Living Well

Feng What?

Have you heard of feng shui?   If not, you are not alone.   I was familar with the term but knew little about it. Recently,  a high school friend emailed me that her cousin, Katie Rogers, had moved to Birmingham and that she thought we should meet.

Katie graduated from Vanderbilt University with an English degree before becoming a certified feng shui specialist.  Originally from Mobile, she was living in Los Angeles and Sun Valley, ID the past ten years when she decided to move back to her home state to be closer to family.

When Katie and I met at the local Starbucks, we immediately hit it off.  Here was this warm, Southern-bred girl who was as genuine as she could be, yet she also had this artsy side to her as well.   A friendship was quickly formed, and I am honored to call Katie my friend.

I have enjoyed learning more about feng shui from Katie and thought you might like an intro into it as well.

Take it away, Katie ……

“Feng What?”  That’s what I usually hear when telling my fellow Southerners that I am a feng shui (pronounced: fung schway) consultant.  I smile and repeat the words a little slower, and I’m then met with a blank stare.  “What in the world is that?” they ask.

Feng shui, in its essence, is how you feel in a space.

Let me put it this way.  When you walk into a beautiful home, where everything is in order and there are possibly healthy plants here and there and other happy details, you just feel good!  Right?
foyer by Dana Wolter -- comfy sofa says "come on in!"

Compare that to a cluttered mess!  Yuck!

clutter!!! (from this website)

Like photosynthesis is to a beautiful garden, feng shui is to a beautiful home (or office or anywhere!)  It’s what’s happening — energetically — behind the scenes.

Let me give you an example.  Below is one of Dana’s gorgeous designs.  While she could tell you how it works from a design perspective, I can tell you how it works from a feng shui perspective.

1.  Yin and Yang. Dana talks about mixing hard and soft and using different textures and materials.  In feng shui, there is yin and yang.  You may recognize this symbol:

Yin and yang represent  balance. Notice how this living room has both curvy (yin) and straight (yang) lines; light (yang) and dark (yin); and hard (yang) and soft (yin).  The yin elements would be the cushiony pillows, the curtains, and even the nook in the corner.

"yin" curtains, pillows, and round window




The yang elements would be the sunlight streaming in, the lighter color scheme, and the hard center table.

the large mirror and exuberant floral arrangement are yang too!




Dana had no idea that she was balancing yin and yang to create optimal energy in the space.  But her intuition knew!

2. Colors and elements.  Dana tends towards a neutral palette, so in feng shui, we’d say that she likes to decorate in the element of Earth.

examples of "Earth" colors





Earth represents a nurturing and grounded energy, so this is optimal for homes of busy families, who need a respite from life!  However, again, with the elements, we want a balance.   Dana also added the element of Fire (the amber-colored vase and the outspread flower arrangement)…

….and Water (the painting by Arthur Price)…

painting by Birmingham artist Arthur Price


…as well as a good dose of Wood (ceiling and center table).  Metal appears too (chandelier and fireplace) to create a perfect harmony.  Again, this was Dana’s intuition in high gear, unbeknownst to her!

3.  Bagua map.  A hot topic of interest in feng shui is the bagua map.  Did you know that your home is actually a map to your life?  If you were to divide your floorplan (given that it’s in the general shape of a rectangle) into nine equal sections, you could use the bagua map to discover what part of your home represents which part of your life!

from the iPhone app by Tish Morris

Amazing right?  So, say your kitchen was in the far back left corner of your home (facing the front door), then that is your Abundance section.  Therefore if your kitchen is in disarray, your finances may be in disarray.  If your kitchen is clean, your fridge filled with healthy foods, and you always have an overflowing bowl of fresh fruits displayed, then a feng shui consultant could deduce that your finances are perhaps overflowing and in good health!

even a bowl of fruit is good feng shui...Abundance! photo by cdavies

The living room we’ve been talking about happens to fall in the “Helpful People” sector according to the bagua map.  Notice how the seating allows more than three people to chat without straining to hear or shouting.

8 or 9 people could sit in here comfortably! (Notice sofa on the left)

This is very auspicious in feng shui as group-seating represents community, and that’s what this sector is all about!

I’m just giving you a taste of feng shui here.  It’s an in-depth art and science that is better understood when put into practice.  And more than that, it’s a fun way to get your home – and your life – in order!  For more information, check out authors such as Sharon Stasney, Terah Kathryn Collins, Karen Kingston or Denise Lynn…or my blog The Sparklit.  You can also check out the International Feng Shui Guild for a feng shui practitioner in your area, or call me for a distance or in-home consultation.  And let us know what you think!  I always love a good feng shui success story!

Happy feng shui-ing!

–Katie Rogers

Living Well

Kitchen Must-Haves

Who doesn’t love a beautiful kitchen?   Throw a little — or a lot — of function in there, and you may possibly end up with your favorite room.

I am working on a kitchen remodel right now, and there are a few must-haves I always try to incorporate.

1. Natural Stone Countertops: To me, there is nothing prettier than an aged piece of marble or limestone.   I love the texture it provides and the fact it has endured many years of the elements.

looks clean but still has texture thanks to the gorgeous marble! (Image from...)

2. Warming Drawer: Okay, not a must have, but I sure do like them.  For a family on the go, it is a wonderful luxury.

3.  Function: Yes, a kitchen can be beautiful, but if it is not functional, what’s the point?   Make sure the flow works well and that there is plenty of good workspace. After all, this may be the most lived-in room in the house, and cooking is so much more enjoyable when everything has its place and is within reach for your next great meal.

beauty + function = perfection (image from...)



4. Soften the hard surfaces: With so many hard surfaces found in a kitchen, try to incorporate ways to soften the room.  Many of you know I love adding banquettes whenever possible, as they are a great way to make a kitchen more functional and unique.

banquette design by Dana Wolter, photographed by Jean Allsopp

Also, wood is a great texture to incorporate against shiny surfaces found in kitchens. Whether on your island, on the ceiling, or as an accent, it whispers “nature” and takes the edge off all those kitchen appliances.

5.  Good lighting: Natural lighting is ideal, but a good kitchen also needs task lighting in all of the right places.  Again, think functional!

6. Make your kitchen a reflection of you: Yes, you can create a beautiful kitchen many different ways, but if it does not look like you or fit your lifestyle, what good is it?   Your home should be your haven, and your kitchen is no exception!

a little piece of heaven! copyright kalamazoo


Living Well

Love the One You’re In

Do you walk into your home and go, AHHHHHHH, this space just feels so…soooo…right?????

from Urban Grace....sooo lovely!

If not, what is holding you back?

Many times clients call because they cannot pull their home together and they need major help.   STAT. They aren’t exactly sure what is wrong, just that something is definitely not right.  

what's wrong with this picture????

The next time you think knocking down a few walls is the answer to your home-woes, try the following tips first.  If you still aren’t ahhh-ing when you come home, give me a call.

1. Get Rid of It! Yes, it is okay to part ways with a family piece you do not love.  I give you permission, so get rid of the guilt, and let it go. if you don't love it, don't keep it.

 One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.  The rocking chair from my daughter’s room was her great-great aunt’s, but because she has outgrown the need of one, it is about to go into storage as well.

teddy bear's seat was my child's great-great aunt's rocker

 Just because it is a family heirloom or your aunt gave it to you for your wedding doesn’t mean it belongs in your home.  So many tastes are out there, and I bet you can find a home for it (your sister? your niece? your neighbor?). So do it.  Pronto.  De-clutter.  Keep only what you love and use…and you will definitely see and feel a difference in your home immediately!

2.  Every Thing Has A Place.  Every single thing in your home should have a place.   Pencils. Phone accessories. Cucumbers.  Summer hats.  Screwdrivers.  Blush brushes.  Every thing. Whether it is in a specific drawer or in a particular closet, it has a home.

yes, cheese graters can act as pencil holders... sometimes

This recalls the de-cluttering process mentioned above.  As a designer, I can find a home for any loved piece, but if you do not love it, repurpose it or get rid of it.

don't the objects here just FEEL loved? by Nate Berkus

I have had many clients in my career who simply cannot let go of things, for fear of perhaps needing it “one day.”  Let me tell you, take your chances.  Ask a friend who has a discerning eye to help you decide what should stay and what should find a better home (including the garbage can or Goodwill).   If there is something you absolutely cannot part ways with, box it up and put it in storage.  Chances are, after a year of having it out of your immediate experience, you’ll have an easier time saying farewell to it.

3. Assess the Function of Each Room.  Yes, each room should have a function.  It does not matter whether you have a 1,500 or a 15,000 sq ft home, every room should have a purpose.  The goal is to utilize every square inch in your home, and love it!  Is that extra bedroom a study, a guest bedroom, or a workout room?  Or is it just pretending to be all of those things when it’s really just storage?  Give each room an identity so you can organize and decorate accordingly.

4. How Do You Want Your Home to Feel?  Do you want your home to be a retreat from the crazy world we live in…

so serene from Mary McDonald

…or do you want it to reflect your bold personality?

show the world your personality! by Jan Showers

Whatever you decide, make sure each room flows from one to the next.  A retreat space will have more muted colors and softer furnishings, while one that is more bold may have pops of color.  Figure out what you need when you are at home.  Perhaps you need quiet time, but your home feels loud and busy.  Perhaps you need a little more energy in your life, but all your furnishings are heavy and dark-colored.  All of these things make a difference!

lighten up and keep it simple... by Thomas Filicia

Your home can make you feel inspired and at peace, or it could possibly be draining you.  Start by applying the above tips before doing anything long term or drastic.  You may be amazed how donating a few things and making a trip to the Container Store can make you fall in love with your home again.