Story by Maureen Tinney // Photos by Tyler McFarland
After six years, she realized she wasn't finding this needed solace in her own home. In fact, she says, her home was making things worse.
She wanted to feel supported in her home, but had never taken the time to figure out what was wrong and what needed to be fixed. "It took a long time, but eventually I realized something was wrong," Gerdsen says. "Something was not right. I was done with it." Gerdsen turned to Genevieve Rose Marie, Feng Shui consultant and design specialist. Marie takes a holistic approach to design, treating the entire house, inside and out. Nearly every indigenous culture has specific traditions involving the way a living space is designed, Marie says. The word Feng Shui is from the Chinese tradition, but the ideals are found in Japanese Shinto culture, as well as in Native American traditions. The basic principle of Feng Shui design is that energy is a part of everything, and flows through everything, and can be affected or channeled through design. Western culture has grasped the phrase "Feng Shui" and its basic concepts, but fails to realize that people's environments are also a reflection of themselves, Marie says.
Marie relates every part of the house to a corresponding part of a person's body. A closet is more than a small enclosed space-it represents the bowels. If old, unwanted unused things are stored there, it represents dead weight, dead energy. The walls of the house are the skin. Colors are the clothes, and other items are the accessories we wear to personalize ourselves and our space. "People change, but their spaces don't >> always," Marie says. "Whenever people make a big change in their life, sometimes their environments can drag them behind. The things in their house are no longer representing them, and that can lead to feeling displaced."
Marie says for many Feng Shui is more than just design-it is a way of life. Feng Shui is used to create environments where natural energy flows in positive patterns. Color, the placement of furniture, and use of art pieces are all aspects of Feng Shui design. Most importantly though, Feng Shui focuses on creating environments designed for the people who will use them.
Marie says she has to find out who people are and what goals they have before she is able to help them in their space. "Anyone can go pick up a book and make their house look pretty," Marie says. "The real goal should be to make the environment best for them." Gerdsen says the process to figure out what was not right in her house started at the dining table. Sitting with Marie, Gerdsen filled three pages with descriptive words of what she wanted her house to be. She wanted welcoming, supportive, peaceful, vibrant, a place of love, a place of togetherness, but most of all, a place of rest. Gerdsen says Marie helped her realize it was more important to focus the design on what created the feeling Gerdsen wanted, not focusing on what was traditionally considered good design. "People think Feng Shui is all about rules and that you have to face a certain way or have your walls a certain color," Marie says. "Really, though, it's about creating an environment that feels right. An environment that makes a person reach for their highest goals. That doesn't always mean the so called 'rules' of Feng Shui are what is right for everyone." Marie says every person and every space is different, and in that way a lot of what she does as a designer is simply helping people discover what is not right, and helping them find what is right for them.
For those not willing or able to hire a designer, Feng Shui information is easily accessible online or at a local library. Getting started could only be a click away, as there are many Internet sites that offer a wealth of information. Marie suggests The International Feng Shui Guide, www.ifsguild.org/Home.php; Sustainable Connections www.sustainableconnections.org; and The International Institute for Bau-Bologie and Ecology, www.buildingbiology.net.
Feng Shui can be made simpler with assistance from a trained designer, but that's not to say Feng Shui isn't a realistic do-it-yourself project. Gerdsen says she even started a few projects herself before meeting Marie. She started in one of the rooms in the house she uses most: the kitchen. Gerdsen says one of the things she liked most about her house is the beautiful view of the ocean, but the kitchen cabinets blocked the view, and isolated whoever was in the kitchen from the dining area. The ceilings were covered in dark paneling and the walls, like the rest of the house, were a stark white. Walking through her redesigned kitchen, Gerdsen's smile radiates. "We were just going to rip off the cabinets, but then we had to remove some posts, and then at that point we just kept going," Gerdsen says. "Now the feeling in here is totally different. It was always clean feeling, but now it has this life - this warmth. I cook in here all the time, more than I used to." With Marie's help in figuring out a plan for the rest of the house, the white walls are nearly all gone. The living room has warm honey walls and a deep purple couch, the bedroom walls are coated in a rusty clay, and accents of burnt sienna, crisp blue and other warm earthy tones abound.
"The sense of what I received is unutterable," Gerdsen says. "I went into this process knowing I wouldn't stop 'till I got what I wanted, so I knew it would end up well, but I never really realized just how changing my house would change everything else. I'm happier, even the kids, my husband - we read, we talk, we cuddle. We love it so much we don't feel the need to go out anymore." Only two more white-walled rooms exist in Gerdsen's house: a hallway and a mud room. She thinks one or both will be a burnt sienna that is already in one alcove in the house, but since her house has already come so far, she says she sees no reason to rush the decision. She says she no longer senses the need to make her life more hectic. She'd rather wait until the warm summer months to finish.