Feng Shui: the home is like a jigsaw puzzle
In our occasional series looking at different jobs, Vanessa Boren, in Paris, tells Gillian Harvey about interior design and running her own Feng Shui school.
What does your job involve?
I use a combination of classical interior design and Feng Shui to help my clients make the most of their homes in a holistic way. My aim is to help people find a way to feel happy in their environment.
Feng Shui works with natural energy that is all around us, bringing in objects – particularly natural objects – that resonate in different areas of the home. It also focuses on the placement of items that you already have, and the use of space. All of the five elements: earth, wind, water, fire and air, should have a place in your home.
For me the home is like a puzzle: most of us have what we need, it’s the “art of placement” – how to arrange it.
I do private consultations where I visit a client’s home and help them on an individual basis. I also teach Feng Shui classes – both to interior design enthusiasts and professionals – and have written two books on the subject in French.
How did you end up doing it – was it planned?
A friend who knew I was searching for a new direction gave me a book on Feng Shui in 1999. It was a fairly new discipline at that point, and I hadn’t heard of it. But she felt it would be ideal for me – and she was right.
Is this your first job? If not, what did you do before?
My original dream was to work in fashion: I’m from San Diego and grew up in Mexico along the Pacific Coast. I went to fashion school in San Francisco in 1987 and gained a degree in fashion merchandise marketing, after which I moved to New York City in 1989 to work on a fashion magazine. Then, in 1990, I met my future husband, François, who is French, which prompted a move to Paris the following year.
In 1997, I heard the Dalai Lama speak in Paris, and it changed my life. I’d realised by then that I wasn’t going to be in fashion forever, and I wanted to make a real difference to the world in some way. A friend told me about a Buddhist retreat in Dordogne. I went there for a week and it was life-changing. I decided to take a year off and try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.
What attracted you to your role?
My role was really one that evolved after I had trained. I realised that although there were Feng Shui experts and interior designers around, there was not anyone who combined the two. I knew I had found my niche and that I could bring something new to people’s homes and lives. I set up the Feng Shui Design School in 2006.
What qualifications or training did you need?
First I went to London in 1999, studying under Karen Kingston. There I learnt space-clearing, teaching people to declutter. I then found a school in Brittany a few months later which ran a specialised course on Feng Shui. Finally, I went on to Switzerland in 2000 where I attended several symposiums hosted by international experts.
Where do you work?
I teach in Paris and also in Geneva. I also travel to different places to teach groups – if people are able to get together a group of six or so, I’ll go to them to do the training. I organize two or three sessions a year, the rest of the time I do consultations and – of course – take time to enjoy life with my children.
What’s your favourite part of the job?
I love it when I witness the moment my students realise how much of a difference Feng Shui can make. It’s beautiful to feel how much we can do to help sick, unhappy or depressed people, and help people to project their dreams in their homes using symbolism and tapping into their subconscious.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Getting on the computer, organising and doing all the administration. I’m not really into computers, I can’t see the joy in them.
What do your friends and family think about what you do?
My mum was the first one to tell me to go for it, and my best friends thought it would really suit my personality. However, my friends in the fashion industry could not believe that I wanted to do something so different.
What’s your busiest time of year?
I tend to have most work on in autumn and spring. These are the times of year when people start to think about their homes, and when I often hear from people who perhaps don’t know a lot about Feng Shui but want to give their homes new energy.
Do you have any plans for the future?
I’m interested in helping people in their working environment. There’s a lot of suffering going on in the workplace – people here in France are rarely excited to go to work anymore; they don’t feel appreciated. Giving employees a great space in which to work is just the start of their feeling more motivated and willing to give more of themselves.
Is it well paid?
It depends how much work I take on. For my courses, I charge €688 for a week’s module – and the total programme has six modules. I do home consultations for €12 per square metre, and that generally covers two or three half-day appointments.