Art + Design

The ultimate Feng Shui tips for your home, according to an expert

Home sweet home


By Marissa Chin

The ultimate Feng Shui tips for your home, according to an expert

Have you ever stepped into a space and something about it just didn’t feel right? This could be a bedroom, a living room or even a kitchen, but it didn’t exude a comfortable and welcoming energy—and no, we’re not talking about the spooky supernatural kind. If you’re someone who is moving into a new home or ever wondered why you felt restless in a space, Feng Shui might have some answers for you.


What is Feng Shui?

Image: Spacejoy / Unsplash

Feng Shui has a long history dating as far back as the Zhou Dynasty in 1122 BCE. It emphasises the arrangement of objects, buildings and space to create a harmonious and balanced environment, allowing positive energy (known as Qi) to flow through. This is also referenced in its name: 风 (fēng) means wind and 水 (shuǐ) refers to water. Together, it can be translated to “the way of wind and water.”


A refreshing new approach

While the practice of Feng Shui has seen many changes since its adoption more than 3,000 years ago, this ancient Chinese system is still being used to this day and is, in fact, going viral online. Leading this movement on social media is none other than Cliff Tan AKA Dear Modern. With his quick-witted humour and disapproving look at poorly designed spaces, Tan has quickly become the Internet’s go-to person for Feng Shui advice and solutions. 

Using his signature miniature furniture pieces as visual cues, Tan effectively shows how merely rotating a piece of furniture or placing another object in a room can massively transform the overall environment for the better. Since creating his videos during Covid lockdowns, the viral sensation has amassed 2.9 million followers on TikTok and over 640,000 followers on Instagram talking about all things Feng Shui. As more home dwellers begin to realise the importance of their surroundings in achieving a relaxed mind and peaceful mood, it becomes clearer how the principles of Feng Shui can help in this. 

@dearmodern #stitch with @Popcorn ♬ original sound – Mr Cliff Tan

In light of Chinese New Year on 10 February, we speak to Tan of Dear Modern to glean his Feng Shui tips on how to achieve an auspicious home this Year of the Dragon, the science behind the ancient system and what to avoid (you might want to double-think open shelves).


How did you get into Feng Shui? 

I am actually a trained architect but my family has always been into Feng Shui. My grandfather was a Feng Shui master and his teachings were instilled in me. So I’ve always been exposed to Feng Shui at a young age and had a natural interest in it—but specifically, on the architectural side of things. 


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A post shared by Mr Cliff Tan (@dearmodern)

I realised that Feng Shui wasn’t just about predictions and lucky dates but also a lot about flow and movement within a space. So to me, my interest in both Feng Shui and architecture came together nicely. When I was an architect, I would apply Feng Shui techniques when designing a client’s home. 

It was only during the Covid lockdowns that I started using TikTok and wanted to create content. I thought the idea of Feng Shui would be interesting. So I started filming videos about how to place your bed, how to position your desk and the like. To us Asians, these kinds of things are common and standard practice. But to everyone else, it was super novel, so the videos gained a ton of traction and became viral! I started making more videos to educate people on Feng Shui and here we are.


How would you define what Feng Shui is?

Image: Studio McGee

Feng Shui is the art or knowledge of placement. It’s about looking at the environment, analysing the space and positioning yourself in the best way so you feel protected, secure and comfortable. It brings psychology and human nature into buildings and spaces. People tend to forget that these are connected. 

Your home is supposed to support you and where you should feel the most comfortable. So by having this knowledge and applying it, you can enhance your lifestyle. It is said in Feng Shui that if you live well, you start to perform better and when you do, good things start to come to you.


There’s a certain mysticism around Feng Shui that might make people sceptical but is there a science behind it?

I truly believe there is a science behind Feng Shui. Of course, over many centuries, it did become diluted and gain a superstitious reputation but a lot of these concepts are based on common sense and practicality.


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A post shared by Mr Cliff Tan (@dearmodern)

There is a basis of truth in Feng Shui and you can see that in human psychology. Why is it that you feel uneasy when your back is turned away from the door? A bulk of my followers were actually non-believers but after learning about it, they realised it does work because they felt instantly better when something is placed differently.


What are your top three Feng Shui tips that everyone should practise?

1. The first thing anyone should do is to find their command position. Wherever you are, you must feel protected and secure and never like people can pounce on you out of the blue! Therefore, you must sit in a way where there is a wall behind you and make sure you can see most of the room—this is known as the command position. Once you fulfil that, you will instantly feel better.

Image: Lotus Design / Unsplash

2. You must receive good energy and for that, you have to be close to objects that give off good energy. Usually in a room, this is the window. But remember, the key word here is good energy. If your window gives off tons of afternoon sunlight and is very hot then it’s not good energy because it makes you feel uncomfortable. In this case, you don’t have to be right next to it but at a safe distance where you can still receive the good energy and enjoy the view!

3. Focus on whatever the purpose of that room is for. If the room is meant for sleeping, you want it to be conducive to that. This means a bedroom should be calm with no loud noises or a TV. If its purpose is for work, then you want to make sure you’re being productive in there. This can mean putting objects in your office that symbolise growth such as plants, having your certificates on display and resources at your disposal. This way, you have everything you need within reach to support you. Essentially, make sure the space supports your needs.


Conversely, what are some big Feng Shui no-nos?

The biggest no-no is actually what we Asians are guilty of committing: believing too hard! It’s not that say you shouldn’t believe in Feng Shui but you need to refocus and understand what the priority is. Don’t view Feng Shui as a superstition or magical fix that will resolve all your problems. Because if you see it like that, you tend to address issues in the wrong way. Rather than rotating your desk, you fill it up with other things. You’re just fixing the symptoms, not the cause.


Image: @sansnovazuhause / Instagram

Another thing to avoid is not knowing what your space is for. Before you put something down, spend a few moments to rationalise why it should be there. If you’re renting, people tend to follow what the previous owners did. So understand that a space is fluid and don’t blindly follow what other people do without knowing what you need that space for. This also includes focusing on trends and recreating aesthetic Instagram photos.


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A post shared by 𝙴 𝚖 𝚖 𝚊 (@lindblomsgront)

Let me give an unpopular opinion: open shelves are bad. It’s trendy online and many people do it but we don’t realise that open shelves are like blades and look aggressive. Open shelves also mean that you have to constantly curate it. They collect dust, can become messy and they bring the clutter up. Unless you’re completely prepared to keep it tidy and curate it all the time, open shelves are more of a burden and bring bad energy rather than good. This is an example of how we can fall for trendy appearances on social media without thinking of its practicality. 


Let’s go through other common Feng Shui practices and why they should be followed.

1. Don’t sleep above a kitchen. Back then, kitchens posed as potential fire hazards. There is a lot of heat, energy and noise which prevents you from sleeping peacefully. Kitchens are a lot safer now but you can still feel like you’re sleeping over an open flame so that’s something we avoid in Feng Shui. 

2. Never sleep near a toilet. This one is pretty obvious: bathrooms are considered places with bad energy because it’s wet and can give off bad odours. Over time, you’ll breathe in all this musky and mouldy air and might get health problems. Plus, you won’t be rudely woken up by your partner’s flushing in the middle of the night. 


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A post shared by Mr Cliff Tan (@dearmodern)

3. Don’t sleep with your feet facing the road. Whatever happens outside your window has an impact. Roads have an intense, rushing energy that is less calming, especially if they’re pointing towards you. If it’s an abandoned and quiet road then it’s not so bad. But if it’s a bustling street, you want to be further and have curtains blocking it out.

4. Don’t sleep with a mirror in front of the bed. Mirrors change the energy of a space. Let’s be honest, no one looks great in the morning and seeing your reflection first thing when you wake up can scare you! It can also make you feel like there’s someone else in the room so, even if it’s your reflection, it can feel uncomfortable. If you want a mirror, angle it in a way that you don’t see the reflection from the bed. 


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A post shared by Lina Borg (@linaveronica)

5. Avoid sleeping under the air con. In Feng Shui, you don’t want to sleep under heavy things as they have bad energy. An air con is the worst of everything: it’s a beam in structure, it’s leaking water, it’s blowing cold air in your face, and it’s making a lot of noise– basically, everything you don’t want above your head when you sleep. 


Thrifting is a popular hobby in Malaysia. What are your thoughts on it from the perspective of Feng Shui?

Personally, I think thrifting is fine. It’s all about the framing of your mind. When you thrift something, you give it a new lease of life. Even if it comes from someone who has passed, you are giving it a second chance. I always believe that there is good in everything so it’s all about extracting the good energy from someone or something. Try to not focus on the negatives and you will always reap the benefits.


We are excited to see you grow even more online! What do you think of your viral success and what is 2024 going to look like for you?

Since I started doing videos a couple of years back, I’ve received an overwhelming amount of requests from my followers who want my opinion about their houses. This is why I’m no longer an architect and instead, focus on doing consultations—I’m booked up until May! It wasn’t meant to be a business or job for me but it showed me that there are people out there who want to fix their homes but don’t know who to reach out to or how to start. Therefore, I do believe that I came into it at the right time. 

Another thing is the way I present things. It’s like having a fun teacher! I try to make things entertaining, funny and educational because I want people to truly remember and understand it. I know Feng Shui can be quite abstract, which is why the best way to understand it is to see it in example form with my handy-dandy miniatures. People tend to get scared when they hear unfavourable predictions in Feng Shui. I’m not about that; I want to make Feng Shui a positive experience. I only want to impart knowledge that is useful and helpful because once you know something, you can’t un-know it. Rather than trying to scare you, I make things more constructive. 


For more Chinese New Year stories, head here.

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