Feng Shui Tips for the Holidays

Feng Shui Tips for the Holidays
Feng Shui Tips for the Holidays

Monday, November 23, 2015

Feng Shui Tips for Holiday Decorating

There are a lot of emotional responses to the holidays: some love it and look forward to it returning every year.  Some people, however, have many memories of family arguments, experiencing feelings of deficit (lacking money, energy, time, etc.,) being lonely, and feeling some sense of despair.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Milad un Nabi are all very near Winter Solstice:  the darkest days of the year.  I’ve often thought about the number of holidays that occur during this time frame that include candles- that warm glow that brings a bit of cheer to each of us.  In terms of feng shui, because it’s dark, cold and damp weather, it’s considered the most Yin time.  (Yin exists only with its opposite: Yang.  Yang is summer-long, warm days of barbeques, beach parties, and baseball games.)  Then we combine the Yin time of winter with bright colors, celebration, and soccer or football games.  No surprise that for some, it’s a contradiction, and for others it’s a welcome relief. 

The traditional colors used in the Christmas season are a combination of red and green.  Both are more Yang colors: green being more springtime and wood element color, and red being an active and fire element color.  For some, it may bring up feelings of anger and frustration or even depression.  Let’s think about using some alternatives to the “traditional” colors, because in 2015, you can celebrate using colors that better match your temperament, or the nature of those with whom you’ll celebrate these days.

Using Color in Your Decorations
You could bring in white and metallics if you wish to bring a bit of calm and decorum to a gathering.  It feels a bit more formal one might say, and is beautiful with the use of candles and white lights.  These are the colors of the metal element in feng shui, and you just might find there is more harmony and less arguments when you sit down at dinner.
Although Hanukkah (Chanukah, Hanukah, etc.- spellings vary when translated) colors are traditionally blue, white & gold, consider these options if you're celebrating this 8 day celebration starting at sundown on Dec. 6.
Photo Credit: Buzzfeed

Photo credit: Chai & Home

You could bring in aqua and turquoise to lighten the feeling of water, cold temperatures and the moisture of winter.  Add a bit of the metal element (white and silver, for instance) with these colors for a spiritual yet calming influence.  

Traditional royal blue (symbolizing knowledge & wisdom) gold and white (both symbolizing spirituality) can also be the color scheme for celebrating Hanukkah for a more classic approach.
Photo credit: BHG.com

Photo credit: Suburbsmama.com

Christians use purple (or blue) and pink in their Advent candles, symbolizing wealth,(or knowledge and wisdom for blue) and harmony for partnerships in feng shui. 

If you love green, then consider a lime green combined with the metallic combinations to create an energetic yet sophisticated affect.  Using pears, limes and green apples amongst your decorations can help to calm it down a bit with an earth element.  The earth element helps us achieve harmony by serving others. You can add purple for a nice combination and more abundance in your life.

If you can’t live without red at Christmas, then you can ground it with black or grey and add some white, silver or gold to give it sparkle.  You may find it causes a higher level of energy for everyone at your gatherings, however, so be prepared.

Bringing Ch’i to Your Home
Putting up outdoor decorations will bring more energy to your house- so have the intention for what you want to see happen in your life due to the lighting.  If you use white lights on your outdoor decorating, then you can leave them up through the dark months of January and February.  During these dark evenings, they bring good Ch’i to your space.

Consider placing your Christmas tree in the center back of your house: the Fame/Reputation gua.  This gua is represented by the element of fire, and its basic shape is pyramid or triangle, which matches the shape of a Christmas tree.  If your kitchen, a bedroom, or a bathroom resides in the center back of your house, then this doesn’t work, of course.  You could also improve your partnership by placing the tree in the back right hand side of the house (as you stand at the front door.)

Make certain that the decorations you use are ones that you love and bring good memories.  Don’t feel obligated to use the hand-me-downs and old decorations that bring negative emotions.  What do you do with those that have negative memories?  Give them to charity.  One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and you want this season to be a good one.
I have a little village that my husband and I set up each year.  I bought the first house when my husband and I were engaged to be married, because it’s Jones & Company Brush & Basket House (his last name.) This little village took years to collect. Each time we set it up, we talk about when we acquired each house and recall loving memories. 

Put a wreath on your door.  The circular shape represents eternity and wholeness.  If it’s made of Christmas tree boughs, whether live or artificial it represents vitality, growth and health.  Make sure it’s in great shape, however and that your spruce it up a bit if it’s looking “tired.”  Remember, the entryway is the most important part of your home in Feng Shui.

Put candles in your windows.  Ideally, you can utilize the battery operated ones that come on and go off automatically, making it effortless to enjoy the glow of the season.  Because the windows of your home represent your eyes in feng shui, these can bring enlightenment to you and all who enter.   You can ask for clarity on an issue, or it can generate new ideas for a new path that you’re going to be venturing into in the next year.  It again brings beauty and light to your home even if you don’t do any other lighting outdoors during the holidays.

If you love the next six weeks, then by all means enjoy the social gatherings and fun that the season brings.  If you don’t, then pare down your “have to do this” list and concentrate on the positive.  The holidays, which are upon us, can be a bit calmer and restful if that’s the way you’d like them to be.  One way or another, may the days ahead help you remember that those you love are as unique as you are.  

Thanks to Carole Hyder and Lisa Janusz for their ideas and inspiration.

What comments, queries, or ideas has this inspired in you?  I’d love to receive your photos of successful Christmas decorations inside and outside of your home.   Check out my website Transformations for Interiors if you need help with your space.  I’d love to help, and I always have time for my readers.
Happy holidays, one and all!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Selecting & Caring For Natural Stone Surfaces

Granite still reigns supreme among countertops installed in kitchens and bathrooms in American homes, and has for more than a decade.  Granite is a very hard stone with a coarse, granular appearance.  Many colors occur naturally, and it’s mined at many places throughout the world, although much of it comes from India, South America, and Europe. You can get it in polished, satin or honed finishes, although the polished variety is by far the most plentiful.  
photo credit: Galley Kitchen via photopin (license)
photo credit: Rose HIll Kitchen 9 via photopin (license)

I think marble (pictured below) represents the high-end of glamorous countertops.  It fits beautifully in traditional settings, but can also work with modern styles as long as you let it be the focal point of the room.  Marble is a sparkling white form of limestone known for its beautiful veining that runs through it.  Marble is a more delicate, more easily worked stone than others, hence why it was used in sculpture and buildings of ancient times. A calcium carbonite stone is formed when calcium from shells and bones combines with carbon dioxide.  
photo credit: bathroom via photopin (license)

Tile of some variety is most often selected backsplashes in both of these spaces. I’m therefore going to pass along some important information about selecting, as well as caring for your stone, grout and tile.
photo credit: Kitchen backsplash tiling - Day 1 via photopin (license)

  1. Install a handheld shower head in all of your showers. Then rinse the tile bathtub surround down at the end of every use. You will then remove soap scum off the tile and grout, thus preventing it from adhering to the shower walls.
  2. If your tile shower surround currently has soap scum build-up on it, it may be necessary to use a higher pH alkaline cleaner such as 409, CLR, or soda. (Do not, however use these products on a regular basis.) You ideally want to clean it immediately after a shower to have the hot water help to begin to break down the surface. Use a polishing, horse hair, or nylon pad to break the surface tension, working in one small area at a time. 
  3. Effective drainage is imperative. If you have a flawed design, where water doesn’t completely drain out, you’re going to have hard water/mineral build-up in those areas.
  4. The less caulking used in a shower, the better off you will be. When caulking has water constantly sitting on it, it fails. You’ll know it has failed because there will be a black line where the caulking used to be. If it’s black (which is mold), it needs to be removed and replaced with new. 
  5. Ventilation is a must. Fans are rated by the size of the bathroom, so be sure to get one that fits the size of each bathroom and will remove all the excess moisture in the room. Install a timer in each bathroom that lets the fan remain on for 30 minutes after each shower is finished. This is particularly important in the Northwest, where it’s very humid with all of our rain.
  6. Be sure to check how porous the surface is if you are selecting stone such as granite or marble for your floor, shower, tub surround, back splash or particularly a vanity in your bathroom. Marble, some granite surfaces, limestone, as well as a very few porcelains and will be etched by the cleansing and hair products that are used regularly in a bathroom. This is particularly obvious if a shiny polished surface is used. Make sure that your fabricator (installer) seals the surface before its initial use.
  7. Test any natural stone or porcelain prior to purchase by placing a few drops of the following to check for:
  • Permeability: Drip a few drops of water onto a tile & see how fast it is absorbed.
  • Acid Etching: Drip a few drops coffee, tea, or wine onto a tile to see if it changes the surface.
  1. Many, if not most over the counter cleaners have a pH of 1-3 which is VERY acid, or a pH of 10-14, which is VERY alkaline. They not only break down the natural surface, but also the caulking on your tub surround, sinks, etc. Find and use a cleanser with a pH of 7-8.5 such as Dupont’s Granite & Marble Countertop Cleaner + Protector, or Dupont’s Tile & Grout Cleaner. Look for the words “gentle,” “neutral,” or “mild” on the label. If the cleaner says it removes hard water buildup, calcium and lime stains or rust stains it is most likely an acid. An acid will etch acid sensitive surfaces such as marble, travertine, onyx, limestone and grout. A cleaner to avoid is Kaboom, with a pH level of 1.0. Another cleaner that has a pH of 1.0 is vinegar, so even it can do enormous financial damage to your natural surfaces and grout.

  2. Every product has a CAUTION/WARNING/DANGER/POISON section that lets you know if the product with which you are cleaning is dangerous. Caution is the least toxic; Warning is more and so forth. Read this section before you buy, and find out if you really want to use it or not. If you have anyone living in your home (or even visiting regularly) that has sensitivity to toxins, avoid these products.
  3. Although you can use colored grout, it will fail in areas with water exposure. Save your money and use regular white grout. Coffee grout is an exception to this statement, but is very hard to work with, so make sure your fabricator has used it often prior to your installation.
  4. Waterfall showers require more maintenance.  Furthermore, they use more water, so if you’re environmentally sensitive, consider something else.
  5. At some point in the future, any coating that is often put on natural stone finishes will fail. There are several types of sealers, and they sometimes require strong and toxic chemicals to remove. These can affect the look and finish of the stone, and will be expensive.


Topical sealers may be effective at stopping stains but tend to wear out relatively quickly, especially on high-traffic areas of flooring. This type of sealer will significantly change the look and slip resistance of the surface, especially when it is wet.
Penetrating sealers infiltrate the surface of the stone enough to anchor the material to the surface. They are generally longer lasting than topical sealers and often do not substantially alter the look of the stone, but still can change the slip characteristics of the surface and do wear relatively quickly. Penetrating sealers often require the use of special cleaners which both clean and top up the repellent ingredient left on the stone surface. 
Impregnating sealers* penetrate deeply into the material, infiltrating it at the molecular level. These bond to the capillary pores and repel water and oils from within the material. A good depth of penetration is also essential for protection from weathering and traffic.

Final thoughts:

1. Prevention: Control the dirt coming in with walk-off (track off) mats outside the home. Take off your shoes as you walk into the home. An entrance rug will encourage inhabitants to wipe their feet.
2. Use a mild cleaner: Use a vacuum cleaner whenever possible and spot clean as necessary. Mopping often just spreads the dirt to every spot in the room you’re cleaning. We use too much, so just use less. Then rinse it, and dry it. (Get knee pads if yours are as sensitive as mine!)
3. Hook yourself up with an environmentally-friendly cleaning company such as Blue Sky before you need them to help suggest appropriate products for your surfaces.

In conclusion:
Do you have a countertop you love?  We'd love to hear from you.  Send us a picture of your countertop and let us know how happy you are (or aren’t) with it.  Want to know about Paperstone or Glass or other types of countertop I didn’t mention?  Write back and I’ll do more research on these.  If you need help selecting a countertop or a whole kitchen’s worth of designs and products, please check out my website, www.TransformationsforInteriors.com and give us a call or send me an email/text.  We’d love to hear from you!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Stylish Standing Desks

I had a friend suggest to me that I write a blog on finding furniture to fit a more healthy office environment: standing desks that are as stylish as they are ergonomic. I walked one of the Malls this morning due to our inclement weather, and noted that standing desks are pretty mainstream: a kiosk I walked by sells lifts for your regular desk!
What is a Standing Desk?
A standing desk is a height-adjusted desk that allows the user to stand while writing or using the computer instead of sitting.

Why Use a Standing Desk?
Medical research supports the health benefits of using standing desks rather than traditional desks.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259/?no-ist By standing, rather than sitting a majority of your day, you can reduce your risk of:
  • obesity;
  • Type 2 diabetes;
  • cardiovascular disease;
  • cancer.

Here are the challenges in finding a great standing desk:
  • Most desks in this category do not include a drawer.  Personally, I like to have a drawer for those unsightly but practical items like straight-edges, rulers, scotch tape, etc.
  • You have to spend more money if you want to hide the cords for your computer, phone, etc.
  • I like the idea of standing most but not all of the time, so I want a desk that can easily & quickly be converted from standing to sitting and vice versa.
  • I initially thought I might suggest buying an open-shelf cabinet that provided hidden storage in the form of drawers or shelves. When I utilize feng shui principles, I want to be able to stand/sit at my desk and see the entrance to my office. That means the back of the cabinet must be finished, and that it can’t be too tall to block my view of said doorway.

Here are the best selections I’ve found on the market:

Stilvoll of Germany makes one of the nicest ones I have seen, that has an unusual method of height adjustment, a pop-up sloping writing desk, pullouts and hidden trays, cable management and absolutely stunning workmanship.

standmodern.com offers height adjustable desks that allow you to rotate positions from sitting to standing throughout the day.  Prices range from $499 to $2198.

standdesk.co lets you add the components you want, with prices varying depending on your selection.  I could be wrong, but I think the website address “.co” means it’s made in Colombia, so shipping might make this selection more expensive in the long run.

The UpLift 900 Sit-Stand Ergonomic Desk, found at upliftdesk.com is a simple, sturdy, height adjustable (26"), motorized desk that’s powerful enough to really give you the option of sitting or standing when you prefer. The base on its own retails for $549. All models come with a five year, all-inclusive warranty. The entire UpLift 900 system with its default configuration costs $769, but it goes up from there when you start adding components. UpLift offers free shipping, which is a huge deal when you're ordering large motorized components. 

The UpDesk UpWrite myupdesk.om is a simple, all-white, standing/sitting workstation with adjustable height (26") and single-touch motorized controls. You have the flexibility to make it as tall as you want when you choose to stand, or lower it on those days where you need to sit. It supports 300 lbs. and features a 30" x 60" erasable whiteboard work surface. You can use it to jot down notes, draw sketches or designs, or just personalize your workstation. The UpWrite costs $1149 with $129 shipping in the US, although it comes with five year limited warranty.

The VARIDESK Pro varidesk.com is an attachment to go on top of your current desk, but that doesn't mean it's not flexible or customizable. It's one of the most affordable at $300, but at its heart the VARIDESK is more of a height adjustable monitor stand and keyboard tray. It can be switched from standing to sitting work positions, thanks to its scissor-style arms that are spring-assisted so you can lock in any height you prefer. It supports 35 lbs. of weight, and comes with a one-year limited warranty.

In conclusion:

Have you found a standing desk that you think should have been listed in this article?  I’d love to hear from you!  If you’re interested in providing more space in your office, either at work or in your home and need help, please contact me through my website, www.TransformationsforInteriors.com
and let’s set up a meeting to discuss your needs.  Other questions?  Please feel free to ask (or comment) below.  I’d love to hear from you.  I always make time for my readers!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Color Forecast 2016

Are you enjoying the crisp days, autumn leaves, and football games?  Although not all of the sources I utilize to determine trends in color have revealed interior design trends in color have revealed their selections for 2016, some have. If you’re hankering for a color change in your d├ęcor, here it comes.  I can share some trends I’m seeing from those who have divulged their forecasts:

Blue is Still Cool
Two years ago I reported that blues were back, and their popularity has not wained in the least. Blue conveys importance, richness and confidence without being somber or sinister.  Think of the power suit of the corporate world, or the color uniforms of police officers.  One of the most popular blues is navy, revealing trust and truthfulness of banker’s colors.

Texture Returns
You probably noticed the number of faux furs that have been on the market for the last couple of years.  This year, they’re taking this trend to the floors and upholstered furniture, as well as throws and pillows.  Other touchable fabrics that invite you to sink in and be soothed are trending.

There's Gold in Them Thar Hills!
We've seen it in fashion, so it's not too surprising that (yellow) gold has returned to home interior design.  Use it in your accessories, your wallpaper, wherever you need a splash of reflective "bling."

photo credit: Zee Wallpaper - Urban Outfitters via photopin (license)

Florals Return
Whether you’re framing florals for your walls, or using them in a fabric on your occasional chairs, florals are back.  A few years ago, I reported butterflies were cool, and before that birds.  This trend is likely to remain, which means they be more abundantly available for your designer to utilize in your home.  Take a look at my recent post on Oct. 12, 2015 to read other positives of using florals in your home and office.

You’re in the Pink
Pink is the softer, less violent side of its parent, red. Use pink in combination with other pastels to convey a playful nature, or in collaboration with darker shades to create a softness.  In feng shui, pink represents the close bond between partners.  Pink has warmed up beige in colors like BM Tissue Pink or SW Unfussy Beige.
photo credit: katie sellers2 via photopin (license)

Sherwin-Williams provides us four different palettes from which to choose in 2016.  This year’s selections include Pura Vida (which means Pure Life reminding us to live well, be well and stay well,) Mas Amore Por Favor (which means More Love Please because we’re rediscovering the pleasure of intimate gathering, garden parties and personalized weddings,) Nouveau Narrative (which is driven by the drive  from North America to become a manufacturing society, where what we create is built to last,) and Trajectory (which makes reference to the pace at which we are constantly experiencing new technology.)  Check it out yourself at https://www.sherwin-williams.com/architects-specifiers-designers/inspiration/color-forecast/2016-color-forecast/mas-amor-por-favor/

Benjamin Moore supplies their 2016 Color of the Year entitled “Simply White” (OC-117) which is a suprising choice in itself.  They combine it with (1) other whites in a subtle use of light and texture, (2) contrast it with splashes of black as well as bright orange, (3) bring in a warm brown with open beams and rustic touches, and (4) use it to accent brighter colors used from one room to another.  Check it out yourself at http://www.benjaminmoore.com/en-us/for-your-home/benjamin-moore-color-trends-2016

Pantone 2016 has yet to reveal their Color of the Year, but I’m seeing the following colors in their fashion and other trends:  Orange, greyed blue, marsala (their 2015 Color of the Year), orange red, gold, evergreen, turquoise, aqua, lime, rose, burnt orange. bright pink, pale pink.

In conclusion:
What questions or comments do you have related to this?  I’d love to receive your description and/or photos of your space with a challenging color scheme:  
    *You want to change but you’re stuck with furniture you bought in the early/late 2000s?  
    *You live in a home with white walls and fear color?  
    *Is there a way you can warm up that tint of blue-green in your bedroom without painting it?  
Let me help!  Check out my website at http://TransformationsforInteriors.com if you need help with your space.  I always make time for my readers.