?

Correct. All work would cease, and you would have to resolve all the issues before you could continue the work.

Interesting. Wow! That would be such a pain.

Yeah. Actually I was working on a project one time where this happened not because they didn’t have a permit…They did have a permit, but they didn’t have the right documentation onsite. You’re required to have the approved plans onsite and, for some reason, an inspector came by the building to visit another site. He stopped by this job site, and the contractor could not find the approved plan so he shut down the building and that was terrible. I literally had to wait outside for the inspector to come back the next day. I waited the whole day. He kept telling me “I’m coming.” He ended up coming like 4:45. I waited the whole day for him to open up the job again.

Wow, wow. So it really could cost a lot of money if you don’t have the right paperwork and the right documents in place and complying with that rule of having the plans on the premises where doing the work.

Exactly.

Wow. So how does one go about finding or selecting an architect or someone to manage the project?

Well, my suggestion is to always ask first around. Just like for a doctor or a dentist or an attorney, ask for referrals. Talk to your friends or anyone that’s done a renovation recently and ask around. You can also when you ask your management for the alteration agreement, ask them, “Are there any architects that you like working with in the building?” That’s going to give you a little bit of an edge, and they’ll be familiar at the space. Of course, I’m an architect and I’m also available too. Once you’ve got 1 or 2 or, 3 maybe, that you’re looking at, I would give them a call and talk to them. Tell them about your project and see what their availability is. Number one, see if you get along with them, because you’re going to be working closely with this person, and I get a lot of people who ask me, “How much is this going to cost?” You have to understand, it’s hard for an architect to give you an estimate on their work if you don’t know what work you’re doing. So be clear about what scope you want, how much involvement you want with your architect, and talk to them too. An architect could hand hold you through the whole process, or they could be more hands off and just help you with the design or help you get the filing done. So really be clear about how much you want, and also be clear about your budget. Tell them what your budget is for construction, because that’s going to give them a good estimate on what their fees are. Generally, I think architects in New York charge between 10% and 20% of your construction cost, but that depends on how much hand holding you need during the process. An architect could come to your job site every week and check everything out, or they could not come at all, and you could just take over. So be clear about or think about your options on how much you want. What’s your budget? Think about if you can afford an architect and how much hand holding and involvement you want from them.

So let me ask you, so in terms of the architect role, it sounds like there can be a wide range of what the responsibilities are for the architect, and it sounds like it also could be more than just helping with the design of the project, as you called it.

Yes. If I was going to do a full service contract with someone, how we would start is we would do a conceptual design together, where I would meet with them and talk to them about their needs, look at how they live, what their requirements are, what their budget is and their scheduling is. Then we can walk through some conceptual design ideas. 

For instance, I just finished an apartment combination a few months ago, and with this client, we did a full service contract. So we sat down for a few meetings and found trace paper and pens and paper and really looked at her options on how to lay out the space. Tthen I proceeded with putting together what’s required for the permit drawings to get that started, because the process with the DOB takes 4 – 6 weeks, not including the time it takes to get all the signatures from management and so forth. So we got that started, and then I helped her select contractors. So we picked 3 contractors where we did a walkthrough with a good set of bid documents, which is really important too, because as an architect can provide you with bid documents, which is a set of drawings that outlines the scope of work graphically and with text. So when you walk through with the contractor without an architect, what happens is that each contractor will say, “Well, what about this, what about this, what about this?” They’re trying to be helpful. So at the end of the day, you end up with prices from three different contractors, and they’re not pricing the same thing because 1, the conversation may have change with each visit, because they have different suggestions. Number two, there are no documents stating what is the scope of work that clearly states that these are the things you’re going to purchase. You may be thinking you want to get this really cool door, but they’re going to price the cheapest things, because when they competitively bid something, they’re going to price the most competitively priced item. So at the end of the day, the price can be like a moving target. An architect can help you get a firm price. For the most part, all of my projects, we bid it out, devise some of the drawings and competitively bid it out. We include my drawings as part of the contract document, and there are almost never any change orders, which is a change in price, so you know what you’re getting into. 

And then other things that I could do is, like I said, I could do a weekly site visit where I work with the contractor to work out any design problems that occur or design issues that occur during the project. I also can help the client design the kitchen, help them layout the kitchen, bathrooms, floor tiles, what to look for. There’s so many things I can do, and then I also review payment requisitions too. You don’t want to really pay a contractor for more than what they’ve done in the case if they go out of business. You want to be able to walk away from a general contractor and still finish your work without losing any money. So I review payment requisitions and make sure that you’re good to pay it without overpaying. Because a lot of people like clients end up thinking, “Oh, we’re done,” and then they pay them all the money, but then there are punch list things, which are little small items that the contractors fix, but if you pay them all their money, they have no incentive to come back. So I advise on payment, I advise on what needs to be done, what’s typical, what’s not typical, there’s a lot, and we end up really actually saving the owners money.

Wow. That sounds amazing. All of this that you’ve described, you gave such really wonderful advice, because, you know the expression, you’ve got to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. You just gave the whole example. If you’re bringing in several contractors then the conversation changes. They’re not really comparing Project X to Project X. They’re comparing Project X, which has now been tweaked by the contractor, so that’s an amazing service that you offer to help people to understand what they’re actually getting a quote for to make sure that it’s all for the same project.

Exactly. At the bare minimum, I always, almost every client that I work with, I at least do the bid documents for them to make sure that they get an apples to apples comparison between the contractors, as well as my opinion on the contractor and my advice. Also, like I said, those documents, those bid document drawings go in as part of the contract documents in the contract that you sign with the GC, and in my drawings, I have a lot of notes, general notes, that cover things like, for instance, you may think you’re going to get your paint included, but then they say, “We only included that you get the ready-mix white paint.” So you think, “No, I don’t want to pay extra to get blue paint.” Little things like that. Also defining, “You need primer, plus 2 coats of Benjamin Moore paint in something other than ready-mix colors.” Things like that, that I know about, but the average home owner won’t know about. So this way you can cover yourself, make sure you get the best products. The architect really is a client’s rep, so we watch out for the client.

That’s awesome. In terms of these projects, if somebody wants to make a renovation, how would you say is the first step? Is the first step looking at the alteration agreement and then looking for an architect, if it’s necessary or required by the board? Where would somebody start? What would be the first step?

I think the first step would be to talk to your board or talk to your management or your super. If you’re close with your super in the building and he’s very involved, just ask the super, because he usually knows everything that’s going on. Let them know, “Oh, we’re thinking of doing a little bit of work,” and ask him what he thinks the process is for you, and then you can always reach out to your management and get the alteration agreement. Then ask around for architects and find a few that you want to reach out to, and give them a call or email them, and just talk to them on the phone. You could send them a plan, if you have a plan of your apartment, and just start a conversation going.

Fantastic. So I wanted to just quickly ask if you could tell our listeners how they can reach you if they have any questions about their upcoming projects and if you have any final words for us.

Well, you can reach me through my website. It’s www.anjiecho.com, and that’s spelled A – N – J – I – E – C – H – O.com, and any perspective clients can always call me directly. My phone number is on the website, or email me directly. That’s another thing that you should look at with the architect, too. You might want to see if you’re actually going to be talking to the architect throughout the process or if they have a bigger firm and you’re going to be talking to a project manager or someone lower level. I know, I basically do all the design, and I have freelancers and some staff and interns that help me, but I am the one designing. I’m the one who’s contacting the client all the time, and I also am available. I always respond within 24 hours, and that’s something that you should ask. How long will it take you to respond to emails, and will I be working with you? Maybe you don’t mind if you’re working with a project manager, or maybe you really want to work with the architect, but in any case, I’ll respond to all the emails and I’m the main contact with all my clients, so anyone can reach out to me with any questions.

Fantastic. And I feel that anyone who is considering renovation in their place should definitely consider reaching out to you, because you’re very knowledgeable and you have so much experience, and you’re really great to talk to, so I think working with you would probably be really easy.

That’s what my clients say. That’s another thing too! Sorry, one more thing. You can also ask the architects you talk to provide you with some references that you can call too. That’s really important.

That’s a great point, probably with anybody that you work with. You might want to compare and find out what the experience was with other clients that they have worked with.

Absolutely.

Fabulous. Thank you so much Anjie. Thank you for being here.

You’re welcome! Thank you so much, Sabra. It’s always so much fun. We always have so much to talk about.

Yes we do. There’s always really interesting information and fascinating stories that you share. So I want to thank you again for joining us this week and join us again next week during our weekly Coffee Break with Sabra.

by Anjie Cho


the WELLNESS WONDERLAND: EPISODE 064 | ANJIE CHO

featured this week on The Wellness Wonderland, by Katie Dalebout

Anjie Cho is awesome. I’m so excited to finally welcome her to Wonderland. Since recording this episode she has become a great friend and she even interviewed me a couple times on her site here and here. She is one of the coolest, kindest, and most knowledgable people I’ve ever met. I am fascinated by Feng Shui, minimalism, and interior design and in this episode Anjie uses her vast experience and knowledge to enlighten us on all of that and more. Anjie is a registered Architect, Feng Shui Interior Designer and best selling author of 108 Ways to Create Holistic Spaces: Feng Shui and Green Design for Healing and Organic Homes. Since 1999, she has been creating beautiful and nourishing environments throughout New York City, Washington DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and beyond. There are so many simple yet profoundly impactful tips shared in the episode and I’m so excited to hear how you implement them in your lives. Let us know.