Feng Shui Tips For Small Spaces

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese decoration and building technique for harmonizing the energy in our living spaces. According to National Geographic, feng shui has roots in the Taoist religion and the belief in "chi," or life energy. Records indicate that the Chinese people have been using feng shui to build their towns and arrange their homes for thousands of years. In the West, decorators have been using feng shui principles for about 30 years, as per House Beautiful

According to Crane & Canopy, feng shui is a way to manage the relationship between humans and their spaces. To ensure a harmonious home filled with positive energy, feng shui specialists analyze a room, determine the flow of energy using a bagua (more below), and draw up an interior design plan to make the best out of the energy available in your home. These techniques work for all spaces, no matter the size, but in this article, we will focus on using feng shui in small spaces like apartments. 

What are the benefits of feng shui?

Although Western science has not studied the benefits of feng shui, thousands of years of practice in the East have discovered many beneficial effects of using feng shui for your home decor. According to the Times of India, feng shui works by altering the flow of energy around your home, increasing powerful positive energy, and banishing negative influences in your personal space. 

Aside from any scientific claims (or lack thereof), there is something relaxing about maintaining a beautiful and relaxing environment, as Forbes reports. The potential health benefits of stress reduction are many, including better sleep, weight control, fewer illnesses, faster recovery when you do get sick, better mood, and better social relationships (via U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). Forbes further suggests that the placebo effect — or improvement of health through the belief in the benefit of an intervention — may also be at play in feng shui. "An article published by Harvard Medical School provides that the human mind is a powerful healing tool and can help stimulate healing, and this explains why the placebo has been popular for millennia," Ann Shippy, MD, tells the publication. "As people implement feng shui, it can provide the inhabitants with a positive 'placebo' direction for the body to stimulate healing and improve a sense of well-being."

Learn about the five elements of feng shui

Most people know about the four Western elements of fire, air, earth, and water. In feng shui, however, the elements are a bit different. They are wood, water, fire, metal, and earth. According to Well+Good, it's often the case that when we feel out of balance in our home, the elements are also out of balance. The goal of feng shui is to rebalance these energies so your home is harmonious and healthy.

HGTV presents us with a summary of each element. Wood is the element tied to creativity, growth, rebirth, and intuition. Too much and we feel stiff and rigid; too little and we might feel depressed or lacking creativity. Fire is about drive, passion, and expressiveness. Too much fire makes us impulsive, while too little hurts our self-esteem. Earth keeps us grounded, organized and stable; too much and we become sluggish, too little and we may become disorganized. Metal is the element of logic and mental clarity. When metal is too strong, people become overly chatty and anxious; not enough metal and there is a noted lack of focus. Finally, water is the element tied to our emotional and spiritual lives. When there is too much water, we may feel overwhelmed by our emotions. A lack of water causes pettiness and a lack of compassion for ourselves and others.

Begin with a bagua for your small space

A bagua, or "eight trigrams" in Chinese, is a map of your home that allows you to apply feng shui principles to your small space. According to Bagua Center, the goal of a bagua is to help you evaluate your current environment's energy and to allow you to make the changes needed for a more harmonious life. Making an accurate map of your living space and applying a bagua is the first step in any feng shui work.

As The Spruce describes, a bagua is a map of eight different spaces around a center. Each space rules a different aspect of a person's life, and the goal of feng shui is to optimize each area for the most harmonious home possible. The bagua is typically a 3x3 square or rectangle that should cover your entire living space, including any covered outdoor patio area. There are two ways to build this map: using the cardinal directions as they apply to your home or using your entrance door as the bottom of the map.

Learn more about each zone

Before you start applying feng shui principles to your apartment or small space, you need to learn more about each space (or gua) on the bagua map. As per Mindbodygreen, each space on your bagua map represents an area of a person's life. The nine spaces are: family, wealth and abundance, the center and health, friends and travel, children and creativity, knowledge and expansion, fame and reputation, career and life path, love and relationships.

Each space can be activated and harmonized with different colors and decorative elements, as The Spruce describes. The bagua map is the most important tool used in feng shui, as it identifies where each space is located in your home. We will now go through each space individually and learn how to decorate them to maximize the feng shui potential of your small living space. You will feel much more balanced in your home going forward. 

Learn how to decorate your wealth and prosperity zone

You will find the Wealth and Prosperity space at the top right corner of your bagua map. This space should be dedicated to decoration that increases money flow in your life. According to Cosmic Cuts, the element associated with this space is wood. LoveToKnow adds that water, which nourishes wood, is also a good choice for this area of your home. Any symbol or decor that symbolizes wealth to you should be put in this corner.

Decorative elements you can use in this area include anything made out of wood, plants, and small water features. Bonsai trees are a popular addition to this area as well. The colors associated with this space are blue and green. Decorative shapes to use in this area are tall tree-like columns to fit with the wood theme. LoveToKnow also suggests using more light in this area, as light also feeds wood. Small lamps will do the trick here, especially if they light up plants or other wood-related decorative elements.

Manage your reputation and fame area

You will find the Fame and Reputation area at the top middle space of your bagua map. According to Ms. Feng Shui, this area deals with how others perceive you. Improving this gua will strengthen your reputation and make people want to know and be close to you. The element of this feng shui zone is fire, its color is red, and the best shapes are pointy and triangular — to represent going straight for your goals, no doubt! LoveToKnow suggests building a "wall of achievements" in this area, as it will remind you daily of everything you have accomplished in your life. Put up those trophies, diplomas, and other things you are proud of for all to see in this corner of your home.

You should avoid water, black, and flowing shapes in this area, as these would clash with the energy of fame and reputation. A good idea is to add candles to this gua, as decorative fire elements strengthen its energy. If you want to make the most out of your fame and reputation area, it is also a good idea to improve your career and work gua at the same time. 

Energize your love and marriage area

The Love and Marriage section of your home, located at the top right corner of your bagua map, is ruled by the elements of earth and fire, as per MindbodygreenPeace.Love.Feng Shui says that harmonizing this section can help with self-love and self-esteem, as well as love from other people. In general, a well-decorated Love and Marriage corner supports a healthy love and sex life, according to Ms. Feng Shui.

Some tips to harmonize this room's energy are to decorate with pairs (to attract "pairing" energy,) and to use red, pink, and earth tones such as brown, beige, and light yellow. You want to focus on calm, steady emotional energy rather than quick-moving intellectual energy. You should also avoid placing mirrors, fountains, or plants in the Love and Marriage area, as they would clash with the nature of the gua. Instead, it's the best place to show off pictures of happy, peaceful couples. 

Enjoy the children and creativity area

In the Creativity and Children zone of the bagua map, we focus on how we express ourselves creatively and how we relate to our children, as per Sense of Space. Its element is metal, and the colors appropriate to this section are white, silver, and gold. It is located in the middle right section of the 3x3 bagua map, or in the westernmost part of your home, depending on which mapping technique you chose. A harmonious Creativity and Children section will improve your own creative endeavors and the well-being of your children, if you have them.

When you decorate this section, use round shapes or shapes with rounded corners, as Ms. Feng Shui suggests. Other colors you can use — aside from white, silver, and gold — are earth shades and yellow. It's the best area of the home to display your children's art, but you shouldn't feel like you can't hang your own either! To keep this space balanced, avoid red and pointy triangular shapes in this zone as they symbolize fire.

Create a family and health area

When something is up with our family or our health, we want to look at the appropriate section of our bagua map for harmonization and support. According to The Spruce, colors to use in this section include blue, green, and teal, as its traditional elements are wood and water. This section supports a happy family life and may also influence our health. On your map, this section lies either at the middle left, or the easternmost position in your home, depending on which mapping technique you use. 

Energize this space by tapping into its wood element. The Feng Shui Studio recommends adding a potted plant or wooden furniture to increase its energy. Furniture that's blue, teal, or green can also help harmonize this section of your home. The Spruce also suggests adding jade, as its green color works with the theme of this gua and is traditionally tied to ancestors and the family. This is a great place to display your most beloved family photos or to place decorative objects that represent your highest hopes regarding family and health.

Enhance your knowledge and wisdom corner

On the bagua map, our home's Wisdom and Knowledge section is located at the lower-left corner if you use the entrance method, or in the northeast corner if you use the directions method. According to Peace.Love.Feng Shui, this gua is responsible for spiritual development, learning and education, personal growth, insight, and meditation. Its elements are earth and water, and its colors are black, blue, and green (via The Feng Shui Studio). 

If you have books, this is where to put them, especially if they are books about things you are trying to learn right now. Anything that symbolizes wisdom and knowledge can go in this section of your home as well. If you draw inspiration from famous and wise people, this is where you should put up their photos, according to The Spruce. Round shapes and calming decor such as fountains work well here, and it is also the perfect place in your home for your meditation corner. 

Boost your career and life path sector

Whether or not you work from home, harmonizing your Career and Life path gua can help you succeed. This sector of your home is ruled by the water element (like the money section), and its primary color is black, as per Ms. Feng Shui. If you use the entrance method for your bagua, the career section is in the lower middle square. If you use directions, it is the northernmost space of your home. 

One way to enhance this section is to add water features, according to LoveToKnow. They specifically suggest a six-tier indoor fountain to improve your luck in your career and income. In this area, you want to avoid sharp corners and square shapes. Choose instead rounded shapes and shapes that appear to flow like water. Ms. Feng Shui also suggests using metal and white as complementary colors for this sector of your home.

Show off your friends and travels

If you like to travel or dream of traveling more, there is a section in the bagua to help you do just that. It's also a section for celebrating your friends and attracting other helpful people such as mentors, clients, and collaborators, according to Benicia Herald. If you use the front door method, this is the bottom right section of your home. For the directional method, this section is located in the northwest. Its element is metal, so use white, gray, silver, and black colors in this gua, as per Ms. Feng Shui.

Decorating the Friends and Travel zone in your house is easy. Just include photos and maps of places you've traveled to or that you'd like to visit, as well as photos that capture happy memories with friends. Use rounded frames in white, black, gray, or silver for your photos. It's also a great place to decorate with globes and electronics (via Mindbodygreen).  

What can you do with the middle section?

The middle square in the bagua is where all the energies in your home meet. Also known as the center or the foundation, this gua is the one that supports all the others, and thus deserves just as much attention as the other zones in your home. According to The Spruce, its element is earth, and its colors are earthy shades such as yellow, orange, and brown. 

LoveToKnow suggests using the center as the family dining room or living room. However, when you live in a small space, this might be difficult, so keeping the center free of clutter is your best bet to maximize its potential. The Feng Shui Studio also suggests using porcelain, the ying-yang symbol, and ceramics to activate the central zone of your bagua. You can use flat rectangular and square shapes to decorate this area. It's also a great place in your home to display affirmations and things that represent balance and harmony. 

How to adapt feng shui to your small space

Now that we've covered every gua – or section of the feng shui map — let's talk about how to maximize the feng shui potential of your small space. While living in a small apartment will make it challenging to have an entire room dedicated to each section, you can still delineate them using visible separators such as a rug or sheer curtain, according to Open Spaces Feng Shui. Placing furniture in a way that separates multi-purpose rooms can also help. That way, you can reserve at least a little space for each gua, even if two of them are technically placed in the living room, for example. 

The Spruce adds that defining your entryway by painting your door a contrasting color, using a doormat, placing mirrors strategically, and using a divider for the foyer area can help bring harmonious energy into your apartment. Finally, as per MakeSpace, taking extra care to place your bed in the command position (furthest away from the bedroom door while not in direct line with it) is one of the most important feng shui tips you can follow for small spaces.