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Feng Shui literally means wind and water. In Chinese mythology these are the elements associated with good health and wellbeing. Feng Shui as a whole is applying these to interior design to maximise the positive energy and utility of the home environment for a positive life.
For us as interior designers Feng Shui lets us put a different perspective on a home. It is the flow of energy that is the natural part of interior design – to maximise the benefit of the occupants through aesthetic beauty and practical functionality. Here I want to look at some of the traditional Feng Shui practices and how we integrate these into our home designs.
Feng Shui uses 9 core sectors that we can apply to any room of a house or to different rooms to elicit different physical and emotional responses. These form a Bagua Map and are:
In terms of applying this to a single room we use a 9 by 9 grid. Centre and health is the focal point of the room – it draws together all the positive Chi (energy) of the room. When we apply it to a home as a whole each room can have a specific focus but should still bring together all of the elements of the Bagua Map to some degree.
The most important two areas to begin considering are the centre of the house (the self) and the entrance.
The entrance to your home is considered the “Mouth of Chi” in Feng Shui. If you think about this you’ll understand that it is the first place you see when you get home. So it should have positive connotations. Simple choices like plants, light and colour can have a huge impact on your relationship with your home.
The centre of the house conversely ties together everything in the house. Depending on your home’s layout this can either be a hallway or it can be a reception room. This room should tie together everything about you and your own energies. In Feng Shui this is where you put your personality and style at its most prominent – where you draw together everything that you feel is you.
The other areas all are designed to highlight each aspect of your life. They create areas of focus and utility that helps compartmentalise your life without detracting from any part. This separation helps keep us organised and let’s our energy flow more fluidly.
Knowledge- This area of your home should reflect your own pursuit of knowledge. It can be characterised by books, art, antiques, and anything that reminds you of intelligent pursuits.
Career – This area reflects your own career development and aspirations. It can be characterised by certificates, business books, your work space and aspirational objects that appeal to you.
Travel and Helpful People – A reflection of the people that contribute to your life in positive ways; whether it is friends, family or heroes. Mementos, travel souvenirs and photos help personalise this area.
Family and Health – Energy here is characterised by all the special memories of your family whether this is photos, purchases or art. This area should be a real focus of family life designed with family time and sharing firmly in mind.
Child – This is the creative area of the home. It can be characterised by art, poetry and creative relaxation. This can be a reading area with comfy chairs or just an area that enhances your creativity. Design wise we like lots of light and colour in this space to promote positive creative thought.
Wealth – Wealth is signified by money but also by organisation. This should be an area dedicated to personal finance – receipt books, ledgers, banking information and other important information is kept here. In traditional Feng Shui this area can use money, savings banks and other items related to money to promote good fortune.
Reputation and Fame – Reputation and fame refers to your relationships with others and your progressive attitude to life. In terms of design light is incredibly important here as is showcasing your achievements. This area should reflect self and be somewhere you can think positively about your personal journey.
Relationships and Marriage – This area reflects your own relationships and love. It should reflect the warm side of the soul with rich colours and aesthetic beauty.
Whether or not you believe in the energy powers of Feng Shui the Bagua Map process is a fantastic template to divide focus in your interior design – to understand the many threads tying our lives together and trying to reflect all aspects of your personality in one space.
Flowers are the natural art that creates a sense of life in any home. We love working with flowers and plants and think that homes benefit greatly from a touch of the natural.
Today we thought we’d look at choosing the perfect flowers for your home as spring really isn’t too far away!
Choosing a Vase or Pot
Of course the first place to start is choosing something to put flowers or plants in. Vases range from the small and plain to the incredibly ornate and beautiful. Ornate complement flowers to produce a beautiful integrated room feature that can turn even the most drab room into an aesthetic treasure. Pots tend to be much larger and the focus with these tends to be on the plant rather than the aesthetics of its containers.
Choosing Where to Put Flowers
If you regularly have flowers then we recommend putting them in a prominent place. Centrepieces on tables, above fireplaces or on furniture all work wonders with any interior design. Our main advice here is to keep them actually in the room – by windows the view detracts from their beauty and most pre-cut flowers won’t last any longer in direct sunlight.
There’s a lot of personal preference when it comes to flower types and colours. However, if you’re looking to really compliment your interior design then careful flower selection is essential.
Flowers for White Rooms
For white rooms yellow flowers like sunflowers, daffodils and chrysanthemum really add to the light feel of a room – they evoke strong images of spring and freshness that makes everyone in the house happy.
To create a softer feel pink flowers work spectacularly with pink lilies, roses and chrysanthemum making a nice blend with existing décor.
Flowers for Light Rooms
For pale rooms that use light blue, pinks or non-white light colour we like to use light but rich flowers with soft blues, reds and oranges. Flowers like freesias, lisianthus, pale roses and orchids really match these rooms. They create a nice soft feel that is perfectly complemented by sunlight in the day and candlelight at night.
Flowers for Darker Rooms
If you have a nice dark rich room with deeper colours like red, purple or dark wood then you want to add to that rich comforting feel with any flower choices. In red rooms yellows and purples really add to that enwrapped warm feeling these rooms evoke. In purple rooms yellows and reds achieve the same effect. In dark rooms with a lot of dark wood we prefer lush green plants that perform well in the dark like peace lilies, Pothos and Philodendron. Alternatively bonsai trees can work beautifuly in these rooms create an earthy rich feel.
One of the best parts of flowers is that they are inexpensive to replace. You can experiment easily and often to find something that is the perfect fit for every room in your home.
Art is one of the most personal aspects of any interior design space. It is a reflection of self that can personalise any space – from the sleek modern apartment to the rustic country cottage. Art encapsulates the full gamut of human emotion and design.
At Casa Forma we are frequently asked to choose art to complement our interior designs but often we work with a client’s favourite pieces to integrate them seamlessly into their design ideas. With that in mind we decided to look at how to integrate art with design.
When it comes to art you should always abide by the rule “Buy what you love”. However, that said, it is also worth mentioning that the art investment market is booming. Everything from Dali’s to Picasso’s to Banksy’s and Harold Ancart are climbing steadily in capital gains. For example Zeng Fanzhi’s The Last Supper sold for a record-breaking US$23.3 million at Sotheby’s Hong Kong in 2013
Over the last 6 years the global turnover of art auctions has exceeded doubled the same period previously. In uncertain economic times people have turned to art as another string to the bow of investment portfolios. However, art speculation is inherently risky – some artist’s work soars in value others can drop just as strongly. So choosing something you love regardless of the price tag is a much safer, and ultimately more pleasing, option.
Styles of Art
When it comes to design the style of art you choose is of paramount importance. Classical landscapes for example do not typically work as well with modern or post-modern room designs. However, street art or cubist art fits fantastically in a modern setting adding a cultural, and stylish feel to a room. With so many genres of art available choosing art that works perfectly with your own nuanced design ideas is actually straightforward.
Modern Art – Integrate seamlessly with modern design to create a variety of styles. Can be used to create focal points for minimalist rooms or to enhance existing décor.
Classical Art – Compliments classical design perfectly especially with classical and neo-classical interior design. Creates opulent feels to any room when complimented with rich fabrics, marbles and antique furniture pieces.
Portraits – Compliment classical, neo-classical and modern design. Portraits form exceptional focal points for rooms and can reflect history and culture in intriguing ways.
Abstract Art – From graffiti to surrealism and encompassing everything in between abstract art can work exceptionally with any form of design. In modern design or minimalist designs it creates focal points whilst in classic design it can blend perfectly with other decor to create a complete tapestry of integrated design.
Integrating Art into design
Once you’ve chosen artworks we get the pleasure of intermingling them with our design work. The two core considerations we make are the size of the piece and whether you want it to be a focus of the room. A single, large, dramatic piece can really set the tone for a whole room’s design and we love working around these types of artwork. However, small pieces can integrate with furniture and furnishing to create a complete, seamless room with plenty of points of focus and discussion.
If you’d like help with your art choices and their integration into beautiful interior design don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Frequent studies have linked where you work to how productive you are whilst working. In fact, recent studies have shown that a well-designed office can increase worker productivity by as much as 20%. At the same time studies reported in the Guardian have shown that nearly a fifth of Britons are suffering from stress and anxiety disorders. A happy workforce is a more productive work force and, with that firmly in mind, we decided to look at designing your office to increase productivity.
Starting with The Basics
The essential first points we consider when designing offices are light, space and desks. Poor light levels create poor moods. Lack of space creates a stifled work environment and decreases productivity as it does not allow for free movement of personnel. Optimised, ergonomic desk spaces increase productivity.
One of the first things we look to when designing office spaces is increasing natural and artificial lighting. Poor lighting has been linked to depression, weariness and eyestrain amongst other issues. We like to add overhead lighting as well as side lighting to create a warm open environment.
Space is always at a premium in a busy office and cramming enough desks in can seem like a challenge in itself. However, increasing the feeling of space in an office can drastically improve productivity and workplace communication. This can be simple changes like re-arranging the desk structure or it can involve creating new spaces to make transition between work areas more comfortable. We can also help create the illusion of space through adding mirrors, increasing door heights and using neutral colours. By connecting the indoor space with the outdoors we bring in elements of nature which creates a relaxing and positive working ambiance.
If your workers sit at desks that they like they will be more productive. Comfy, stylish chairs, ergonomic keyboards and computer monitors are a great place to start but don’t forget the desks themselves. Office supplier desks tend to be cheap and mundane. Replacing with sleek modern or classic elegance styles makes your employs feel more valued – and their work will be more valuable.
Beyond the Basics
These are the basic changes every office should look to incorporate into a redesign. We at Casa Forma like to take this a lot further. One of the best ways to increase productivity in an office is to make it more like a bar or home than an office. Companies like Google have already embraced this new ethos. Adding pool tables, lounge areas, a coffee bar or dining tables changes your work environment incredibly. You could take it even further and look at ways to create the ultimate luxurious office.
Imagine this – your employee needs to have a 1 on 1 project review with you. Instead of stepping into your office you have the discussion in a comfy chair in the coffee room. Your meeting is more relaxed and your employee is able to convey their thoughts on the project in a casual, open setting. This improves communication immensely. After work your employees might stay in the office for a few drinks and a game of pool – they actively want to spend time in the office!
Design and office content play a pivotal role in this modern workplace. We want to create light comfortable spaces for your employees to relax in. We choose light open colours, sleek modern furniture and supplement it with facilities targeted at your employees. We create a modern workspace that throws traditional office atmospheres away whilst improving your employees performance.
Wood is a sought-after flooring material in luxury residential and commercial interiors. When property owners search for the most suitable wood for their interior, the amount of options and industry terms are often confusing. In this blog post we aim to explain your options so when your design expert recommends one option over the other, you will be in a position to understand the thought process behind it.
Wood Flooring Types
Terms such as ‘real wood’, ‘wood effect’, ‘engineered wood’ and other terms are sometimes confusing. There are in fact two types of real wood flooring, while a distant alternative is the laminate or vinyl wood effect flooring, which should not be confused for natural wood.
Option One: Solid Wood Flooring – The solid option is made from 100% real wood. Each plank comes in random lengths and thickness of 18mm to 21mm. Solid wood flooring is suitable in most interiors, except when fitted in wet areas such as the bathroom or over under floor heating. The use of solid wood means that the floor is particularly strong making it the first choice of commercial property owners but also popular in residential properties.
Option Two: Engineered Wood Flooring – The engineered option is made from 20% or so of solid wood, whilst the rest is made from softwood, plywood and MDF to an overall thickness of 14mm to 21mm thick. It is machined made from layer upon layer of material with the solid layer always on the top and the other manmade layers below. When fitted, it looks 100% identical to the original solid type. It is suitable in all interiors, including in wet areas and on top of under floor heating. Its varied construction makes it more affordable compared to the solid wood option.
Option Three: Wood effect Flooring – The wood effect option isn’t made from natural wood and should not be considered real wood flooring. Using plastic, wood fibers or vinyl, the plank is made to resemble the natural features of wood such as sapwood, knots and of course, the golden honey colour of wood. It comes as laminate floor or vinyl wood effect floor making it substantially cheaper than real wood. Often it looks artificial or fake to a degree, as real wood is visually hard to mimic.
The Origin Of Wood
Both solid and engineered wood flooring contains natural wood which comes from forests all around the world. In recent years more and more consumers have been asking for ethically sourced wood so their decision in fitting this type of flooring does not endanger other habitats.
Most of the UK’s reputable vendors source their merchandise from managed forests in which trees are logged under strict allocation and the wood can be traced back to its source. New trees are planted to replace those who have been logged. In fact, an organisation called the FSC (FSC Forest Stewardship Council United Kingdom) credits and certifies vendors who meet this condition. These vendors will then display an FSC certificate that you can ask to read. Buying FSC wood is the responsible way to ensure ethical sourcing of wood flooring.
Wood Features Such as Sapwood, Knots and Colour Variations
Property owners are often confused as to why some examples vary in terms of colours or why some examples carry plenty of sapwood, knots, grain markings and other natural characteristic of wood, while others carry these in limited amount. This is influenced by the grade of the wood and you have a choice of four grades.
Prime and Select Grade – The two highest grades are also the dearest of the bunch. Each plank will feature minimal sapwood, knots and the planks will resemble very closely in terms of shade. These two are the ultimate in luxury grade.
Natural and Rustic Grade – The two basic grades feature plenty of sapwood, knots and colour variation should be expected. It makes the natural and rustic grade planks more affordable vs. prime and select grade.
Wood Flooring Finish
After selecting the type and grade comes the part of selecting the finish. Similarly to grade, it is a visual preference so there’s little in terms of right or wrong. There are roughly four common options that are based on variants of oil or lacquered coating.
Oil Finish – It will give the planks a matt look and is incredible hard wearing. Oil will penetrate the wood making it slower to wear. It is easy to maintain using a paintbrush and oil when required. The matt level can be heightened or lessened by applying several vs. one coat of oil.
Lacquered Finish – It will give the planks a glossy look and quicker to wear as unlike oil, lacquered is too thick to penetrate the wood. However, this makes the plank almost waterproof, which is handy if fitting engineered wood flooring in the bathroom or kitchen areas (in such case, several layers of lacquered are applied).
For information on interior design and architecture projects contact Casa Forma.
Information written by Jonathan Sapir.MD of WoodandBeyond.com a London based FSC vendor of hardwoods.
We at Casa Forma love a good watering-hole just as much as everyone else. We especially love an exceptionally designed one. It is not difficult to find a good cocktail in any city around the world. Enjoying your drink in a stylish and beautifully designed interior is however a different matter. At a great cocktail bar guests feel welcome and cared for whilst being surrounded by the best in design and atmosphere. These are our top 5 most beautifully designed cocktail bars around the world. For the moment anyway, we'll keep you updated on our future favourites.
Wyld - London
It's no surprise that this gorgeous bar is located in the W hotel London, Leicester Square. W hotels are known for their stylish and contemporary interior design. Wyld adds a bit of flair to the already great design. We love the many shimmering mirror balls and the ruby colored lighting. Wyld is a great example of a successful bar offering the best in entertainment to its guests. Of course there is an extensive cocktail menu and music is supplied by the best in-house Djs. This is a great place for a trendy night out.
Riva Bar – Berlin
The Riva bar in Berlin is designed with a modern-retro feel and is situated under a railway arch. The most used colors in the interior are red, yellows and purple, and the oval shaped bar breathes style and glamour. There are comfortable leather seats along the walls of this tunnel-shaped bar, prefect for enjoying a relaxing night out and great cocktails.
Pata Negra - Shanghai
Formerly known as The Velvet Lounge, Pata Negra is not only the best bar in town for cocktails, but also for Jamón Iberico! The bar has an edgy and urban feel with street art and exposed brickwork. The venue also displays the original features of the old Shanghai heritage villa it was built in.
Ozone - Hong Kong
The Ozone bar is part of the Hong Kong Ritz-Carlton and is worth a visit if you love design. There are panels of refracted glass walls, a black leather elevator and neon green lighting. The crowd is trendy and this is definitely a place to see and be seen. Finger food is also served at the Ozone.
Il Bar at Bulgari Hotel - London
The II Bar at the Bulgari Hotel in London is a masterpiece of glamorous interior design. There is a big stainless steel bar surrounded by mahogany and mirrored walls. The Bellinis served here are counted as the best in town and there are free bar snacks such as focaccia and olives. The bar features an indoor cigar shop.
Our bedrooms are the sanctuary we have to escape the world. They are also the room that we spend most time in. Our sleep is so important and we need to make sure that we are getting the rest we need to face the world.
With that in mind we thought we would offer some important bedroom design tips to help you sleep better.
Does your room reflect you?
A relaxing bedroom helps you sleep. It needs to reflect you and your personality so that when you are in it you feel as comfortable as you can be. Before you even start organising your furniture you should make sure that you have the furniture that is most you. For most of us, soft warm furnishing create a homely atmosphere – large pillows, comfy chairs, large dressing table, mirrors and soft lighting all combine to help us relax.
Is there light in the dark?
The sun, in all its radiance, is nature’s alarm clock. Unfortunately street lights, artificial lights and sunlight are all incompatible with a good night’s sleep. The first place to start when organising your bedroom furniture is to make sure you are getting as little light as possible.
Thick, black out curtains should stop any sunlight or streetlight creeping into your cosy bedchamber.
- Alarm clocks
Alarm clocks with lights should face away from the actual bed. Alternatively place them below your bedside cabinet to reduce light emissions.
- TV’s and other gadgets
TV’s and gadgets with LED lights all contribute to the ambient light in a room. Ideally hide all gadgets from the line of sight of the bedroom. When it comes to TV’s and screens in the bedroom ideally they should be hidden behind cabinets. Studies have shown that watching a screen in bed is not conducive to a good night’s sleep – so if you can remove them from the bedroom this is even better!
Positioning your bed
Positioning your bed is crucial to both the feel of the bedroom and how it will make you sleep. If you sharing a bedroom then both people will need access to the bed. Placing the bed with access all around can help open up a room – whilst simultaneously making it the central focus. This helps the room stay focused on one purpose – sleep. That said many people find they feel more secure with a bed tucked up against a wall. Whichever suits your personality will help you get the best night’s sleep possible.
Placing your bed next to a radiator will mean that your temperature adjusts during the night. If the radiator comes on in the early morning you will warm up quickly if you are too close. This can mean sticky, unpleasant starts to the morning. It is better to keep a room at a slightly lower ambient temperature if you want to have uninterrupted sleep.
- External Walls and windows
Having a bed next to an external wall or window can also create greater temperature changes throughout the night. A constant temperature will mean a better night’s sleep – so try to avoid placing your bed against windows or external walls.
Organising your Furniture
When it comes to a good night’s sleep the key really is organisation. Numerous studies have shown that less cluttered spaces are the key to a better night’s sleep. They mean the mind has less to focus on in any given time and make you able to concentrate on relaxation. Make sure work, food and paperwork is all removed from your bedroom or placed tidily away in a drawer.
Less is more when it comes to furniture
- Size is important
The more space your bedroom furniture takes up the more claustrophobic your room will feel. For this reason integrated wardrobes are fantastic as they maximise space whilst keeping the room feeling large. The same is true with chest of drawers and bedside cabinets. Look for the most ergonomic and practical pieces that still lend warmth and comfort to your room.
- Keep decorative furnishings to a minimum
Aesthetically large collections of antiques and artwork are incredibly pleasing. Yet when it comes to your bedroom you want to keep these objects to a minimum. A large hanging artwork above the bedhead and some simple lamps or other antiques will keep your bedroom feeling cosy but un-cluttered.
- Create soft warm spaces
Supplement your room with soft throws, pillows and cushioned areas. These all help to create a cosy, welcoming atmosphere and will help your mind make positive connections with sleep and comfort.
The effect of the interior design and the use of color in the home or office space has a big effect on your mood. Scientific research has proven that vibrant colors such as reds and orange can make people feel more vibrant and active, while blues help to relax and create a calm space in the home. The use of the right colors in rooms with a specific meaning is important.
Green, blue and grey tones or white are perfect for bedrooms and a study. Calm yellows and beige tones are perfect for a family room or dining room and the kitchen, where the family gets together to prepare and enjoy meals, can do with a more vibrant color.
A well designed room is as important as choosing the right colors. Choosing furniture that helps to create the style that you are going for in your home helps to relax. In smaller homes it is important to look into using furniture that can be used for different purposes. Modern and stylishly designed foldaway beds and dining tables that can double as a desk to work on during working hours can be great solutions if space is an issue.
Looking at model homes and rooms can be a great start if you are designing your interior yourself. If you are designing the interior of your (new) home yourself you might want to start out by taking measurements of all the rooms. Depending on the number of people in your family, assigning the rooms to each member of the family is the next step. Create a color scheme for the home and take your time to place color or wallpaper samples on your walls before you start.
Well placed furniture can make a room look smaller or larger. Choose quality furniture that lasts a long time and design your room around the most important feature pieces in the home and enjoy the process.