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Bad Feng Shui
Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese philosophy of spatial design, aspires to create harmony in your home. What happens when designers deliberately break the rules? The set for the splash TV series Big Brother is a lesson in bad feng shui.
by Jackie Craven

When it aired in Europe and Great Britain, the television show Big Brother became the world's most widely viewed docudrama -- a chance for voyeurs to watch real people living inside a camera-filled house during prime time, five nights a week. Now, the Big Brother craze has spread to the United States, bringing with it a new way of thinking about home design.

The concept for the Big Brother show is Orwellian: Ten strangers spend three months under 24-hour surveillance in a bare-basics, 1,800 square foot house. There are two bedrooms furnished with six twin beds and two bunk beds. The bathroom has one toilet, one shower, a washboard and a washtub. The house is equipped with twenty-eight cameras, sixty microphones and sixty-nine camera windows and two-way mirrors. Nine windows face the yard.

These factors alone are enough to make most people uneasy. But, to add to the general unrest, designers who created the house for the American version of the show drew upon feng shui ideas. Feng shui is an ancient Chinese philosophy of spatial design. Follow the rules, and you will have harmony in your home, say feng shui believers. Break the rules, and.... Well, just look inside the Big Brother house to see the impact of disharmonious design.

The Front Door

The front door to your home should always be protected, say feng shui designers. Curving pathways to the entrance protect the home from angular energy. However, the long path that leads to the Big Brother house is like an arrow, pointing accusingly at the front door. Definitely bad feng shui.

The Living Room

The heart of family life, the living room is where you should be able to relax and enjoy companionship. Feng Shui experts strive to facilitate a positive flow of energy through this area. But in the Big Brother living room, designers worked to do just the opposite. Windows and doors are located on the north wall. There is no exit on the south side. Since energy must enter and exit through the same path, there is constant confusion and conflict. The presence of cameras and two-way mirrors add to this dynamic. Feng Shui designers often use mirrors to direct energy, and in the Big Brother living room, mirrors are placed directly across from the large windows on the north-facing wall. By reflecting and intensifying energy waves, these mirrors create perpetual disturbance.

The Bedroom

Your bedroom is a place of rest, privacy, intimacy and refuge. If this room is not a place of harmony, the negative energy will harm your marriage, your home life and your physical well-being, say feng shui pros. In the Big Brother house, the men's bedroom is in a secure location beyond the living area. Although it is not protected from the gaze of Big Brother, its positioning does offer some security. However, the women's bedroom is deliberately placed to create a sense of exposure and vulnerability. It is located directly across from the front door.

The Red Room

One of the most important, and most turbulent, spaces in the Big Brother house is the Red Room. Here the occupants communicate with Big Brother, seek counsel from a doctor or psychologist, or speak privately with the TV producers. Designers drew upon feng shui principles to create dissonance. First of all, the color scheme is disharmonious. The dark reds and wine shades emphasize the power of Big Brother. Moreover, the small room has only one chair. Visitors must sit with their backs to the door, facing a mirror, where they are certain to feel vulnerable.


Color sends strong messages. Change the shade of your walls and doors and your life is transformed, say feng shui believers. For the Big Brother house, designers used color to influence the emotional tone. In stark contrast to the disharmonious Red Room, many other areas of the house are painted soft yellow and muted gray. According to feng shui laws, the color yellow corresponds to the Five Energies -- Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Yellow is considered appropriate for kitchens, but confusing and unrestful for living areas. The color gray is said to promote introspection. By painting the bathroom mostly gray, the Big Brother designers gave the house occupants a much-needed relief from the overall atmosphere of discord.


Light is energy, and feng shui designers take pay much attention to its effects. Harsh overhead lights are to be avoided at all costs. Even when the lights are turned off, energy will stream through the electrical circuitry, creating dissonance. The Big Brother house has diffused lighting which softly glows from a border around each room. This ensures crisp video images, and also helps create a calm, comfortable environment. So it happens that the lighting is perhaps the only aspect of the the Big Brother house that truly expresses "good feng shui."

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Text copyright © Jackie Craven

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