Feng shui your way to better sleep, romance in the bedroom
November 16, 1999
From Mary-Jo Lipman
(CNN) -- The walls of Melissa Boshart's bedroom are painted a soothing buttery yellow. A bookcase filled with romance novels stands in the corner. Two elephant candlesticks -- trunks facing each other -- rest on top. A night stand with a lamp is on each side of the bed to provide harmony and balance.
These may seem minor decorating decisions to some people. But they're part of Boshart's plan to turn her bedroom into a serene, romantic retreat using the principles of feng shui ("fung shway"), embodying ancient Chinese concepts of placement. Feng shui -- in literal translation "wind and water" -- is about enhancing the environment or the energy around you.
"The most important thing to understand is that feng shui is really about the energy that's surrounding you in your personal space," says Lillian Too, who has written 16 books on the subject.
"The structures around you also emanate energy," Too says, "and if these structures are placed in a harmonious fashion based on feng shui guidelines, you attract good energy, and therefore you attract good fortune and good luck."
It works for Boshart. "I do like that part of my house," she says of her carefully thought-out bedroom. "That's where I go to sit, reflect and meditate."
Feng shui guidelines, developed over thousands of years, take into account compass directions, colors, natural elements (wood, mineral, fire, water, earth) and aspirations (wealth and prosperity; recognition and fame; marriage and love; creativity and children; mentors and helpful people; career; knowledge and education; and family relationships and health).
Those categories correspond to one another. For example, people seeking recognition and fame may choose to decorate certain segments of their homes with fire elements -- candles and lots of red paint.
Feng shui consultant Terah Kathryn Collins, who just completed her third book, "The Western School Guide to Feng Shui: Room by Room" (Hay House Inc.), says she often sees the bedroom as one of the places organized with the least feng shui consciousness.
"Because we all live very busy lives," Collins says, "many of us create bedrooms that are very awake and busy also. What we need to do is create bedrooms that are very serene, restful and very good at getting us to relax. When we walk into it, we should actually begin to relax instantaneously."
Collins and Too follow different schools of feng shui. Too practices the more traditional compass school, which relies on calculations of actual dimensions, compass directions and sectors of main entrances and important rooms. Collins employs the form school, which concentrates on correcting and enhancing the energy flow through a home or building.
The two specialists, however, say they subscribe to the same basic principles on decorating a bedroom.
Feng shui guidelines take some strong positions on reflections in the bedroom. "You shouldn't have a mirror facing the bed directly," Too says, "because mirrors that reflect the bed usually cause marriages to become rather complicated due to the presence -- or entry -- of a third party into the relationship."
Collins says mirrors also "keep a space awake ... open a space up, they make it bigger, they make it brighter," she says.
"In the middle of the night, if we need to go from the bed to the bathroom, and we see our reflection in a mirror, it can wake us up because we have to make sense of what we see moving in our own room," Collins says. "So it (a mirror) can send a danger signal, even though there's nothing actually dangerous going on. We're just seeing our own image. Getting scared ruins a restful state."
If you have closet doors in the bedroom that are completely mirrored, Collins suggests hanging a curtain made to match the upholstery or color of the walls. "When you close it in the evening, you'll have this serene wall of fabric," she says. "Open it during the day, when you need that wakeful energy."
Too and Collins are adamant about television having no place in the bedroom. Where a TV dominates a bedroom, Collins says, romance and good solid restful sleep decline. But if you absolutely must have one there, she recommends putting it in an armoire, so you can shut the door over it each night before you turn in.
The bedroom also is not the place for exercise equipment, a desk or a computer, Collins says, because they're all symbols of activity and wakefulness. "If they have to be in the bedroom," she says, "we have to screen them. Cover them, so they're not yelling at us when we're not using them."
Shoji screens are one way to block the view of these items because they're lightweight. But Collins notes the screens can look out of place if there's nothing else of an Asian theme in the room. Another option she suggests is buying a wooden frame divider at the crafts store and then filling in the spaces with your own matching fabric.
Bathrooms attached to the bedroom also should be screened or the door closed. Not only is the view unpleasant, but feng shui principles suggest that bathroom plumbing drains energy.
Too says to always place your bed in the corner of the bedroom diagonally opposite the entrance. The idea is to be able to see the door, but not be directly in front of it.
Not being able to see the door is the equivalent of being vulnerable to the enemy, Collins says. "The idea in feng shui," she says, "is always keep that nervous system as calm and centered as possible, all the way through our nights and our days, so we place our beds so we have a view of the door."
If your bed is against the same wall as the door, Collins says you can hang a small mirror across the way that can give you a good view of the door from the bed.
Having your body directly in line with the door can be problematic as well, she says, because that can make you feel you're in the main path of traffic -- not relaxing. If that's the case, Collins suggests placing a substantial footboard, atrunk or bench at the foot of the bed, so "you feel that you're somehow behind a little something that's giving you a sense of protection."
Collins adds that feng shui guidance says compass positions in sleep can have an effect on aspects of your life -- physical health, intuitive capabilities and your energy. How is your bed placed? Toward what point on the compass does your head lie? Take the test (above) to find out what it might mean for you.
It's better not to sleep next to a window, Too says, because feng shui concept says it disturbs the energies around you all night, creating "disharmony and discord." Too suggests using blinds and heavy curtains to cover a window as a way to counter that.
"You shouldn't sleep under a structural beam because that's very bad for the health," she adds, "and very bad for the relationship."
In the palm-size paperback "Lillian Too's Little Book of Feng Shui" (Element Books Limited), the writer suggests camouflaging beams with fake ceilings -- or hanging two bamboo stems tied with thread, to keep "bad energy from the beams from pressing down on anyone sleeping below."
Too also warns against sleeping under a ceiling fan or very bright light. That's considered inauspicious because it may cause your energies to become too active during the night.
Couples shouldn't have two twin mattresses on a double bed frame, according to Too's interpretation of feng shui, because that symbolizes a hidden divide between them. A mattress shouldn't lie directly on the floor, either, because it's too close to the Earth energy, Too says. She recommends keeping it at least 18 inches (45 centimeters) above the floor.
Too recommends placing the headboard against a solid wall. "I always tell people that it's good to have solid headboard because that means you're sleeping with solid support," she says. "I'm not very in favor of brass beds precisely because there are holes in the headboard. If the bed is floating, with no support at the back -- or you're sleeping on a waterbed -- that suggests your life becomes rather unstable."
When it comes to choosing colors, Too recommends "anything pastel or anything that's not too loud or overpowering." Collins suggests using "the palette of all the skin colors of all the different races of the world: the cocoa browns, the burnished reds, the beiges, the pinks and apricots and yellows."
Violets and lavenders are all great, she says. It's also OK to deepen those skin colors and make them richer, "so you have a full spectrum going from pastels all the way into cabernet reds, aubergine deep purples and deep golds and bronzes."
If someone already has a lot of blues, whites, grays, blacks or sage greens, they need to balance these "cool" colors, Collins says. If those cool colors dominate the room, she says it will make the space feel less cozy. "It drops the perceived temperature of the room," Collins says. "It drops people's libido. It also drops people's capabilities to relax ... so keep at least 50 percent of the colors in the room a warm or skin tone."
In keeping with the soothing atmosphere, Too advises keeping lighting low and soft.
Candles or oil lamps may be helpful in creating a relaxing mood, Collins says
Too has a strict rule against too many water features in the bedroom. Water, which symbolizes money in feng shui terms, proves auspicious in other places like the living room. "I always tell people that it's not very good to put water features in a bedroom -- not even paintings of lakes and rivers -- because that could lead to losses, particularly financial losses. Sometimes it also leads to a loss in relationship."
As Collins sees it, water brings in the colors that don't necessarily do well in a bedroom. Fountains can be distracting because they create noise, and they use electricity, which drains energy. But if a picture of a waterfall is what relaxes you, Collins says she doesn't see the harm in hanging it. Just don't overdo.
Bedroom art, in general, should be very serene or romantic or inspirational or even sensual or erotic, Collins says. "It's the only place in the house where sensual or erotic art belongs."
In addition to beautiful art, keep your bedroom neat, Collins says. "People with congested or chaotic homes don't tend to be creative because there's no room to be creative," she says. "There's no space for any new thing to happen because that space is taken up by all the old stuff."
If decorating the bedroom in accordance with feng shui principles has more to do with romance than a good night's sleep, Collins has specific advice for singles and married couples.
She says single men and woman who want to have partners but don't sometimes unwittingly "hold their singleness in place" by having art that depicts one thing, such as a portrait of a woman alone at a table looking aloof or a man sitting on a curb by himself, seemingly forlorn.
Such images, Collins says, may send a message to the person that it's his or her destiny to be alone and could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. "Look at images you'd like to have happen in your life, like a man and woman embracing," she says. "If you want to be partnered, bring things that are in pairs into the bedroom." She says accouterments like candlesticks, for example, should be paired and placed near each other.
Collins tells single men and women they need two night stands. "Have both sides of the bed acting as if there's already two people in the bed," she says. "Act as if your partner is already in your life in a wonderful way, by supplying the other side of the bed with enough room to get in and out, another beautiful night stand, a lamp and maybe a book. It says, 'You are welcome.'"
For single women, she says it's important not to fill the bed with lacy, fussy pillows, dolls and animals. "They're sending out a subtle signal that there's no room for a relationship to come in -- the space is already filled. So make the bed very sensual and inviting, but not so very complicated that it takes 20 minutes to unload before you get into it," Collins says.
When it comes to couples, married or not, Collins warns against including too many pictures of children or relatives in the bedroom. They may appear to be staring at the occupants. "Couples need to make a romantic hideaway to encourage intimacy and romance," Collins says. Photos of the couple, on the other hand, are encouraged.
Another of her feng shui tips for couples is to unify the view from the bed. "It should be a single view that is unified that they both love." Choose art that both people like or paint an accent wall a mutually appreciated color.
Collins stresses that children's rooms should be decorated with the same soothing colors as adults' to make their rooms cozy and calming. Fire engine red, Day-Glo yellow and cobalt displayed in stores are "totally awake" colors, she says.
"Do not do that to your child," Collins says. " If they become so active you can't stand it, you'll know why."
Five magazines for stylish summer reading (Feng Shui For Modern Living)