What Is Feng Shui? An Expert Explains The Cultural Practice


You’ve probably heard the term “feng shui” before, knowing it has something to do with the way a space is laid out. The Chinese art form can seem complicated if you’re unfamiliar with its principles, but thanks to experienced feng shui practitioners on TikTok the practice of feng shui is becoming increasingly accessible for those eager to learn how to incorporate it into their homes.

You may have noticed a distinct wave of good energy coming to your TikTok FYP lately. But no, your FYP likely hasn’t been optimized by feng shui. Creator Cliff Tan, an architect and feng shui consultant, has been making his way onto many users’ feeds for his explainer videos on feng shui principles and responses to followers’ furniture layout woes. And, even if you’re totally new to the ancient Chinese art form (which is essentially the art of optimizing the energy in your environments), one scroll through Tan’s videos can get you fairly well-versed in feng shui.

“When I practiced as an architect, I always incorporated feng shui elements just subconsciously,” he tells Bustle. “When I design someone’s bedroom with a new house, I would never place a bed in a way that doesn’t conform to feng shui principles. But I wouldn’t tell my client, ‘Hey, I’m using feng shui.’ I would just do it.”

It wasn’t until the rise of TikTok that Tan realized this subconscious connection between his work and feng shui. His expertise in architecture shines through in his hands-on approach, as he often uses miniature room models to exemplify his feng shui teachings. After wanting to create TikTok content and assuming that architecture explainers might be too boring for viewers, he resolved on explaining feng shui. Now 2.2 million followers and one book later, Tan is a full-time feng shui consultant who has already met with over 1,000 clients.

Whether you’re a diehard follower of Tan or are just beginning down your rabbit hole into learning more about feng shui, Tan gave Bustle some of his top tips for optimizing the feng shui in your home.

What Is Feng Shui?

In its most basic terms, Tan describes feng shui as “the Chinese art of making the best environment for yourself or finding the best environment for yourself.” Tan says that the practice originated from the method of finding the best place to build one’s home — or even place someone’s grave — and the need to find “the best way to plant yourself.”

However, in modern times, Tan says feng shui is really just about optimizing your space to complement your lifestyle. For example, if you work from home, then making sure that your office space encourages growth (and ideally is away from where you sleep) is a great way to optimize it. Or, if you want a space that supports your marriage, you might make sure that your space emulates a loving partnership with pairs of decorations.

“When your environment works for you, you tend to perform better,” Tan explains. “The energy is all supporting you and you will be the best person that you can be.”

How To Use Feng Shui In A Bedroom Layout

The bedroom is one of the most straightforward spaces to approach when it comes to feng shui, as Tan explains that its purpose is pretty much the same for everyone: sleeping. Tan says that many people often ask him about the ideal bed position.

Many feng shui experts recommend placing your bed in the “commanding position,” which basically means having your bed in a place where you are able to see the door but are not directly in line with it.

Tan explains that the main thing to consider when formatting a bedroom, though, is where there are sources of energy — mainly, your door and your window. Tan describes that your door is where potential intruders could enter. Hence, you wouldn’t want to sleep right by the door. Likewise, since light enters through the window, you’d want to prioritize that space for something like a desk so you can see what you’re working on.

These values don’t have to be adhered to at a superstitious level, Tan explains. “Very often, when you read about feng shui, they will say things like, ‘If you put your bed in the wrong way, you will get this illness and that illness,’” he says. “It’s not so straightforward. It’s basically that, if you put things in the wrong way, it will slowly affect you [negatively] over time.”

How To Use Feng Shui In Small Rooms

If you have a small bedroom, especially one with dimensions that don’t allow for you to apply feng shui principles, don’t fret. Tan basically suggests doing the best that you can with the space that you have. He offers specific solutions to his followers on his TikTok account, including ways to optimize dorm rooms, oblong-shaped rooms, and rooms with multiple tenants.

“If your head is too close to the window, you can put some curtains,” he says, “If your desk is right by the main entrance, you can decide to tilt your monitor so that your whole house can’t see your screen and you feel less vulnerable. Little changes.”

How To Use Feng Shui In A Living Room Layout

When it comes to your living room, this is where things can get a bit trickier. Unlike your bedroom, Tan explains that one’s living room can have a variety of different uses. You should reflect on the lifestyle you’d like your living room to enhance before implementing any feng shui techniques.

Do you like to host guests? Then you should make sure that the space is optimized for plenty of people to sit and face one another. More of a shut-in who likes to watch TV in your free time? Then prioritize your room layout around your entertainment.

Then, think of where you’ll be during these activities. “You want to know where you hang out the most, be it on the couch, on the table, even on the floor, and where you hang out the most should be in the command position of the room,” Tan says. You also want to ensure wherever you are that you’re able to see what’s going on and who is around you so you don’t feel vulnerable in any way.

Typically, the command position in your living room is going to be furthest from the bad energy, according to Tan, which includes the main entrances or any hazards like underneath a big, heavy chandelier. You also want to be closest to the good energy in your room like near sunlight, breeze, a television set, or where your guests will gather.

How To Use Feng Shui In A Kitchen Layout

When it comes to kitchens, Tan says that many feng shui books will focus on the element of fire in the kitchen. One widely followed practice is that because of the presence of fire in the kitchen, you might not want to place a bedroom near it.

However, Tan says that this doesn’t always have to dictate how you approach your kitchen — especially if you don’t use much fire in the kitchen. It’s once again important to reflect on how you use your kitchen and how you cook before arranging your furniture.

But, overall, Tan says it’s best to support the person cooking. “You want to have the stove and the sink and the fridge all close to you in a nice triangle, so don’t you have to run from one corner to the other corner,” he says.

Tips For Optimizing Feng Shui

Once you have your rooms formatted in the most optimal way possible, there are a few extra elements you can bring in for bonus points. Some key elements to consider when optimizing your home’s feng shui are the lighting, art, and plants.

When it comes to lighting, Tan says that one of the key things to focus on is making sure that your lighting feels natural and doesn’t cast any harsh or sharp shadows. “Try to mimic the natural world with the light that we use. If it’s a dark environment, you use lower level lighting to kind of emulate a candle or reflections from pools of water,” he explains, “because if you had big bright bulbs on top of an interior space, it would be a bit too unnatural [in an otherwise lowlight environment].”

While art isn’t a requirement for optimizing feng shui, Tan explains that it can be helpful in channeling the energy you’re hoping to establish in a certain room. Art choices can be impactful since you’re looking at them all the time and their imagery can begin to work its way into your subconscious.

“What you hang on the wall is very important in feng shui because you see it all the time. It reinforces a certain idea in you.” So keep in mind that art holds a deeper resonance and can have an effect on you. Consider how an art piece really makes you feel before settling on a classic “Live, Laugh, Love” or “Home Sweet Home” sign.

In your bedroom, you might have a photo of you and your partner to establish a loving environment or a peaceful landscape painting to keep you calm. In your kitchen, you might have photos of food to simulate abundance. However, Tan says that art choices ultimately come down to preference and, of course, interpretation. “A nice seascape might be very calming to someone, but yet it might cause anxiety for someone else who has a phobia of the sea, for example.”

Lastly, plants can be a great symbol of growth and life in your home. However, Tan says to be mindful of where you establish this symbolism. Growth might be a great energy to establish in your home office, but encouraging the idea of growth in your bedroom might not be conducive to rest. However, if you’re a self-described “plant parent,” Tan says there can always be exceptions. “If you treat your plant like your companion, and you want to sleep with your plant, then fine,” Tan laughs, “Totally OK.”

Now that you know some tips to help you make the most of your living space, sit back, relax, and let good energy come your way. And, of course, if you need any extra help, just give Tan’s TikTok a scroll.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.