Debra Duneier Tells You Where to Put Stuff - and Why

Talking feng shui with EcoChi designer.

By , Contributor

Debra Duneier is an entrepreneur who has gone through several careers, like so many people today. Unlike a lot of people, she’s grown and prospered from the experience. Based in New York, she applies the principle of the Chinese design system called “feng shui” to her decorating practice. She challenges her clients with provocations questions, such as “What you see is what you get. What do you see every day?” This is by no means a simple question, and it calls for thought and deliberation before giving an answer.

Eco-Chi1.jpgNow she’s written an intriguing book, EcoChi, that explains what she does, and why she does it. Here are the results of a recent email interview that I did with her

In your book you say that “feng shui” means “wind water” in Chinese. How do you use these elements in your design practice?

Life as well as design is a balancing act. We are always seeking harmony which often seems elusive. In feng shui, wind represents shifting energies (Chi). Water represents contained Chi at rest.

The EcoChi system enhances or contains these dynamic non-tangible energies to design the experience for the inhabitants of the space. This is done in a variety of ways, including but not limited to, correct placement of furniture, lighting, color and direction.

What do you mean when you refer to feng shui energies as a sandwich?

Feng Shui teaches us that Heaven, Earth and Humanity energies must be balanced to attain harmony, health and prosperity. These energies are called the “three gifts of energy” or the “San Cai.”

Since I am a visual person, I actually like to think of these feng shui energies as a feng shui sandwich. The top slice of bread is Heaven, the invisible Chi. The bottom slice is Earth Chi, the energy we can see. In the middle is the human experience. Like an orchestra conductor I delicately maneuver the energies of heaven, humanity and earth so that all three interact with each other like a beautiful song.

How do you use guided meditation with design clients?

There is an EcoChi interview process that I walk my clients through before I visit their space. One part of this procedure is a series of questions that are very revealing about their life, their space and their goals. Sometimes people are very stressed and shut down in such a way that they cannot access what is most important to them. My job is to help my clients to achieve their personal and professional goals-but they have to know what they are! In these cases I find guided mediation helps them to clearly define their vision.

Would you say that most people are receptive to this experience

Some people are skeptical at first but most enjoy the experience. They find it to be relaxing and sometimes transporting. In the end, it brings them closer to achieving the life, career or the project they desire.

Is it fair to say that you treat interior decorating as therapy?EcoChi_Logo.jpg

I guess you could call EcoChi design an environmental therapy. The advertising business is alive and well because we are all influenced by subliminal messages. Our actions, energy and thoughts, as well as our physical well-being, are all profoundly influenced by our surroundings. The design, color scheme, textures, light, furnishings, accessories and placement of each item in our indoor environments impact our senses from moment to moment and shape how we feel about ourselves, the people around us and even affect the decisions that we make.

You say that a cluttered environment keeps people out. Why is this?

In a cluttered space there is simply no room for socializing or effective business interactions. You may even be ashamed of your messy place and not invite anyone in. This dramatically limits your ability to establish fulfilling, enriching and socially or financially profitable relationships. When everything is neat, clean and in its rightful place, you are infinitely more likely to invite and receive more great people, success and prosperity into your life.


What are "poison arrows," and how can people identify them in their environments?

“Poison arrows” are also known as “cutting chi” in feng shui. These are sharp angles that cause fast moving energy which make people feel restless and uncomfortable. This inauspicious energy also can negatively impact prosperity, health and can even interrupt your sleep.

You can identify poison arrows by their sharp angular lines usually directed towards you or your property. Jagged edges of buildings directed towards the home or office, table corners, straight roads and pointed objects are all examples of poison arrows.

Why do you advise people who are looking for relationships to buy pairs of vases?

When interested in a relationship it is important to surround yourself with the energy and symbolism of pairs. Since the energy of fresh flowers also attract romance, a pair of vases with fresh flowers in them double your chance for love.

What advice do you have for business travelers who want to have a supportive environment in a hotel room?

Choose a power position if you are doing work in your room. The ideal position is with the “Black Turtle” wall behind you, with an easy view of the door. The wall symbolically supports you and your business. The sightline to the door keeps you in power. If your hotel stay is more than one night, buy a small bamboo or jade plant and place it on your desk. Bringing nature indoors makes us feel grounded. The energy of these particular plants is known to bring money and success.



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JIm Curtis has a background in Russian studies, and is fascinated with both high culture and popular culture. He just finished a book on Dylan, and covers the book beat for The Morton Report.

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