Put down the patchouli and set aside any images of what traditional feng shui might call to mind: Interior designer and sacred-space stylist Elana Kilkenny is integrating mind, spirit and home with a focus on design that’s high-end and holistic, beautiful and mindful. The New York City–based designer, who will deliver mini workshops on that topic this weekend at ABC Carpet & Home, recently sat down to chat with EAL about her work.
Elana Kilkenny; courtesy Catherine Just
The term sacred space can be a loaded one. Explains the designer, “[It] can have a religious connotation, but that’s not really what I do. It’s about how you create spaces of meaning—beautiful spaces that work from an interior design sensibility. Spaces that are functional, but also have that element of nourishing a person. It’s also being a ‘catalytic converter,’ if you will, to the future,” identifying what a client wants to bring into his or her life and expressing that through design choices.
From left: Entry hall detail; New York bachelor pad project
Kilkenny graduated with a bachelor’s in psychology and English from New York University in 1994, with plans to either become a psychologist or pursue a career in film. Yet, as she tells it, a series of events led her down a path of healing and self-discovery, and, in the late 1990s, to the door of a multiyear Feng Shui Masters Program. It wasn’t until others pointed out her natural intuition that Kilkenny first considered meshing her lifelong gift for “reading” people with her passion for design.
“Feng shui often has a bad reputation among designers, and sometimes rightfully so,” she says. “I’m not against crystals and wind chimes…but what endlessly fascinates me [instead] is, How do you create a sophisticated beautiful space, with layers of meaning and symbols?” Sometimes clients’ homes don’t match who they are becoming, or reflect who they want to be. “Our homes can keep us stuck. If we’re surrounded by these symbolic reminders of the way we were, it can often propagate a lack of letting go or moving forward.”
From left: Home design; home office design
Today, she offers in her portfolio of services Sacred Space Design for homes and offices, as well as Intuitive Counseling sessions, which provide “empowering intuitive guidance, clarity, inspiring support and proactive feedback.” The two services often intersect; many home design clients initially reach out after the counseling sessions. “Coming to someone’s home and designing it is incredibly intimate,” she explains. “Intuitive Counseling is a good segue in.”
Kilkenny’s design doesn’t adhere strictly to the principles of feng shui; instead, it embodies a more integrated approach that takes into account what clients find meaningful—from art to furniture, productivity goals to relationship aspirations. She shares an example: “I work with a lot of single women. It’s amazing how often you find in their homes art with singular imagery. There’s not a lot of duality. So they’ll have beautiful, artistic photography—maybe of a woman, slightly out of focus [or with a] sense of isolation. If you just read a feng shui book, you might say, ‘We have to get rid of all of that!’ But that’s not right, either—we have to really honor what the [client’s] story is. It’s a deep listening to her. What is her relationship to this art? Not being so literal about who we are can be very empowering.”
During design sessions, Kilkenny works with business and home owners on particular rooms or areas of the office or home, such as an entryway or children’s space, as well as entire redesigns. Sometimes clients want an overhaul; sometimes they want to incorporate the sacred into an existing scheme—or to integrate pieces that resonate with them, such as the singular photography Kilkenny mentioned, with goals that traditional feng shui’s guidelines might otherwise rule out.
Yoga barn project
She will be offering Sacred Home Design mini workshops at ABC Carpet & Home’s Beauty Wellness Wisdom event this Saturday. Also on deck for the daylong retreat will be Goop Beauty Editor Jean Godfrey-June; Cherry Bombe Editorial Director Kerry Diamond; Deepak Chopra; Jason Wachob, founder of MindBodyGreen; Fern Olivia Langham, founder of Thyroid Yoga and Ajai Alchemy; Yuri Dhara, founder of State of Self; Stephanie Wang from The Alchemist’s Kitchen; Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps, co-founders of HigherDOSE; Agapi Stassinopoulos, author of Unbinding the Heart; and others.
Kilkenny will present inspiration, ideas and intuitive guidance that focuses on the home as a sacred space. At the heart of both the upcoming workshop and her own design and counseling practice is a simple philosophy: “The idea,” she says, “is that when you change your space, you change your life.”