Julie Schuster, president of the Interior Design Society New York Chapter 2014-2015 and principal of the Julie Schuster Design Studio, explored the principles of the ancient art of feng shui in a recent CEU held at Lefroy Brooks’s Chelsea showroom in Manhattan. EAL caught up with Schuster, who delved into the basics of feng shui, how designers can implement the practice, and where they can go to learn more.
Designer Julie Schuster
Tell us a bit about your background and training in feng shui. How did you initially decide to study it?
I had just finished my interior design degree program at New York School for Interior Design. I answered an ad on the school jobs board that sounded interesting; working with the project manager at Holiday House. Holiday House is an interior design showhouse benefitting the Breast Cancer Research Fund. This became a pivotal experience in my life, in that three weeks later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. The support that I received during that time was amazing; I was convinced that some angel had been guiding my steps. One of the designers there first talked with me about feng shui. Part of my personal gift of getting through the ordeal of cancer was the promise of learning more about this fascinating subject. I later went to work with another designer who was also into holistic design practices and this gave me the opportunity to begin developing my processes.
Eventually I was able to track down a training program that linked feng shui to interior design. What could have been better? And it wasn't in California or Europe; it was right on Long Island at Metropolitan Institute of Design; a program both licensed by New York Educational standards and a Gold Medal Program with the International Feng Shui Guild (IFSG)! After completing my program with MID, I had to sit for a comprehensive exam with IFSG in order to receive Red Ribbon Certification. Having passed that, I am now considered as Red Ribbon Professional Feng Shui Practitioner. This spring I was asked to return to Metropolitan as a lecturer on the subject; a major something on my personal bucket list!
Warren Pearl, Richard Segal, Pamela Warren, Schuster, Ann Cohen at Lefroy Brooks
Summarize your interpretation of feng shui. Do you incorporate aspects of it into all of your work, or only on request?
I like to say that, "I create spaces that nurture and support the lives and the dreams of my clients." I guess that sums up my design philosophy. Yes, I do incorporate feng shui into all of my design work, even staging for sale. But I will only delve as deep as the client wishes me to.I like to start every talk that I give by asking, "Have you ever walked into a room that ‘just doesn't feel right’?" It still strikes me to see the startled expressions on the faces of my audience. Everyone knows that feeling but most of us don't allow our intuition to guide us.
What were some of the discoveries that most surprised you about the art and practice of feng shui?
That good design is really just good feng shui and good feng shui is just good design.
Do you have any recommendations for designers looking to study feng shui?
I like the classroom experience over self-study. I recommend a good school like Metropolitan. And the friends I studied with will stay with me for life.
At the risk of simplifying the practice, are there any rules you could share?
Something universal? Command position: in the bedroom, home office and the kitchen.
What is command position?
Think a bit like a 1930s gangster. Basically, we are all animals that subconsciously are more comfortable when we can see what is coming our way. The key rooms in our dwelling spaces from a feng shui perspective are: the bedroom (where we rest and rejuvenate); the home office, or office in general (where we create our wealth and security); and the kitchen (where we cook up wealth and health). In each of those spaces, we need to think about command position.
Our bed should be placed so that our head faces the entrance to the room without being in a direct line with it. In this way, we can rest with the subconscious assurance that we can see what is coming. In our office, the desk should also face the entrance to the space in order to see what opportunities are coming our way. And the cook in the kitchen should comfortably see without concern what is coming up from behind, while he or she is creating the food that nourishes those we love.
And use your stove every day... that's where we cook up health and wealth!