I’ll never forget the first time I stepped foot into the Golden Door Spa at The Boulders Resort (now the Waldorf Astoria Spa). A Zen garden bubbled just outside the doors. The reception area was spacious, uncluttered and adorned in natural hues and textures. At every turn, the spa spoke of nature and harmony. I left that day wondering how I could move in without anyone noticing.
Since then, I’ve collected a pocketbook full of spa-sparked ideas and have been slowly transforming my home and office using the same ancient design concepts used by spas. I’ve found that with a dab of feng shui here and a touch of wabi sabi there, creating tranquility and breathing space in your house or workplace is a simple matter of clearing out clutter and arranging your surroundings in functional yet inspirational ways. It may not be the Golden Door, but by sprinkling the places that you spend most of your time with these ancient design philosophies, you’ll be one spa slipper closer to creating your own peaceful paradise.
The feng shui way
Contrary to what the style gods may say, feng shui is here to stay. Practiced for centuries in Chinese culture, feng (wind) shui (water) is the art of arranging your surroundings in a way that enhances your career, relationships and health. Feng shui has gotten a bum rap lately because taken to the extreme, it borders on superstition. But at its heart, the practice forces you to organize your belongings into practical, livable arrangements that are in harmony with positive energy flows. Heck, I’ve “feng shuied” my office and even though I have yet to win the lottery, it feels a million times better. For an easy-to-follow feng shui guide, check out Feng Shui for Dummies by David Daniel Kennedy.
Vastu, yoga for the home
From the same Vedic practices that brought us the healing arts of yoga and ayurveda, vastu is a 5,000-year-old Indian philosophy of bringing Om into your home. Vastu focuses on creating open, clear spaces arranged in balance with nature and conducive to an increased sense of well-being. Vastu can be as simple as clearing a small sitting area in a room for meditation. Kathleen Cox, author of several fascinating books on the subject, makes vastu relevant to modern life in her book, The Power of Vastu Living.
Wabi sabi, beauty in imperfection
All the rage now among Hollywood trendsetters, wabi sabi has been dubbed as the new feng shui. Far from being a new fad, wabi (solitary, less is better) sabi (beauty in age, venerable) embodies the aesthetics of elegant simplicity. Wabi sabi is seeing beauty in the aged and imperfect on a minimalist scale and translates into relaxed yet refined spaces that vibrate with comfort and harmony. Sometimes called the shabby chic of Japanese design, wabi sabi is an eclectic style that balances the old with the new, nature with reality, and your own style with modern life. For more, read Wabi Sabi Style by James Crowley and Sandra Crowley.
Zen style and the art of clearing clutter
Drawing on the tranquil and balanced Eastern philosophy of Zen Buddhism, Zen style creates calm and peaceful living spaces that inspire contemplation. Zen spaces are alive with natural sunlight, simple splashes of color, the soft sounds of water trickling in a fountain and the subtle hints of natural scents. For some easy ways to integrate Zen into your spaces, read Zen Style by Jane Tidbury.
Finally, remember baby steps. Choose one room in your house to focus on and take time to enjoy the journey of breaking free from clutter. For some great tips, see my own Home Office Makeover Video segment with professional organizer Charlotte Steill for ABC-15’s Sonoran Living (yes, sometimes you need a little help!).