Francisco Chronicle Friday, March 19, 1999
Developed 3,000 years ago in rural China, Feng Shui is said to promote well-being by fostering a good flow of chi or life-energy through buildings. A growing number of American businesses today are openly bringing Feng Shui into their workplaces to boost their bottom line. Some are doing it to attract Asian customers - many of whom wouldn't dream of staying in a hotel or leasing an office without the seal of approval of a Feng Shui master.
"San Francisco is a place where the East meets the West," said Frank Williams, architect of a new luxury apartment building on Second Street that is being constructed with advice from Feng Shui experts. "This was to make sure that someone with a strong belief in Feng Shui would be able to choose to live here." But other U.S. firms, including Esprit, are incorporating Feng Shui for internal reasons that have nothing to do with marketing to Asia. They are hoping that Feng Shui will foster a more harmonious working environment, which in turn will boost productivity and profits. "We're saying that we love our building, we love the people in our building, and we want to create an environment that everyone feels comfortable in,” said Esprit CEO Jay Margolis.
who have used Feng Shui say their own subjective experience has convinced
them it works. Glenn Takayama, president of the small
Fremont biotech firm Lab Vision Corp., hired San Francisco Feng Shui
Deborah Gee to analyze his office last year. Gee Suggested changes
such as moving the reception desk, moving some plants, painting a
red, and hanging wooden flutes in Takayama's private office. "I
think I'm more productive now," Takayama said. "And everyone
comments on the changes to our lobby. They say it's a good feeling
to be there and
walk through there."
Esprit embarked on its Feng Shui make over in late 1998. Among the changes it made: painting many of the doors bright colors based on the bagua, adding a small bamboo fountain to the front reception desk, relocating or partitioning some offices, hanging bright-colored banners over certain areas, adding mirrors and Esprit promotional artwork throughout the building and hanging wooden flutes in the bathrooms.
"We worked really hard last year, but we've had much better results in 1999 (after doing Feng Shui) than we did in 1998," said May. "Is Feng Shui the determining cause? I don't know. But I do know our financial performance so far is twice as good as last year."
"There are hundreds of Feng Shui practitioners and thousands of American businesses that have received Feng Shui advice at all levels of expertise," estimated Steven Post, a San Francisco Feng Shui practitioner who studied under Lin Yun.
"There's no strong blockage of energy," adds Mr. Spear, 46, author of the recently published guide "Feng Shui Made Easy: Designing Your Life With the Ancient Art of Placement." Practitioners like Mr. Spear and converts like Donald Trump believe adherence to Feng Shui precepts about the positioning of furniture, rooms and buildings spells prosperity in the workplace, health and happiness in the home.
Frequently described by Mr. Spear as the acupuncture of space, like acupuncture, Feng Shui is based on the study of electromagnetic energy lines. This 3,000 year-old Asian art, still widely practiced in Asia, is being embraced by Westerners who want to beef up their love lives or their bottom lines. The goal is the smooth flow of energy, achieving harmony with nature. "It's all about the connection between the external environment and the inner self," sums up Mr. Spear, who has offices in Litchfield, Conn., and London.
Mr. Trump is incorporating Feng Shui principles into his latest development, Riverside South, a Manhattan project with Japanese financing. According to Mr. Spear, the Trumps got lots of company. "As American business people come in contact with players from the Pacific Rim, they can't ignore that these people are using philosophies and looking at their bottom lines with different sets of glasses than Westerners," he says.
"What Bill talks about makes intuitive sense," says Lee Epstein, chief executive officer of Decision Analytics, a San Francisco-based investment consulting firm, who hired Mr. Spear to apply Feng Shui principles to a 5,500-square-foot office renovation job. "We use sales teams of two people and had thought of having their desks face each other. Bill felt that would be confrontational and suggested we set them at a 45-degree angle with a plant in between. Whether that's flowing the energy in the right direction I will never know. But what he says seems to have worked."
The novelist Cathy Cash Spellman has just called Mr. Spear because she hasn't had a healthy day since moving into her new residence and wants him to come by for a consultation. "In such cases I often find that the corner of the house that rules blessing and health is missing," he says.
Cures for troubled spaces include plants, lights, crystal and mirrors to activate, sedate, remove or redirect energy. Only once has Mr. Spear told a client to abandon all ho0pe and move out. "That," he says, "was the person who lived a mile and a half from a nuclear power plant."
In the New York office of the large furniture manufacturer Haworth Inc., headquartered in Holland, Mich., the showroom has no fluorescent lighting and people are positioned next to their co-workers not according to their likes and dislikes but according to their Chinese horoscope signs.
Anita Fischer, area sales manager for Haworth in New York, introduced the company to the Feng Shui way of arranging office space about four years ago. Fischer said Feng Shui brought "a more-harmonious place to work in" and made customers more comfortable. Has it helped business? She said sales in her portion of Haworth have increased 110 percent since the decor change.
She acknowledged that the increase could be the result of selling the right product at the right time and place, but noted, "It is kind of compelling that it happened in conjunction with the Feng Shui."
Janine Gordon, president of Emmerling Post Gordon Public Relations in New York, had her office Feng Shuied after a client did it and urged her to check it out. "Although I myself know very little about Feng Shui, I was not ready to discount that good Feng Shui could contribute to positive energy," Gordon said. "If it could contribute to making my team happy and productive, it was certainly worth doing."
It was suggested they add more plants, change the lighting from fluorescent to something softer and add pictures of water scenes, especially near the office on one employee whom was found to be dominantly "water," someone born in the winter, who tends to be changeable, insecure, intense and secretive. Gordon said her business has increased 46 percent this year.
New York Times,
Sept. 22, 1994
Homes & Lifestyles
CBS Evening News,
January 6, 1995