Feng Shui Expert Reveals How to Furnish Any Room and Why the Command Position Is Key

A feng shui expert has revealed exactly how to create a harmonious space no matter what layout you're working with, and why the command position is key.

Cliff Tan, an architect based in London and Singapore, has been practicing feng shui since he was 12, and consistently applies the principles when planning out spaces.

He explained to Newsweek: "Feng shui can be very complex, but in a nutshell, it is a systematic analysis of the environment, and its response is to ensure the best flow and balance within an interior space, so that one will feel natural and comfortable.

"Feng shui is about thoroughly understanding the architecture of a space, where the doors and windows are, walls, columns and beams, and understanding the implications of these. Doors bring in people and opportunities, while windows bring in light and vitality for instance. These give us clues of how best to place the different functions of the home."

The 33-year-old has been sharing his knowledge and insight on his TikTok page, but he advised people not to follow social media trends. Blindly copying looks found online can lead to a disjointed space, he told Newsweek.

"The biggest mistake people make is falling in love with a certain look that they might have seen in magazines and social media, and trying too hard to get that look. Every space is different, and the key is to embrace all the quirks and apparent shortcomings of your space, allowing it to shine for what it is," he said.

The most important thing to keep in mind is any room only needs to look impressive from one position—the doorway.

Tan explained: "When designing a space, it needs to look good only from one angle, and that is the entrance, so always step back to the entrance to see how your space looks while you style it."

The bed is usually the focal point of any bedroom, but slapping it in the middle of a room isn't always the best answer.

When styling any layout ensuring you're in the command position is key, as Tan explained: "In terms of feng shui, avoid placing yourself in a vulnerable position. Ensure that you have a good view of the room, are supported on your back by a wall, and that nobody is able to scare you from behind if they wish to. This is known as the command position.

"Placing furniture against walls can work well in allowing you the command position, which means you are protected on the back."

Architect Cliff Tan with 3D models
Cliff Tan poses with some 3D models. The architect has been sharing his tips to organize furniture according to principles of feng shui. Cliff Tan

He shared some exceptions to the rule, pointing out: "However, this does not always apply. For instance, when placing desks, it is best floating, so that your back is against the wall while you sit facing it."

When arranging your furniture, it's important to understand how each element, for example doors and windows, influences a space.

"The first thing to consider is circulation. Know where the doors and entrances are, and plan your space around them. This will ensure that a space can flow freely, and private and public spaces are placed naturally," he said.

Due to the pandemic the separation of these spheres has been blurred as more people work from home. But no matter how big or small your home is, Tan recommended zoning off areas to create areas for work and personal life.

He said: "The most important thing with working from home is to create a place for working. It needs to be dedicated to work and if possible, generous. Do not work on your bed or on a kitchen counter. Find a proper table, and if there is no space for one, assign the dining table as the place to work. During this time, keep food and other distractions away. Creating space is much about habit as well."

Keeping the principles of function and flow in mind, Tan shared his top three tips to follow when furnishing a space, and it seems some popular trends are a big no-no.

He revealed: "Go big and go less. For example, if you can only fit a compact dining table and a tiny desk, opt for a single large table to serve both purposes instead.

"Avoid open shelves. Closed cupboards not only protect belongings from dust, they also require less effort to curate and style, reducing the possibility of a cluttered looking space.

"Get the right proportions in furniture. Furniture pieces that are low tend to make rooms feel higher, while narrower but wider pieces would give breadth to a space."

And even if you're dying to snap up a new bookcase or coffee table, Tan urged people not to compromise the natural flow around the room for the sake of a piece of furniture.

Before and after of a room layout
A before and after of a room layout, after Cliff Tan re-organized it according to the principles of feng shui. On the left is how the room appeared before, and on the left is how it should be laid out to create a harmonious space. Cliff Tan

He stressed: "Never succumb to awkward solutions for the sake of fitting things. Do not resort to sealing windows, or not being able to open a door fully. A place must always flow freely as it was intended to."

But it can be hard arranging your furniture if you only have a small space to work with, or are unable to get rid of any imposing, outdated or dark pieces. To get around it, Tan advised embracing what you have, even if it's not to your style.

"Colours and materials are like personalities, they are all different, and very powerful. Importantly, there is a beauty to all of them. The most important thing is to ensure that they are harmonious to one another. Furniture, as outdated and old as they may be, had at one point been designed and made with love. The key is to be empathetic to the piece and appreciate it for what it was, and work with it, rather than against it," he added.