One Bedroom, Three Ways: How to Design Your Bedroom

The Asian design traditions of Vastu, feng shui and Zen minimalism bring peace and beauty to your bedroom.

| November/December 2008

  • Artwork should be calming to the senses and bring desired energy to the room. Wood enhances health and creativity.
  • Feng Shui Basics
    By Natural Home Staff
  • Any natural or organic material that you find beautiful is appropiate for the Vastu home.
  • Keeping clutter at bay symbolozes purity and encourage meditation.
    Photos By Povy Kendal Atchison


Zen minimalism, originally derived from Japanese Zen Buddhism, can help satisfy your longing for quiet and simplicity in a complicated world. Use understated, refined furnishings and simple artwork, such as a single hanging scroll or a black-and-white drawing. Use neutral colors for your bed linens and window treatments.

If you want more embellishment, add a single punch of color, such as one throw pillow or a vase, or bring in bamboo window blinds or simple, neutral cloth drapes.

The Seven Principles of Zen

Use Zen’s seven ruling principles as guiding lights in your bedroom.

• Asymmetry (Fukinsei): Stiff, formal symmetry, suggesting frozen finality and artificial perfection, can be fatal to the imagination. Asymmetry lets us be loose and spontaneous—more human than godlike. It means we can get by with one—or three—candlesticks, and everything doesn’t have to match.

Silence (Seijaku): Inwardly oriented, Zen embraces the quiet calm of dawn, dusk, late autumn and early spring.

Simplicity (Kanso): Zen eschews gaudy, ornate and overembellished in favor of sparse, fresh and neat.

Naturalness (Shizen): Zen is artless, without pretense or self-consciousness. It’s bare wood, unpolished stone and flowers from the backyard.

Austerity (Koko): Zen asks us to reduce everything to the “pith of essence,” down to the essentials. Don’t love it? Can’t find a use for it? Let it go.

Subtle Profundity (Yugen): Within Zen lies a deep reserve—a mysterious, shadowy darkness. The hint of soft moonlight through a skylight is an example of yugen.

Freedom from Worldly Attachments (Datsuzoku): The Buddha teaches us not to be bound to life, things or rules. “It is not a strong bond, say the wise, that is made of iron, wood or hemp,” he says. “Far greater an attachment than that is the longing for jewels and ornaments, children and wives.” It’s the simplicity movement—not keeping
up with the Joneses.

Reprinted with permission from The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty by Robyn Griggs Lawrence (Clarkson Potter, 2004).

Basics of Zen minimalism for your bedroom:

• Keeping clutter at bay symbolizes purity and encourages meditation.

• Pale walls spread light throughout the room.

• Natural light is the most important adornment.

• Unadulterated natural elements honor nature.

• Adding a singular punch of color brings the room to life.

• Something simple and alive provides a subject for meditation and reminds us that we are a part of nature.

• Position the bed low to the floor to connect with and remain closer to the earth. An organic cotton futon lets your skin and body breathe.

• Highly revered in Japan, bamboo’s straight stem symbolizes purposefulness, while its hollowness represents an open mind.


Lamp: Twinkle Table Lamp:
Birch & Willow
(617) 423-3437

Mats: Tatami Bamboo Mat:
Chopa Imports
(800) 961-2555         

Bowl: Coiled Bamboo Canister:
Ten Thousand Villages(877) 883-8341

Target Organic Bedding
(800) 591-3869

Artwork: Bamboo Wall Hanging
Ten Thousand Villages

Pillows: CozyPure La’Noodle natural latex pillow,
Tomorrow’s World
(800) 229-7571 


Feng shui, the ancient Chinese design system, enhances the relationship between seen and unseen forces of nature. Believing that every object is alive with vital energy force, or chi, feng shui practitioners pay careful attention to the objects that are brought into a room and how they relate to each other. Simplifying and organizing your bedroom, then, translates into a calmer and more peaceful inner world.

Feng shui is all about balance. For ideal feng shui, bring a combination of the five earth elements—wood, fire, earth, metal and water—into your bedroom. Pay attention to what type of energy you have and those you wish to bring into your home. For example, to bring more energy to your bedroom, add red and orange accents. But don’t make the entire room red; for most people, this will be overwhelming and might create anxiety.

The bed is considered the “throne” of the feng shui bedroom, so adorn it well and place it properly in the room. Feng shui practitioners consider it auspicious if you can see the doorway from the bed, but your feet should never point at the door. If this is unavoidable, incorporate a tall footboard or place a heavy trunk at the foot of the bed. Place beds along solid walls and don’t block windows.

Feng Shui for Your Bedroom

• Don’t place mirrors above, next to or opposite the bed as this bounces energy around the room and reduces restfulness.

• Use lamps rather than overhead lighting whenever possible, and invest in a wood headboard to increase feelings of security while sleeping.

• If the bedroom shares a wall with your bathroom and the toilet is on the same wall as the bed, use this feng shui trick to sleep better and keep that energy out of the bedroom: On the wall behind your bed, tape a mirror face-in toward the toilet.

Basics of Feng Shui for your bedroom:

Feng shui practitioners believe exposed ceiling beams create dissonant energy over your bed. Add a canopy or drape fabric above the bed to create a division if you have these types of beams.

• Artwork should be calming to the senses and bring desired energy to the room. Wood enhances health and creativity.

• Use rounded nightstands and plants with round leaves. Bringing in the “wood” element promotes intuition and expansion.

• Whether you’re single or in a relationship, place a nightstand on either side of the bed to signify your openness to love.

• For chi to flow properly, feng shui recommends you have space to get in and out of the bed on both sides. Never store items under the bed or place the bed beneath heavy shelves.

• Pamper your senses with sensual, cruelty-free silk bedding.

• Light green and light blue are colors of hope and cultivation. They should be sprinkled throughout the room.


Artwork: Cracked Ice Panel
Viva Terra
(800) 233-6011

Nightstands: Piper Stool,
Crate and Barrel
(800) 967-6696

Bedding: Organic Cotton Sateen Bedding, Ha Dong Patchwork Throw
(877) 989-6321

Rug: RAW rug
Union Eighteen  


Vastu, the ancient Indian system of architecture and sacred space, suggests that adorning your home with beauty brings your life into harmony with nature. Vastu calls for natural materials and attunement with nature’s subtle laws by honoring the five elements (earth, air, fire, water and space), the compass directions, earth and cosmic energy. The goal is to let the universal life energy, prana, flow unimpeded through a space.

Because it’s based on universal energies, directions are important in Vastu. For example, Vastu practitioners advise sleeping with your head to the east for increased consciousness or to the south for healing. In Vastu, the master bedroom is ideally in the southwest, the calm, grounded territory of the earth element. Earth colors, such as terra cotta and green, are beneficial for a bedroom in the southwest. A bedroom in the northeast is fine for someone in the latter years of life and should include golden yellows (honoring the northeast’s planetary ruler, Jupiter). If your bedroom is in the southeast, which is associated with fire, and it’s not possible to sleep in a different quadrant, use a nourishing shade of blue to help cool the room and honor its planetary ruler, Venus.

Vastu for Your Bedroom

Beauty: Vastu requires aesthetic nourishment from beautiful design and furnishings.

Natural and organic: Vastu requires attunement with nature; use natural, organic
materials whenever possible.

Honor the five elements: Vastu honors and balances the five elements of creation, known as the panchabhutas, to enhance the flow of prana, or universal life-force energy. Each
element is associated with a compass direction.

Space: akasha (Center):This element is directly linked to sound and silence. Akasha is the expansiveness in the center of each room, the element of energetic and dynamic space. Honor akasha in each area by keeping it clean and open. Don’t put heavy objects here.

Water: jala (Northeast): Best placement for indoor and outdoor water features such as fountains and aquariums. Water is frequently used as a metaphor for pure consciousness in Vastu.

Fire: agni (Southeast):To honor this element, light fires! Enjoy a fireplace in the southeast, or light candles.

Earth: bhumi or prithivi (Southwest): Best choice for the master bedroom. Earth is a solid, grounded element. Plants, trees, soil, rocks and mountains represent the earth element.

Air: vayu (Northwest): Put fans, mobiles, wind chimes and air purifiers here. Be sure the air in your home is fresh. If your home has stagnant areas, use fans to keep air moving.

Adapted with permission from Vastu: Transcendental Home Design in Harmony with Nature by Sherri Silverman (Gibbs Smith, 2007). See

Basics of Vastu for your bedroom:

• Like feng shui, Vastu advises against sleeping beneath exposed beams—it’s unhealthy and oppressive. Create a canopy with fabric if you have beams above your bed.

• Fresh flowers bring beauty and prana.

• Natural incense (avoid synthetics) creates an atmosphere of spirituality, richness and sensory pleasure.
• Light sources should be as natural as possible. Full-spectrum light bulbs improve the uplifting and nourishing qualities of light in the bedroom. Ideally, a bedroom has a window to let in natural light and fresh air.

• Any natural or organic material that you find beautiful is appropriate for the Vastu home.

• A wood or bamboo floor with a natural wool carpet enhances the bedroom’s health and energy. Removing your shoes before you enter the bedroom sets it off as a quiet sanctuary.


Bedding: Indian Opulence Collection
Anna Sova
(877) 326-7682

Nightstand: Round Batik Table
Ten Thousand Villages

Artwork: Embroidered Tree of Life wall hanging
Ten Thousand Villages

Lamp: Reclaimed Tree Trunk Lamp
Viva Terra

Rug: Silk Flowers Rust handwoven rug
Garuda Woven Art
(303) 442-2096

Natural Tips for All Bedrooms

All three Asian systems agree on these key points.

• Bedrooms should be clean, tidy, fresh and clutter-free.

• Keep the television out of the bedroom. Electrical radiation and stimulating subject matter are not conducive to a restful space.

• Natural, nontoxic incense creates an atmosphere of spirituality, richness and sensory pleasure.

• Make the bedroom a work-free zone. If there’s no other place for your desk and computer, hide it with a beautiful screen or a sumptuous piece of fabric when not in use.

• Place something you truly love across from your bed so that you see it when you first open your eyes in the morning. This can be a tapestry, painting, photograph or a window with a view of nature.



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