Q&A Sunday: Feng Shui Professionals

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What should you look for when hiring a feng shui professional?

Jacqueline R., Cleveland, OH

Great question, Jacqueline! Finding the right feng shui consultant for your needs is a very important step in the adjustment process. The more harmony you have with your chosen professional, the more successful your adjustments will be.

Take some time to review the certifications that your prospective consultant may have. I took a three year certification program, the BTB Masters Program. I think feng shui and architecture, like many other professions, require lifetime study and apprenticeship to develop your craft. It takes decades to become a seasoned feng shui master or architect. I suggest you look for a certification and the length and quality of experience. If you want "Barnes and Noble" feng shui, just go buy and read a book! Also, look at who their teachers are. I still speak to and work with my mentors. I still go to them for a lot of support.

Most importantly, with a designer or feng shui professional, select someone you truly resonate with. Spend some time, ask some questions and see how you feel about the person. Go with your gut intuition and see who you connect with the most. Be sure to ask them about their processes and let them know what you want. Different consultants will be able to focus better on different needs.

Do you need someone who is more focused on energy flow? Do you need a designer who is more into the decorative aspects? Do you want to have someone who focuses on traditional feng shui or a more modern adaptation? Would it be helpful if they specialized in a specific area, such as children?

Naturally, there are many factors you should consider when hiring any professional, including your comfort level, whether the consultant sees your goals in the same way you do, recommendations, experience, certifications...the list goes on. These are just a few suggestions to consider when looking to hire a feng shui professional to help you create a holistic space you love!

by Anjie Cho

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

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

A Two-Bedroom Manhattan Apartment Receives a Mindful Renovation

featured this month on hunker by Kate Santos

When a family of three sought to bring cohesion to their post-war apartment on Manhattan's Lower East Side, they called on architect Anjie Cho to give the two-bedroom address a more modern look. But when Cho answered their request to streamline the property, she also set out to do so from a thoughtful perspective — she also happens to be a feng shui expert. The owners and Cho decided that a simple design for their home was best, and they made it a priority to maximize the layout with a calm aesthetic. And since the site views the East River, Cho looked at that vantage point's natural light as an architectural prize that also serves a mindful purpose. "It's so important," she said. "Every living thing grows toward the light." Once the framework was established, Cho then moved on to a second challenge: clutter. "Some clutter is perfectly fine," she noted. "[But] if you've thought of tossing it more than nine times, then it's time to let it go." Now that the property has been updated and cleared of all unnecessary things, the family finally has a place to peacefully come together.

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What No One's Telling You About Paint and VOCs

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We've shared plenty of information about paint, from how to choose the perfect color to why you'd want to look for paints with lower VOCs, but here's something not many homeowners are aware of: even paints labeled as "low-VOC" can cause significant damage to your health and the environment. Let's break it down. 

First of all, let's be clear. Opting for lower VOC count in paint is definitely healthier than just grabbing whatever color you like without checking the label. But as with many sustainable and eco-friendly options, lowering VOC levels in paint doesn't necessarily make it completely healthy. Though they do contain fewer volatile organic compounds, paints labeled as low- or zero-VOC do contain VOCs. What's more, the number used to classify these paints as healthier is measured before the addition of pigments and certain additives, which can contain additional VOCs. And some of the dangerous chemicals added to paints aren't considered to be VOCs, so they're not taken into account when determining the safety of the paint. 

Even when the paint you've chosen has the lowest possible levels of VOCs, those compounds will still off-gas into your internal environment. Though this small amount of toxicity may not show up immediately, this is another situation similar to that metaphor we use when talking about the commanding position and clutter. Even if you don't notice, like a stone that has water dripping on it for years, it will eventually begin to affect you in a negative way.  

And, as Joel Hirshberg notes in his article, The Truth About Paintreducing the level of VOCs in paint only does so much for the environment. It is not the most ideal solution. He mentions that when we reduce the use of VOCs, we only slow down the process of contaminating our environment, since our atmosphere can only completely absorb waste if it is healthy and biodegradable. As many of these chemicals are not, even in small amounts, they ultimately return to the atmosphere where they remain forever. 

With this information in mind, most experts agree that seeking out the healthiest possible paint option is worth the effort and cost. In most cases, this option consists of natural paints and finishes. These paints are composed only of natural ingredients, like water, plant oils and natural minerals. In these paints, manufacturers use 100% natural materials for each of the primary components, which would usually be chemicals. For instance, The Real Milk Paint, a popular option, contains casein, hydrated lime and plant-derived fillers, all of which are natural and non-toxic.

There are a number of companies who produce natural paint for healthier environments. This list from eartheasy is a great start, but as always, do your own research before choosing the best paint for your needs. In fact, if you're handy enough, you can even make your own natural paint! What better way to KNOW your indoor air quality is safe?

by Anjie Cho

Bamboo Isn't Just a Fad

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As a licensed and practicing architect, I regularly take continuing education courses to stay up to date and maintain my certification. My most recent course detailed the perks and benefits of using bamboo in remodeling, renovation and building, and it's pretty incredible what using bamboo can do for your holistic space and for the environment. Let's take a look at why bamboo is hopefully here to stay. 

Bamboo is Environmentally Friendly and Sustainable

Using bamboo to build dates back at least 2,000 years in Chinese culture, and there are 1,400 different species of bamboo, all of which can be used differently. It's such an amazing untapped resource that fully engaging in a bamboo-based industry could provide jobs for up to one billion people worldwide, all without providing any unnecessary strain on our environment or ecosystems. 

Unlike the harvesting process of typical trees, harvesting bamboo does not fully release its carbon dioxide supply into the air. This is no small detail, since deforestation is one of the main contributors to global warming through carbon off gassing. Instead, the root structure of bamboo stays alive and holds onto almost 50% of the carbon it sequesters, which can be up to 60% more than fir trees.

Bamboo also releases 35% more oxygen than typical fir trees, helping to give back more to the environment, and since it is harvested more selectively, it doesn't wear out soil, which prevents the need for relocation, a common issue in traditional wood harvesting.  

Bamboo is a rapidly renewing resource, and due to its tight hold on carbon and the fact that it travels via sea and train for much of its journey to us from Asian countries, it's actually a carbon negative product, which means that yes, it is more sustainable in every way than traditional wood. All of this, without even mentioning that relying on bamboo for building can not only avoid the devastating effects deforestation has on some indigenous species, it can actually help us to provide more solid economies for these people while we still have everything we need in building supplies. 

Using Bamboo Adds Nature to Your Space

Recent research shows that using natural wood in indoor environments actually has positive impacts on our health, much like that of spending time out in nature. In fact, using natural wood like bamboo for our building needs can lead to decreased blood pressure, lower levels of stress and increased emotional wellness! Talk about benefits!

What's more, some other studies have shown that physical contact with wood products, as opposed to other materials like aluminum and plastic, actually produces positive physiological responses. We feel safer when we're surrounded by nature, even if it's in our homes and not outdoors. These studies also show that imitation wood doesn't have the same effects. 

It's not difficult to see why choosing bamboo for renovations and other indoor needs is a good move all around. In fact, we'll share even more benefits soon! With plenty of perks and almost no downside (as long as you get quality, properly aged product!), bamboo is potentially an amazing tool to move us forward in sustainable, eco-friendly building and green design. Would you consider using it?

by Anjie Cho

5 Tips to Incorporate The Comeback of Feng Shui

featured this week on New York Spaces

When I told my parents that I started studying feng shui, they laughed! My mom exclaimed, "Feng shui is old fashioned folklore!" But feng shui is making a comeback. In fact, 86% of Chinese Americans think feng shui will play a role in a future home buying decisions, according to a recent survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America. And 49% are more likely than their parents to take feng shui into account when deciding on a home. Maybe I was onto something early on.

I would agree that feng shui suffers from a common misconception involving tacky, Asian-style black and red lacquer furniture, but that's not at all what feng shui is about. That's just a visual style that's associated with feng shui; the concepts rise above the outdated superficial execution. So, what is feng shui really about then? Feng shui is an ancient philosophy that uses environmental psychology that seeks to enhance our lives through our physical spaces.

The short version of my story is that at a turning point in my life, I decided to incorporate holistic wellness into my daily lifestyle. This included yoga and meditation. I needed to find some peace and slow down from my fast-paced life. Sound familiar? I think many of us can relate to this. As a practicing licensed architect, I quickly yearned to include this holistic system into my design practice.

Architects and designers, we love to create beautiful spaces. That's what we're good at, and it's fairly easy. But to design environments that resonate with the inhabitants, or can improve our lives—that's the challenging part. Feng shui gives us tools and guidelines to make that a reality, which goes on to make a difference when it comes to selling and buying the home. In fact, that same study from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate found that 90% of Chinese Americans believe feng shui increases a home's resale value.

With this in mind, here are some easy ways to incorporate feng shui into your home (whether you're just looking for a new aesthetic or staging to attract potential buyers) without doing a complete re-design. You may just find a harmonious balance in your life as a result.

1. Clear the clutter. It's ideal for cabinets to reach the ceiling. If they don't, try placing living plants or items of personal value above.

2. Know where to put mirrors. It's important that mirrors are placed away from the bed in the bedroom. And a full-length mirror in the bathroom is usually key. Plant-life next to the mirrors encourages a better qi flow from water to earth to metal to wood.

3. Keep your color wheel on hand. Colors are a vital part of feng shui design. Consult your color wheel when designing the kitchen, especially as bright colors like red and orange work well there.

4. Free the bed. Feng shui principles dictate that the bed should be accessible from all angles. If it's not, move it to the center of the wall. Make sure the bed is not directly facing the door.

5. Embrace your green thumb. Those who practice feng shui will look for the presence of live plants, particularly in balance with other elements. Because bathrooms are keepers of water energy, placing earthy elements throughout can help create a balance.

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by Anjie Cho