Denver Bar Association
December 2000
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How to Create a Ch'i-zey Office

by Karen Bries


Does your office have the five elements it takes for true comfort?

So what if you have sharp corners in your office, you say. And you may say, who cares that my back faces the entrance to my office?

Well, The Docket does, and you and your clients may be feeling the results of some bad Ch'i.

No, Ch'i is not some strange drink you barely remember from college. It is your life energy. You can have good or bad Ch'i. Feng Shui (pronounced fung shway), the ancient art of Chinese object placement, may be the trick to rejuvenating your efficiency as an attorney and may make your clients love you even more.

The Denver Bar Association lobby before (left) and after Feng Shui. This ancient Chinese art is the latest trick in rejuvenating efficiency.

Wait! Don't turn the page. You're thinking: it's a bunch of hooey, and it takes too long! But here are 10 steps to help you feel more comfortable and work more efficiently.

Before we spill the 10 secrets, it's important to understand the elements. There are five basic elements in Feng Shui. You need to have some proportion of representation of each of the following:

Earth: In the law offices we visited we encountered a lot of earth. It's not surprising because this element represents stability. Terra cotta pots, earth tone colors, adobe, brick and wood office furniture (because of the color) can represent earth. Other earthy examples are squares, rectangles, and long, flat surfaces.

Wood: Wood furniture, plants, cloth, art with landscapes, and blue and green colors symbolize wood. Shapes like columns and beams are also considered wood.

Fire:All kinds of lighting, things made from animals, art that depicts people or animals, shapes like triangles and pyramids, and the color red are fire.

Mills tells Assistant Administrator Jake Allen, at Clanahan, Tanner, Downing and Knowlton, that one large abstract piece of art may make clients feel more comfortable in their waiting room. The chair, placed at an angle rather than straight-on, makes for a comfortable atmosphere.
Metal: All metals, rocks, crystal or sculpture with metal, circle and oval shapes are considered metal. White and pastel colors also fit into this category.

Water: Streams, fountains, crystal, glass, mirrors, asymmetrical shapes, and dark blue and black colors are water.

Now, here are 10 easy steps to achieve the right balance.

Our professional Feng Shui consultant Carol Mills suggests starting slowly and moving things a bit at a time. "You'll know if it doesn't feel right," she says.

  1. Comfort and safety. The first rule is that it must be comfortable for you and it must be safe.

  2. Put up a mirror. Mills calls mirrors the aspirin of Feng Shui, because they are easy to hang up and can transform a room's energy immediately. Most rooms lack the water element, and mirrors are a good way to round out the elemental components.

  3. Flatten those corners. In Feng Shui, corners are seen as unsafe. They also can be seen as arrows, pointing you out of a room or into a corner. To soften this effect, place a tall plant in front of a corner. Remember, part of Feng Shui is feeling safe.

  4. Get rid of clutter. Look around your office. Do you use or enjoy all of the furniture, art and office equipment you have? Has anything seemed to fade into the background or become a nuisance to you (including that large stack of papers sitting on the corner of your desk)?

    Try taking a few of the pictures in your office and hanging them in the office hallway. Rotate them every few months so the art becomes bold and recognizable again. Everything in your office can give you positive Ch'i, or life energy, so make sure your favorite objects haven't become stagnant.

  5. Art and wall hangings. After you've taken away the washed out artwork, make sure to concentrate on placement. If you have parallel walls (as most of us do), try one large picture on one wall and hang diplomas, awards and other pictures, which can be draining and visually unstimulating, on the opposite wall. This will give the room an interesting focal point and a comfortable, organized feeling.

  6. Face front. If you sit with your back toward your office door, do you feel anxious or find yourself surprised when co-workers enter? This office set-up makes for negative Ch'i, because you aren't comfortable, which is one of the primary principles of Feng Shui. If your desk cannot face the door, try clipping mirrors to your computer so they reflect who is coming into your office. You could also try hanging some streamers that would move when a door opens.

    At Cortez, Macaulay Bernhardt and Schuetze, Miles Cortez and Mills admire his office artwork. Objects you love in your surroundings generate positive Ch'i.

  7. Get bent. In the two law offices we visited and the bar association lobby, everything was parallel and symmetrical. Symmetry can feel incredibly rigid, uncomfortable and uninviting. If your client waiting area has this look, try hanging an unsquare piece of abstract art on a wall or placing a tropical floral arrangement on a coffee table. If you have two chairs facing each other around a small table, try facing them both at a 30-degree angles toward each other, to make them more inviting.

  8. Try a fountain. No, the drinking fountain or running kitchen sink don't count. Sound is also an important aspect to your comfort, and a running water fountain will add that often-missed water element into your office surroundings. You can buy or make a table-top fountain fairly cheaply, and it won't take up much space. Ask your receptionist's permission first, however you don't want the trickling sound to trigger sprints to the bathroom.

  9. Find a greeter. What feeling do you want a client or yourself to get from your office or lobby? To find a comfort zone, you need a greeter. A greeter can be a plant or an inviting looking table and comfortable chairs. It can also be your practice putter, or a flower arrangement. This puts you or a client at peace and ready to work in a friendly, non-offensive environment.

  10. Use that green thumb. When you just aren't sure about anything, put a plant in front of it. Plants are life-giving and fresh looking. If you have folks in your office with allergies, find some very real looking silk plants.

There you have it. Now move some furniture and get to billing hours.

Carol Mills is a Feng Shui consultant at her business, Simply Balance. She gives presentations at the Colorado Free University and privately. You can reach her at (303) 813-0882 or at

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