Feng shui chic

My space Fancy a dining space cleverly demarcated by subtle colour and mood changes? Feng shui is a way to enhance your lifestyle.

Dubai, 13th August 2008.  Proshat's living room.  (Jeffrey E. Biteng / The National) *** Local Caption ***  JB0707-LRoom.jpg
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As I step out of the stifling August sun and into Proshat Sarabloo's home, my mood lifts. It's not just the air conditioning (although that is certainly helping), but a sense of peace and stillness that soothes my heat-addled brain. Sarabloo's villa has all the hallmarks of a contemporary, minimalist home: plenty of space, clean lines, plain fabrics and an absence of clutter; but with one major difference: the ancient Chinese art of feng shui has been applied to every area of the house.

"I looked at about 20 properties before I found one whose front door and staircase had the right orientation. For me, having the door here means success. Also," she indicates the staircase winding off to the left, "I wanted the energy to flow around the room and that meant having the staircase to the side. Often it's right in front of the entrance, but then the energy flows directly upstairs." Having trained as an architect in her native Iran, Sarabloo took up feng shui five years ago, studying extensively in China and Malaysia, before moving to Dubai. Through Zensation, her Dubai-based consultancy service, she now advises businesses and private clients on how to arrange their offices and homes in accordance with feng shui principles.

With just a floor plan, a list of employees' birthdays and the all-important lupan, a large and elaborate-looking compass, she can calculate the best location for CEOs, sales people and managers to work in order to achieve maximum productivity. "I can also tell families which are the best bedrooms for children and parents. If they're in the wrong room, parents can spend too much time listening to their children, rather than the other way around."

The spacious, open-plan room on the ground floor acts as the entrance hall, sitting room and dining room, with the different areas cleverly demarcated by subtle colour and mood changes. The hall is bright and airy, with Sarabloo's own abstract paintings adding bold splashes of colour. The living area is a combination of charcoal, silver and white, while red velour chairs and a starkly-lit fish tank lift the darker tones of the dining room.

"Each area requires different elements," Sarabloo explains. "I needed metal in the sitting room, which the grey, silver and white represent, while the red dining chairs represent fire." She goes on to describe the cycle of elements (metal, water, wood, fire and earth) which, along with orientation, shape, colour and birth date, form the principles of feng shui. "The cycle can flow in both directions, but the order of the elements is important," she says, "so I've placed a blue painting, representing water, above the charcoal sofa because metal and water, being adjacent in the cycle, complement each other."

Equally, any disruption to the order can wreak havoc, she says. I am just contemplating the disastrous implications of all that wood and metal thrown together in my own home when I notice a potential energy obstacle: a low display unit has been placed laterally across the space between the sitting and dining areas. "The thing is," she explains, "I wanted the energy to flow around the room - but not too fast. The shelves act to slow it down."

"Aaah. So how can you have fire and water elements together in the dining room then?" I ask, noticing another disparity. "Because this is my water direction," she points out, indicating the direction of the fish tank. "The sea is that way too. That's a very good direction for me. In fact, I have lots of elements in this area because this orientation is very good for me this year, whereas the sitting area is not, so I can't have any fire in there until next year." My fragile understanding of all things feng shui is rapidly unravelling, as I struggle to process all these variables.

Sensing my distress, she deftly moves on to something a little simpler. "That's my relationship area," she says, pointing to the far wall in the dining area, where a pair of paintings hangs. "Ideally, you should have pairs of things there." Even I can understand that one. Large, ragged chunks of citron and clear quartz have been placed on surfaces and shelves in and around the sitting area, their size and irregular structure creating a striking contrast to the simpler lines of the furniture.

"They represent earth," she tells me, "but each has a different purpose: citron can bring success, while clear quartz absorbs negative energy. If someone comes in with bad energy," she adds, "it won't affect the energy of the house because the quartz neutralises it." All this talk of good and bad energy is making me nervous. What if someone has no idea about feng shui and has based their entire decorating scheme around a colour, without a thought for elements, orientation or dates? "It will affect you but you won't know it." she says. "You won't understand the cause of certain problems in your life."

And equally, with all that good energy flowing around her home at just the right pace, Proshat's life must be a picnic. "My life is pretty good, but I'm still human," she laughs. "Feng shui is a way to enhance your lifestyle; it's not magic." I can't deny that her home has a palpable sense of peace and quiet. The simple, uncluttered style clearly has a part to play, but there is something more: I'm not quite sure what it is, but I know that I want some of it in my home. I'm not quite ready to learn my way around a lupan but it might just be time to move the sofa.