Feng shui overload
The ancient design philosophy is showing up in suburban homes, office parks, even theme parks.
May 12, 2003: 6:15 PM EDT
By Sarah Max, Staff Writer for CNN/Money

New York (CNN/Money) - A few thousand years after its introduction in China, and a decade after books on it started showing up on bookshelves and coffee tables in America, feng shui may prove more than just a passing fad.

Soccer moms and corporate big shots alike have opened their hearts, minds and pocketbooks to the ancient design philosophy (pronounced "fung shway").

Notable followers of feng shui include the usual mononomic suspects -- Madonna, Oprah, the Donald. Former president Bill Clinton is said to have had the White House "feng shuied," and progressive school administrators and city officials have given a nod to the practice as well.

In fact, last year the city of Sausalito, CA reportedly voted down a proposed police station because, according to testimony by a feng shui expert, it "cut off the mouth of chi" and compromised "the arrows of sha" of the town.

Some corporations have turned to feng shui in an effort to enhance productivity, put customers at ease and get a cosmic leg up on the competition.

The Body Shop, British Airways, Hyatt Hotels, Merrill Lynch, Motorola and Universal Studios are just some of the companies said to have incorporated the practice into design. In fact, all 310 acres of Hong Kong Disneyland, scheduled to open in 2006, will be child and chi friendly.

Why everybody's Feng Shui today

Feng shui's guiding principle is that improving the way energy, known as chi, flows through your physical surroundings affects just about every aspect of your life. Getting things set up properly, say adherents, can change your life.

Can you feel the chi? The Feng Shui lobby of the Park Hyatt in Chicago.  
Can you feel the chi? The Feng Shui lobby of the Park Hyatt in Chicago.

The practice is credited with everything from improving companies' profits to boosting couples' sex lives and helping restless babies sleep through the night. (This writer, a sleep-deprived mother of twin infants, just set up a feng shui consultation. Tune in later for the results.)

These are, no doubt, all pretty lofty promises with no scientific results the back them up. But that doesn't bother its many fans.

"What I like about feng shui is that everything has its place," said Paul Svendsen, a CPA who hired a feng shui consultant to help him buy furniture and "feng shui" his office four years ago. All told he spent about $10,000. But, he says, he's more productive because of it, and clients seem more at ease.

"When you walk into a house you often make the decision right away whether you want to stay or go back in the car," said Holly Ziegler, a real estate broker, feng shui consultant and author "Sell your Home Faster with Feng Shui."

Feng shui calls for the entrance of a home or office to be easy to spot and inviting. Rooms should be bright and clear of clutter. It's also a good idea to avoid sharp angles. They shoot "arrows" and direct negative energy at you and, let's face it, hurt when you bump into them.

"I call it ancient common sense," said Ziegler.

Well, most of it is anyway. One common bit of feng shui wisdom is to put the lid down when you flush, lest you send your prosperity to the netherworld of public sewage treatment.

The price of chi

To meet the growing demand for environmental harmony, an industry of feng shui consultants, schools, authors and purveyors of mini water fountains has sprung up across the country. (That's right, it's not just in California.)

If money is no object, you could pay thousands of dollars for the Rolls Royce equivalent of the feng shui world. "For an international master to come to an established home you could easily pay several thousand dollars for the day," said Ziegler.

If you'd rather not spend five-figures to enhance your chi, you could hire a consultant to do a personal assessment of your home or office. Fees for this service range from $75 to $200 an hour and up.

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Carol Cannon, founder of Corporate Creatives in Dunedin, Fla., took up feng shui as a hobby after quitting her job as a vice president of commercial real estate for Chase Manhattan Bank.

Clients now pay her $200 an hour to assess the commercial properties they're looking to buy or build. Cannon's fees for her largest project to date have already passed the $20,000 mark.

"I used to work a lot of nights and weekends because companies were concerned about what their employees would think (about feng shui) but now when I walk into a company the president is there to greet me and introduce me to the employees," she said.

Of course, if you don't want to invest so much as a hundred dollars but still want to get chi a chance, you could always go by the book -- there are hundreds of them.

"Feng shui doesn't have to cost a lot," said Melonie Rose, owner of Sky & Earth Designs in Bend, Ore. "Big changes can happen with simple alterations. Just rearranging furniture and adding healing colors can transform a room."

In doing so you might just feel better about yourself or sleep more peacefully. Or so this writer hopes.  Top of page

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