The Influence of Ancient China on Contemporary Interior Design

The Influence of Ancient China on Contemporary Interior Design

Many are quick to assume specific people shaped the future of contemporary design in the modern world. While we have much to owe to Frank LLoyd Wright, Kelly Wearstler and Philippe Starck, it’s vital to remember where they drew their inspiration from. For centuries, home decor and style has been heavily influenced by various cultures and civilizations of the past.

Traditional Chinese interiors differ in several styles but one theme remains constant: thoughtfulness. There are many principles to keep in mind when blending conventional Chinese practices with modern decor including simplicity, nature, power, serenity and harmony.

Perhaps the most important detail is the spiritual emphasis Chinese culture associates with home environments. More specifically, no matter what components are chosen to incorporate into a space, feng shui is almost always factored in.

Balancing energy throughout a home is the main goal in feng shui. However, it is also believed to improve life areas by using certain colors, materials, shapes and accents to enhance the energy in different sections of a home’s layout.

Popular Feng Shui Cures

The colors, materials, shapes and accents that affect the quality of energy are commonly referred to as “cures” and are closely tied to the five feng shui elements. These elements are earth, fire, metal, water and wood — each are deeply rooted in human vitality.

Earth and wood are similar in that they both promote qualities of fertility, growth and stability. The fire element ignites passion and helps an inner light shine through. Metal fosters qualities of confidence and assurance in everyday decisions. Lastly, water is the element of self-reflection and renewal.

There are favored colors, shapes and materials for each element. The earth element can be introduced into spaces by using subdued yellow, brown and green tones, square shapes and by including accents such as crystals or pottery. Fire is shown with vibrant red, orange, purple or pink hues, triangular or star shapes and decor items that require illumination like candles.

Metal is most often incorporated with the use of white or gray colors, round shapes and items in various metallic finishes. Water is clearly illustrated with the use of blue or black tones, fluid shapes and mirrors.  The wood element is best expressed through green or brown colors, rectangular shapes and an ample use of houseplants.

The Bagua Map


The most basic understanding of feng shui is illustrated using a bagua map. The bagua map lays out the placement of the nine unique life areas one can optimize with feng shui based on a home’s floor plan.

Sometimes, homes may have missing bagua areas. Since the energy within a home is intricately connected to the quality of life of its inhabitants, these areas should be taken care of to ensure balance.

Cures can be applied effectively in the home to make up for missing areas according to that life sphere’s corresponding element. The earth element nourishes knowledge and relationships so spread more of its characteristics in a home to better enhance this life area. Reputation is most easily influenced by fire while creativity, friends and travel spheres are associated with the metal element. Wood matches with wealth, family and health life areas while water is the main element for career.

Furniture Arrangement and Style

There are several principle rules to follow when arranging furniture constructively. Allowing enough room for energy to flow throughout a home is key to balancing elements and harmonizing cures.

Avoid placing furniture too close to walls, under windows or beneath beams to create a more stable environment. When decorating a space, having plenty of seating with rounded edges is a must. Furniture with too many straight, sharply angled corners fosters negative energy. By having pieces with curves, energy can be renewed or replaced with ease.

Include different colors into a space using decor accents such as rugs, lighting or wall art. Always keep the front legs of furniture on a rug to harbor stability. Displaying accents in pairs is useful for influencing good fortune in relationships. Consider this when accessorizing with throw pillows and table lamps.

Finally, a paramount practice in feng shui is to organize each space keeping it free of random, useless clutter. Clutter creates a blockage of energy, making it difficult for spaces to refresh. At the end of any feng shui journey, an orderly home life is the ultimate form of tranquility.

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