NOTE: This article also appeared in our May 2021 Newsletter and can be found in our externally managed newsletter archive here.

Organic Produce
My first delivery of farm-to-home organic produce.

I love food, all kinds of food. It is easy to eat, but it is not always easy to truly nourish yourself. After long hours of work, tending to family needs and maintaining the household, I do not have much energy left to put a lot of thought into cooking. When one is hungry with a family to feed, you want sustenance that is fast. For me, this essential building block of life became a chore, from buying groceries to prepping, cooking and cleaning up.

When it comes to pursuing our goals, sustaining ourselves, we need energy and drive, this foundation of stamina comes from being healthy. Food is something that we need every day and is a direct practice of feng shui on a primal level. Having a kitchen to inspire us to do this optimally is essential to our well-being.

This has been especially true during the pandemic, where we have eaten all three meals at home. With two young adults attending online school, our kitchen was used for meals several times a day. I can laugh about it now, but the truth of the matter is, our kitchen was getting quite a bit of abuse.

Falling apart piece by piece, it was starting to revolt. Over the years, we had the occasional cabinet door malfunction which my husband would repair. During lock down, I often felt like Mr. Incredible holding the whole cabinet door by its knob because it had come off its hinges. This was comical until it became dangerous and upper cabinet doors were dropping off.

Our electric stove had a small harmless chip on its glass top edge, however, with more constant firing up of the cooktop, this crack soon spread across the stove, clearly becoming a hazard. Even our refrigerator was rebelling the extra loads of food and constant handling. Its shelf brackets buckled, and the freezer drawer gasket could no longer hold it together.

Old Kitchen
Removing our old kitchen to make room for...
Custom Made Kitchen
...a custom-made kitchen that matches my family's needs.

Still, we managed to keep using our kitchen.

The last straw was when our microwave sent out sparks and started smoking, like it was sending out an SOS. Using our kitchen was no longer a joy, cooking was a series of inconveniences and hazards.

As a feng shui master, I had to take action and decided to remodel our kitchen. This was not an easy decision to make and should come with a warning: “Do not attempt a kitchen remodel during a pandemic, especially during the holiday season.” Clearly, being pent up at home, I needed a creative outlet and had some strange desire to sharpen my nerves of steel. I got away with this because I had a supportive family and a kitchenette to use in the interim.

In my new kitchen, even though there is no added square footage, nor change in the basic layout, it looks much more spacious. This alone has completely elevated how we cook. The greatest effect is how much more my kids are attuned to their health than before. Much like the atmosphere of the new kitchen, they have a desire to cook lighter and cleaner. Our kitchen is a joy to be in and has changed our attitude towards how we feed ourselves during these challenging times. If any of you are looking to revitalize your relationship with food and family, I want to share what I learned and provide feng shui design tips for your kitchen.


Time to plan

Having enough time for proper planning is vital to the success of any project. Be ready for projects to take longer because during COVID times there are limited workers and supplies as well as delayed shipping. Depending on the size and complexity of your project, allow a minimum of 3-6 months for:

  • Research and design
  • Visiting showrooms
  • Gathering specification sheets for appliances
  • Getting samples to compare and test products
  • Asking around for referrals, interviewing and scheduling contractors
  • Finding out lead times and ordering supplies
  • Creating a budget and timeline

All this requires know-how and coordination. Depending on your knowledge base and the complexity of your project, calling in a professional kitchen designer is a worthwhile investment. Some cabinet companies have in-house designers who can assist you as part of your order. Contractors usually tell you how long they will need to complete a project. Buffer yourself from frustrations by tripling their estimated timeline. If you will be managing the project, be ready to follow up on work orders, be available to wait for deliveries or pick up materials, and communicate daily with your contractors.


Be true to yourself

Preparing a Meal
Preparing a meal in my new kitchen.

Trends come and go, remodeling your kitchen after the latest interior design magazine does not mean it will work in your home. As much as farmhouse and postmodern styles are in vogue, it is important to understand your house, and make sure you find a style that complements your existing architecture. Kitchens are the workhorses of our homes, and should be dressed to be functional, durable and low maintenance. Study how colors, textures, materials and proportions are strategically used by designers. Try to imagine yourself in their picture-perfect kitchens. Remember, a real kitchen comes with grease. Ask yourself how you use your kitchen, how much time you wish to spend maintaining your kitchen, and how you want your kitchen to feed you.

Although I drooled over the glamorous open shelves in the magazines, for me, having the open shelf had to be function driven. They were the perfect solution to minimizing daily wear and tear on cabinet doors. It is a breeze to retrieve and reload dishes on my open shelves. Still, I wanted these shelves to be a special design feature. I had them custom made out of oak with a walnut brown stain to add a rustic warmth to my white kitchen. It is sheer bliss to see the lovely wood grain every day.


You are what you eat

Your house is an extension of your body. Your kitchen is an extension of your stomach. Just as it is important to declutter your house, it is important to detox yourself by going through your fridge, pantry and cupboards, and removing what does not serve you. Whether or not you remodel your kitchen, this should be done to take stock of what you put in your body.

  • Take everything out and discard all expired items.
  • Limit processed food as much as possible – such as breakfast cereals, cheese, canned vegetables, savory snacks (chips, crackers, pretzels), meat products with preservatives, microwave dinners, cakes and cookies, and instant noodles.
  • For pantry items, use air-tight transparent containers. This keeps foods fresh and free of pests.
  • Stock whole foods that are nutrient-rich, satisfying and maintain health.
  • Use non-toxic, environmentally safe cleaning supplies, cooking tools and storage containers.

Get into the flow

If you plan to change the layout of your kitchen, aim to have an efficient kitchen triangle. This means the distance formed by the stove to the sink and refrigerator should not be more than 26 feet in total, and each leg of this working triangle should not be more than 9 feet.

Kitchen Triangle
An efficient kitchen triangle.

In my old kitchen, I had a wall oven next to the cooktop separated by only 18” of counter space. In my new kitchen, I decided to get a range with an oven so that I could have more counter space. This simple change has opened up the whole kitchen. Now, two people can cook or bake side by side without getting in each other’s way. Working in tandem like this is not only efficient but great for conversation. Even my husband who rarely sets foot in the kitchen has joined me.

Workstations are a great way to create flow when there will be more than one person in the kitchen. The idea is to keep similar task items together and having 2’-3’ of work space for each function.

  • Wash station

    Store all food washing and cleaning supplies by or under the sink and dishwasher. To prevent undetected water leaks under a sink, install a rubber tray with a water alarm. An undermount sink makes sweeping debris into the sink seamless.

  • Cook station

    The cutting board, knives, pots, cooking utensils, spices, and oils will be placed in the cupboards and drawers adjacent to the stove. Having a trashcan or a compost bin near this area is very convenient. A wider hood provides better exhaust for cooking fumes.

  • Bake station

    Bakeware and baking supplies should be stored in the drawers and cabinets by the oven.

  • Breakfast station

    Depending on how your family starts the day, a small area designated for all things related to the first meal of the day makes this a delightful ritual that does not get neglected. For me, this is where I store tea, bread, cereal, and fruits along with the toaster oven, microwave, blender and water boiler.

  • Appliance station

    I have a fair number of small appliances that used to clutter my workspace. In my new kitchen, my cold press juicer, food processor, spice grinder, immersion blender, waffle maker, and grill with all their accessories are now in one appliance cabinet.

  • Preservation station

    If you grow your own food, there is always much to do when harvesting time rolls around. Since this is seasonal, a section of the pantry can be designated for harvesting baskets, dehydrator, canning supplies, as well as the preserved items.

Breakfast Station
My favorite is the breakfast station.

Colorful kitchen

The immense array of appliances, cabinetry, hardware, fixtures, backsplash and countertop materials available to us at different cost points is overwhelming. To help you narrow down your choices, colors and materials are ideally customized to enhance your feng shui based on the compass direction of your kitchen. Because this will vary from case by case, I have organized a list of items you will need to coordinate:

  • Base cabinet and upper cabinets
  • Flooring
  • Wall paint/covering
  • Ceiling paint/molding
  • Hardware
  • Fixtures
  • Lighting
  • Decorative items such as flatware, dishtowels, and utensil holders

I highly recommend bringing material samples into your kitchen space to see how they look in the lighting, and how they match with each other. This will greatly assist you in making better informed decisions.

Old Kitchen Cabinets
My old kitchen had a dim color palette.
New Kitchen Space
Lighter colors open up my kitchen space.

In my old kitchen, I wanted to maximize storage by installing wall cabinets on every inch of wall space. Now I realize, this actually crowded the space. I had light maple wood cabinets contrasted with blue pearl granite countertop and backsplash. The wood yellowed over time and the granite was almost black with a blue pearlescent speckle pattern. Having a northwest kitchen, I have come to see that this color palette made the kitchen look dimmer. In the remodel, I opened up the space as much as I could by reducing the wall cabinets and using lighter colors.

To enhance my feng shui, I used the promoting elements of metal, earth and water. This came in the form of an ivory colored (metal element) cabinet, paired with a quartzite in beige tones (earth element) with oil rubbed bronze (water element) pulls. This simple palette has brightened up my kitchen considerably.

I implemented designer touches by highlighting the beauty of the natural materials. To emphasize the gorgeous veins of the Taj Mahal quartzite, I bookmatched the slabs over the stove and onto the countertops. Like seamlessly matching the patterns of two pieces of fabric, this was by far the most difficult part of the project. It was a daunting task to find color matching slabs and to have them fabricated and installed properly.

The drawer pulls are like the jewelry of your kitchen. Being the practical person that I am, I wanted a pull that would be easy to maintain. I was drawn to the bold statement of oversize pulls and the contrasting espresso color of oil rubbed bronze. These pulls not only hide fingerprints but will actually become more charming, revealing hints of shining bronze underneath as we use them over time.

My last decision was the lighting. This was a very crucial decision in my one window kitchen. My original fluorescent ceiling mounted light was not only dated, but the cool temperature of this light did nothing to uplift the space. This is the only aspect of the design where my desire for whimsy ruled over the practicality of having a low maintenance fixture. Much to my delight, the clear vintage LED light bulbs emit a bright and warm light that instantly adds sparkle to the kitchen. Because the glass globes delight me, they are a joy to polish. Finally, the concealed LED strip lighting under the open shelves provide excellent task lighting. They literally brighten my mood when I cook. These days, walking into my kitchen, I am inspired to turn on classical music and savor all the tasks of preparing a delicious meal. I hope you will join me in turning your kitchen into a place of happy healthy cooking!


Feng Shui of the Stove

In feng shui, the kitchen is associated with our basic means of survival, it is where we nourish ourselves and is related to the basic income that provides for our necessities.

The main feature of the kitchen is the stove. It is important to make sure it is situated in your negative direction and facing your positive direction. This is particularly important if you have a gas range. This is less important if you have an electric stove. In fact, if your stove cannot be in the optimal sitting and facing orientations, one adjustment is to change it to an electric stove or place a reflective backsplash behind the stove to deflect its energies.

The stove should not be located directly in front of the sink, this confrontation of fire and water elements can activate similar conflicts in the kitchen. The volatile fire energies of the stove should also not be aligned with the front door or be under a bedroom where the bed is located.


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