photography by PHUONG NGUYEN
Ever think back on the days when you’d play house with your Barbie and Ken dolls? Like a fairytale, their perfect plastic bodies lived happily in a fabulous pink house, and they always had great big smiles on their faces.
We bet you’d never think for a second that Barbie and Ken made such a cheerful, harmonious couple because of the color of their home—but paint color could actually play a partial role in the quality of your happiness. In 1958, US scientist Robert Gerard concluded that pink played a role in reducing aggression—and while this might be an overly simplistic view, we have to wonder if Barbie and Ken knew more than their plastic faces let on.
So, to find out exactly what makes a healthy home, we reached out to a feng shui specialist and color expert for tips. Here’s the inside scoop from the professionals on how you can shape your home to promote a sense of wellness.
Use calming, neutral colors to paint your walls.
Feng shui master practitioner Carol M. Olmstead, FSIA, recommends skin-toned colors for walls. “You want anything that feels like healthy skin,” the guru says. “The blush of cheeks, the light pink on lips, creamy colors, anything that feels like you’re sleeping with a healthy human—that’s what makes a bedroom relaxing.”
Change your accessories based on your mood or the season.
Leanne Venier, an Eastern Medicine physician and science of color and light therapy expert, explains how our cravings for different colors can change, depending on what’s going on in our lives.
“We use colors, just like we use nutrients. We make decisions depending on what’s going on in our bodies, health, stress levels, etc. We’re going to crave the colors that bring us balance,” she says. “The colors we want around us at the time are going to be the most healing and supportive to us.”
And because the colors we want around us will fluctuate, Venier suggests swapping out area rugs, comforters, room accents, art pieces, tapestries, and the like. “Anything that covers a large surface area in your visual field will change the way you feel very quickly,” says Venier. “But you can consciously use color to support your health and wellbeing.”
If you want a room to be more uplifting and energizing, you can add splashes of reds, oranges, and yellows. And on the opposite spectrum, if you want a room to promote dreaming, meditation, and creativity, Venier suggests sedating colors like blue, indigo, or violet, as they can induce a calming sensation.
Get rid of clutter.
Keeping only what you love is essential to a happy home, according to Olmstead. “If you don’t love it, send it out into the universe,” the interior design expert insists. And if you do have some clutter, she urges you to keep it in drawers, or behind doors and closed cabinets.
Olmstead discourages keeping items under the bed so that you can keep chi flowing in the house—the energy that unites body, mind, and spirit. But “If you must keep something under your bed, soft things like linens and clothing are okay,” she says.
Keep feng shui in mind while rearranging your space.
Feng shui is an ancient art and science that developed over 3,000 years ago in China. It is a complex body of knowledge that teaches us how to balance the energies in any given space—be it a home, office, or garden—in order to assure good fortune for the people inhabiting it.
Olmstead shares some words of wisdom to achieving feng shui in the different rooms of your home.
A foyer is important because it’s referred to as the mouth of the house, and it's where the chi flows. If you don’t have a foyer, Olmstead suggests creating one by placing a bookcase at a certain angle. But don’t leave shoes there, because shoes symbolize the running away from a peaceful life at home.
Olmstead recommends having a nice, solid headboard for the bed. She also recommends your bed be positioned so that your head is against a wall, for a sense of security.
You don’t want any photos of deceased people, or ashes of pets. Instead, Olmstead suggests adding a mirror, so it seems like you’ve doubled the number of guests you can entertain. “In feng shui, the more people you entertain relates to wealth,” she says.
This is typically the most-used room in the house, so Olmstead suggests positioning the furniture in this room in “the power position.” In other words, have chairs and couches facing the entrance of a room, so that the people in the room feel comfortable and in control—no one can sneak up on them when they’re facing the entrance.
When it comes to the kitchen, keep food and cleaning products in separate pantries. If you keep them together, it means you’re “cleaning out your good health,” Olmstead cautions.
Olmstead suggests green things in the bathroom to symbolically balance the excess water found here. Also try to remember to keep the toilet lid down, because the flushing symbolizes a suction that pulls energy downward and out of your home. By keeping the seat down, you minimize this loss of energy.
Be mindful of lighting.
Venier encourages the use of red light in your bedroom at night, and white light (which contains tinges of blue) during the day. She explains that the blue and green light stops the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps people sleep.
“There are multiple ways to use red light in your bedroom,” she explains. “You can either get red LED bulbs, or you can use Himalayan salt lamps that give off a red, soft, peachy pink warm color.”
Keep a plant around.
Both experts agree that plants are a great element to have in a home. Olmstead believes that “keeping a healthy, living plant three feet away from electronics will eat up the negative energy being omitted, and create a sense of balance.”
However, she dissuades owning cacti or any plant with thorns because they have spiky energy—which is not what you want in a home. As a substitute, she recommends plants with rounded leaves. “The plant is natural and adds oxygen to the home,” Olmstead says, while Venier points out that green is a neutral color that helps balance out the other colors in a room.