Like so many other things, feng shui didn’t look so good in the ’90s. During the same decade that brought us scrunchies and bucket hats, the ancient Chinese art was reduced to a design fad that too often involved cheesy waterfalls and lacquered furniture.
That’s an image that Laura Benko has been working to change. After being diagnosed with a rare cancer more than a decade ago, she came across a book on feng shui, and has been preaching its benefits ever since. “A lot of people think of feng shui as something that’s about design, furniture and paint color,” she says. “But it’s much more than that. It’s really about creating a holistic connection between yourself and your space.”
Today, Benko operates a consulting service out of Brooklyn, and her new book, “The Holistic Home,” teaches readers how to use the traditional tenants of feng shui to create happy, healthy, harmonious living spaces. Here, she shares three beginner-friendly tips.
First things first: The front door
As the first thing you experience about your home, the front door — from its color to its mechanics to the pile of mail and shoes next to it — should be an aesthetically pleasing and fuss-free experience. “The front door represents opportunity, so you always want to make sure that it opens easily and that your entryway is clean, organized and well-lit,” says Benko. You hear that, broken doorbell and musty old doormat? Your time is up.
Look at your life — then at your living room
As a holistic design consultant, Benko works with clients to create living spaces that serve and support their needs. What she’s found is that, frequently, challenges in life manifest themselves in the home. The always-single girl? She tends to have a single vase, a lone throw pillow, a too-small bed and a packed closet that couldn’t accommodate a partner’s belongings. Those who have trouble sleeping may surround themselves with busy imagery, while clutter usually indicates an inability to let go of the past. “Try to see how your problems are represented in your space,” says Benko. “Whatever your fears are, whatever your problems are, chances are that you’ll be able to see them, and then you can take the steps to address them.”
Sage is sage
Although it may sound like new-agey hocus pocus, burning herbs and aromatics to purify a space is a practice that spans centuries and continents. Just as you would scrub the bathroom after moving into a new apartment, Benko recommends burning a bundle of sage to refresh those things you can’t see. “It’s so important to do a deep cleaning of your whole space,” she says. “You want to clean the grime, of course, but you also want to clear the energy.”