Amanda Gates Talks Non-Toxic Furniture

Last year, Tennessee interior designer and feng shui expert, Amanda Gates, featured me on her podcast, Design 101. We talked how to improve your feng shui, Twitter stalking, crazy feng shui stories and more. This time, I'm excited to welcome Amanda to the Holistic Spaces blog to share with us her insight on choosing non-toxic furniture. We've got lots to learn!

AC: Tell us about non-toxic furniture and why someone would want to purchase it over regular furniture. 

AG: What most consumers do not know is that much of the furniture made today is made overseas. In an effort to keep it cheap, they use cheap materials like plywood and particle board to assemble them. Cheap furniture is not only poorly made, but contains insecticides, herbicides, formaldehyde, and many other harmful chemicals. These chemicals can off gas for years. 

Non-toxic furniture is better made and is made with solid wood. It appears to be more expensive, however the consumer is not comparing apples to apples. It’s more like comparing apples to a car engine. Non-toxic furniture is safer for our environment and creates better air quality in your home. If you have an infant with developing lungs and immune system, those toxins often found in cheap furniture can cause serious, long lasting health effects.

What is the first step to purchasing non-toxic furniture? 

Education. EPA approval does not guarantee HUMAN safety. In fact the language gets real fuzzy and will say something unclear like “registered.” And most of what the EPA registers, is NOT approved for human health. So do your homework. 

  • What type of wood is it?
  • Is there ANY plywood or particleboard anywhere? (This is important because many manufacturers back their products with particleboard)
  • What is the fabric made of? Is it made with PVC, formaldehyde or other harsh chemicals?
  • What type of foam is used? Where did it come from?
  • What type of hardware is used? How was it made? Where was it made?
  • Springs - What are they made of? Where were they made?
  • Have veneers been used?
  • Does it have fire retardant on it?
  • Are the materials all-natural? (Like wool, jute, cottons, linens, etc.)
  • Where was it assembled? Was ALL of it assembled in the same factory? (Another very important question. Many manufacturers will start the build process in China and then assemble stateside and then claim "Made in America.")
  • What environmental partners are they associated with? SFI, FSC, Sustainable Furnishings Council?
  • What is the company's philosophy on environment impact? Is it their hook, or do they truly believe in their mission?

DO your homework, because it's become a buzzword, and many are abusing it.

How can non-toxic furniture help create a holistic space?

We are inundated with chemicals EVERYWHERE. In our food system, all of our building materials, water, cleaning products, even mattresses are said to have more chemicals than an entire barrel of crude oil.

Cheap products that harbor a lot of chemicals cause cancer, damage our nervous system, suppress our immune systems, depress our T cells, cause endometriosis, reproductive issues, respiratory damage and much, much more.

Sounds scary, because it is. 

That is not peaceful. Not to mention it’s not holistic in any way. Being surrounded by so many chemicals affects your health and well-being. And this can ultimately effect your happiness without you even realizing it.

A clean environment allows you to operate at a more optimal level. If your indoor air quality is substandard, so is your well-being, because they work hand in hand. If you’re suffering from headaches, insomnia, asthma, allergies, respiratory issues, and other ailments, are you going to feel good? Are you going to be happy? And what if you’re trying to get pregnant and can’t because the chemicals are throwing your body out of whack?

You are your best when your environment is at its best.

Thank you so much, Amanda, for offering your wealth of knowledge to our readers! Hopefully if you're looking to purchase furniture soon, you'll opt to go the non-toxic route if at all possible. It's an important way to help ensure your space is holistic and nurturing! 

Amanda has a brand new book coming out next spring, and we're happy to say she'll be featuring some of this material there as well. Keep an eye out for her book, with even more information on sourcing your home goods sustainably!

by Anjie Cho


Amanda is a professionally trained Interior Designer, and Feng Shui Practitioner and an amateur Environmentalist. She has been in the field of interior design and Feng Shui for over seventeen years. In the summer of 2015, Amanda became certified in Bau Biology, the study of our modern day environment and it’s effects on our health and home.

She works with homeowners who want to create harmonious, healing environments through intentional design practices. Sure, you can say all design is intentional is some respect, but Amanda's approach encompasses more than just a pretty space. It’s about environments that are truly healing.

Her goal with everyone she works with is to not only create spaces that have a killer cool vibe, and gives you the wow factor you could never achieve on your own, but design that honors Mama Earth along the way. As a leader in the world of intentional design, she design spaces that feel as good as they look. 

Website: gatesinteriordesign.com


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


Feng Shui Your Wallet!

I truly believe that how you treat your money reflects on how it will treat you. Keep reading for ways to feng shui your wallet and your money mindset. Remember, your wealth comes in many forms.

Your Wallet

Take a good look at your wallet. Go ahead, grab it. Is it frayed, unsightly, falling apart and on its last legs? If you said yes to any of these, it is time to treat yourself to a brand new wallet! I give you permission to splurge on that nice wallet you’ve wanted. If you have a nice one, you’re good. Just keep it in good condition and when it starts to fall into disrepair be sure to replace it.

Organize Your Bills

Take care and be mindful of your cash in your wallet. I don’t want to see you shoving your dollars and wadding them up into your wallet. :) Be gentle, and thoughtfully unfold your bills, smoothing out folds and creases. Then put them in order, facing the same direction. Finally, place the largest bills in front so you see that hundred-dollar bill first!

De-clutter 

Be sure to de-clutter your wallet regularly. A good rule of thumb is at least every 27 days. This means to clean out old receipts or cards as required. Keep the wallet clean and trim!

Citrine

If you have enough room in your wallet, it is beneficial to carry a piece of citrine with you to attract wealth and abundance. Citrine is self-cleansing so you don’t need to regularly clear that gemstone. It also helps to clear the items and currency you keep in your wallet.

Recently I was interviewed by Amanda Gates for her “Design 101- Designing your best life” Podcast. We had a really great time talking and connecting. She was telling me about her recent blog post “11 stupidly easy techniques to feng shui your wallet." That inspired me to share my tips to feng shui your wallet as well. Be sure to check out her tips as well! And look out for our interview, coming up in a couple of months.

by Anjie Cho