“EVERY human being has three kinds of luck. Heavenly luck is given to you when you are born, so if you are a rich man’s child you inherit wealth. Human luck means if you work hard in your lifetime you will probably achieve good fortune. The third kind is feng shui, which means you live in harmony with the environment and the house you live in is in harmony with you.”
When it comes to property, you have to make your own luck, according to Teck Soon Kong, the owner of Asmara, a modern four-bedroom family home in Speldhurst, a picturesque village on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Asmara, which means “love and harmony” in Malay, was chosen off-plan in 2000, and redesigned down to the smallest details by Teck Soon, a Malaysian businessman, and his wife, Laiho Chan, to adhere to the ancient Chinese philosophy of feng shui.
The cultural and spiritual belief system revolves around pinpointing a location where you can really belong, and anchoring “good energy” that enables you to live and feel well in that place. Everything from the front door – a “strong” entrance is important, so that you feel happy on approach – to the colour of the rooms (depending on their position on the compass and their purpose in the family’s life) is considered, and contributes to the home’s positive energy.
“Positive energy needs to flow into the house, and stay there, go up the stairs into the heart of the house rather than flowing out the back door,” Teck Soon explains.
The couple changed the angle of their front door, and relocated others, “so that the back door could not be seen from the front of the house”. Opaque glass was put in the hallway doors “so that the back door could not be seen from the front rooms, allowing good energy to disperse through the whole house”.
They spent £100000 (R1.85-million) on garden landscaping so that there are no sharp edges – all the planting is rounded and in accordance with “good” feng shui proportions – and the couple lit the boundary of the property with bronze lamps denoting the cardinal points of the compass. Water features, in the form of traditional Chinese “water dragons”, flow positive energy toward the house at the front and take negative energy away at the rear. Inside, care was taken to balance nature’s elements: the kitchen was custom-built to separate the elements of fire (the oven) and water (the sink), so they don’t “cancel each other out”.
While to many of us feng shui is still quite an obscure concept, it is set to become increasingly prevalent and familiar in the housing market, thanks to the surge of interest by Chinese investors, says Ed Tryon of Lichfields buying agents.
“Chinese buyers are soon going to make up a much more significant percentage of our buyers, and I believe the principles of feng shui will then have to be taken into account, particularly by developers – everything from the orientation of the building to how the floors are numbered.
“A Chinese buyer will almost never buy a property numbered four, or on the fourth floor, whereas eight is lucky. I heard the other day of a Chinese buyer purchasing a flat in a large-scale London development without viewing it, simply because it was the number eight.”
It’s not always that simple, though. Tryon has also been looking for over three years (at more than 60 houses) for another Chinese client, providing details such as the compass direction of the front door and the grid reference of the house to when the roof was last replaced. “All of the details have to be run through his feng shui master, based in the Far East,” he says. “The majority of the properties don’t pass his critical eye, and are disregarded, even if they appear to be the perfect property for the client.”
The Kongs’ feng shui consultant, Michael Oon, dismissed four properties before they found Asmara, a “peaceful weekend retreat” for the couple who live in east London during the working week.
“It had to sit in the right position, not being blocked by a railway, which generates negative energy, or in a cul-de-sac, which creates a blockage,” Teck Soon explains.
“This house faces the right direction, south/ south-west, and it is built just below a ridge, which we believe provides support to your house and your family.”
Above all, though, the space must feel tranquil and balanced, with a sense of warmth and flow. “Friends who have been here say that it feels like a very positive place,” Teck Soon says.
At its most extreme, feng shui can seem absurd to Westerners – Teck Soon even admits that some of the so-called rules governing the positioning of furniture can be taken “too literally”. But, says Andrew Farmer, manager of Hampton International’s Tunbridge Wells office, its basic premise really chimes with modern life. Many of us are looking for something akin to feng shui without knowing it, he says.
“One of the basic principles is about a clean, open space: essentially it means uncluttered living for an uncluttered life, which enhances your sense of well-being,” he says.
“We may not all call it feng shui, but that is increasingly what we aspire to.”
With Asmara now on the market – Teck Soon has stopped working full-time, and they hope to travel more – Andrew Farmer believes the “feeling of well-being” the house emits will be a powerful force in finding a buyer. “A feeling of calm is vital. Strip away schools, amenities; when you walk in a front door and get a sense that ‘this is home,’ it’s overwhelming.”