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Building a Hotel Part 1 – Feng Shui

Building a hotel is hard. Having the capital, finding the location and choosing the right brand and people are every bit as hard as finding a good feng shui master to help get the feng shui right.

Hotel owners all over Asia believe in the principles of feng shui and will do whatever it takes to get it right. Sometimes that means re-designing the whole layout, or perhaps re-scheduling the opening so the date falls on a lucky number if numerology is involved.

We have talked to some of the leading architects and interior design firms who have experience of working with feng shui masters. Interestingly enough, although there is a long list of things that hotel owners avoid spending money on, a feng shui master isn’t one of them.

Work Involving Feng Shui Principles

Hotel owners, especially those of Chinese descent, are usually quite happy to spend a little extra on inviting a feng shui master to review the planning and design – or, even better, to come up with a re-design.

On one project, the project director’s and owner’s desks were oriented according to the feng shui master’s directives, even if they looked out of place with windows and doors. The building color changed, entrances were changed – and our newly planted trees had to be replaced when the feng shui master saw a ghost in one of them … * but when he suggests changes to our designs, we are generally fine with that,*” said Stephen O’Dell, the CEO of SODA Thai.

Fiona Bagaman from HBA told us that “HBA has worked with many different clienteles before and most of the time, function and aesthetics are considered as the driving force behind the design rather than feng shui. However, on some occasions, HBA has to redesign a space after feng shui masters are brought in after the design has been completed and we have to change our layout completely.

I don’t mind following the art of feng shui as long as they are not affecting the overall design of the space or breaking down the walls,” said Patcharamai Sagulku, the interior designer at August Design. “If it’s serious though, we have to compromise with the owner. After all, it’s their home and money.

Feng Shui 101

Feng shui basically means wind and water. In Chinese culture, wind and water are associated with good health. The principle of feng shui is therefore based on the understanding of nature, and particularly on the idea that the land is alive and filled with Chi, or energy.

In the hotel world, besides having a grand lobby and entrance, the interior designer might need to make sure the lobby entrance is centrally located so the money can flow in.

Most often, the requests are to have the entry to the main lobby centrally located, not too angular and suggesting a stately presence. The second thing would be how the guestroom headboard walls are being placed. It’s always a preference to have the bed located up against the wall versus having it floating in the room, and definitely not under any structural beam,” Fiona commented.

Praew Boonbut, MD of Fabric-arch, added, “Generally, feng shui believers would be concerned about prosperity, the flow of good energy, and how this new property could generate that without any obstacles caused by design. They also normally believe in lucky numbers and symbols.

I think feng shui only makes sense when applied in the right context and time. For instance, there is one belief that the doors shouldn’t be on the same axis; for me that applies to the geography of China in the old days when it was dusty and windy, so building all the doors in line would let the dusty wind blow right through the house. However, I wouldn’t use this principle for designing an apartment in Tokyo where space is so limited,” addedPraew.

Finally, the Beaumont Partnership designers, Nokyoung and Cherry, said, “Some of the ideas are based on the ancient Chinese philosophy on how to design properly; i.e. don’t put the bed facing the bathroom door, so I do believe in that part, but if it comes to putting the dragon statue next to the pantry sink, then mostly I think it’s a bit absurd.

How Feng Shui Affects Hotel Performance

A lot of hotel owners believe that feng shui principles have helped them perform better in business, while some of them do it for the morale of their staff. After all, it does no harm to try.

One feng shui business hotel in Germany also believes that it can give benefits to guests as well.

The benefit for our guests will definitely be a great atmosphere, a healthy sleep, and relaxation during their stay at our property,” said Gerhard Kostka v. Liebinsfeld, the Director of Corbin Hotel.

If you’re a hotel management brand coming to Asia, this is something you may have to deal with. If you’re a hotel investor looking to build a hotel, you can be sure that these architectural firms have plenty of experience in building according to feng shui principles. If you’re a hotelier taking up your first post in Asia, you now know that your associates might believe in a lot of things that you don’t, while if you’re a marketer, this just might be a great story to sell to your guests.