Every space evokes a certain type of energy. And it is through this energy that we experience a sense of satisfaction, pleasure or emotional feelings that affect the way we live our lives. So how do we define this invisible energy that plays a major factor in our livelihood?
First, we must understand that energy is an invisible living force that can either generate or drain the life of a space. To create a fine balance of energy, we need to take into consideration the various elements which include Hard vs Soft textures, Yang vs Yin vibrancy and Dark vs Light colours.
Hard and Soft Textures
When dealing with textures, it is important to note that our perception of space is determined by our sense of touch and sight. Through touch, the tactile nature of the physical built environment evokes an emotional response that affects our mood swings. With Earth elements such as marble or granite, the physical touch is cold or yin, yet the visual aspect of the randomized vein effect creates an active yang pattern, allowing the material to adopt a sense of activity. As a result, such elements should only be used within the more public areas of the home, such as the living or dining room, to introduce life into such spaces.
The other building material to take into consideration is your homogenous tile, which offers a monotonous visual effect but which is warmer in tactile nature. Such materials should be used in your public and semi-public areas, but the use of ‘soft’ textures such as carpets and drapery is essential, as it helps to balance out this extremely hard surface.
Finally, the warmest of hard textures is timber, which offers a relaxed feel to any space. Such materials should be used in the private areas of the home such as the bedrooms or study, to set the stage for a more tranquil yin atmosphere.
For soft textured materials, these can be carpet flooring or furniture or curtains that help decorate the space to achieve a visual balance. Carpets allow the space to adopt a softer approach, where the colours and uniformity help build a solid base for the furniture to dominate. Curtains, on the other hand, help to soften hard wall surfaces, allowing the space to feel less claustrophobic and confined.
However, the selection of curtain type - ranging from drapes to roller blinds - should be balanced with the type of furniture you select, as any conflict in colour or material may create an unsettling atmosphere to the space. For example, the use of roller blinds with marble and steel furniture may create an effect that is too bold and stark, while the same curtain system with timber and fabric sofas accentuates a more settled feeling. Similarly, when using drapes with carpets and fabric furniture, it may create a lackadaisical living environment due to the lack of hard textured surfaces.
So when defining the energy of a space, you need to understand the type of materials you choose and the effects that the combination of such materials have on your emotional response to the room. Always find a balance between hard and soft texture elements, but never let one or the other dominate the design of the space.
"Always find a clear balance between hard and soft texture elements, but never let one or the other dominate the design of the space."
Yang and Yin Vibrancy
Yang and Yin are terms used to describe energy levels. When applied to a living space, too yang or too yin refers to the concept of light and sound. Light energy helps generate life inside any space, but too much or too little of it results in an environment that is overwhelming or void of energy. Natural sunlight is regarded as the optimum source of yang light energy, but excess amounts creates a rise in temperature and glare, resulting in extreme Yang living conditions. Therefore, in any space, the balance of window openings is crucial, as too many openings may not only invite excessive yang energy; it will also allow the space to become too exposed to the environment.
You can control the forces of nature through your design palette through the use of low-e glass, heavier curtains for shading, external sun shading devices to break the sun pattern or a mixture of light absorbing materials such as darker tone floor materials. While these devices may help protect against excess lighting conditions, you also need to consider the reverse scenario where light is required at night. If a darker tone flooring material is used, an effective artificial lighting system is required to balance out the light at night. You can use a variety of solutions - from spacing your ceiling light fixtures to installing wall washers to take advantage of your wall as a light diffuser to create a warm, ambient atmosphere.
It is essential to find the right balance of light for the purpose the space is designed for. For bedrooms, it is a good idea to use a wider ceiling light grid that creates a broad dispersal of artificial light, and then accentuate certain areas with spotlamps to highlight key features. This allows the bedroom to designate yang areas in certain corners but maintain a more subdued environment for relaxing and sleeping. For more public areas, harder light systems may be used, such as concentrated halogen light fixtures, to bring a vibrant energy level to areas such as the dining and living rooms. You can also use chandeliers to introduce Earth and light energy into the space.
With sound energy, the key is to find a balance with the resonance levels of the space. Every space creates an echo when empty, but this level of echo is reduced through the introduction of absorbing elements such as curtains, plants, soft furnishings and the choice of surface materials. This enforces the use of timber or carpets for the bedroom as mentioned earlier, as not only does this introduce a less hard texture to the room, but it also allows the sound resonance to be absorbed considerably, thereby enhancing the comfort level of the space. However, too much sound reduction may create a yin environment where all sound is absorbed, creating a setting that is too still or stagnant where the energy becomes excessively yin. Again, the secret is to balance the use of hard and soft textures to control the levels of sound to accommodate the use of the space defined.
Dark and Light Colours
Colours play a vital role in how we perceive space. Bright yang colours generate a vibrant energetic atmosphere, while darker yin colours absorb energy, bringing a more subdued feeling. When combined, colours can help set the tone of the space where darker colours offer a solid base for the interior design to build upon. For example, a space where all the walls are painted in a bright white will create an overwhelmingly unsettling effect where you find yourself confused and in disarray, while a room that is too dark will drain your internal energy causing lethargy and moodiness.
As to the question of what colours should be used in which location… one easy-to-use tip is to identify the compass location of the space you are designing and follow the 8 Mansions Chart for elemental directions. For example, a living room in the North may use the colours of white and black or blue to reflect the productive and self element of the sector. While a room in the East may use timber, plants and a light blue hued white to reflect the properties of the sector. This theory can also be applied for the selection of the types of soft furnishings you need to place to find that balance of energy in the space.
When you design any space always remember that the elements you choose have an effect on the balance of energy levels, and how we find that key balance depends on how you use your material palette.
The following article is taken from the "Feng Shui World (September / October 2009)". To subscribe, please click here.